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2015 Volkswagen e-Golf Review By Steve Purdy

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2015 Volkswagen e-Golf


By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

I’m beginning to think electric cars can be practical enough to meet most of the needs of even a rural dweller like me. Certainly it could not be my only car because of the limitations imposed by recharging times for longer day trips. But with some fore planning even those issues could become manageable.

In my driveway this week is the cute little VW e-Golf, full-electric compact with about a 100-mile range. In terms of appearance and driving dynamics you would hardly know it is anything but a conventional Golf. But if you look closely you may be surprised at what you find.

When they delivered the pretty, Pacific Blue e-Golf I first noticed the unusual, but attractive, aerodynamic alloy wheels with essentially flat surface areas interrupted by grooves that add a spoke-like look. Small blue badges, a revised front air intake and unique LED DRLs are the only hints this is not the regular Golf. Otherwise it looks just like the conservative and Teutonic, but attractive, VW’s compact.

For a compact car the Golf has among the best designs for ingress and egress, noticed especially by guys like me who are bigger, and those taller, than normal. The driver’s seat is designed with more adjustment range than most. Instrumentation and dash design look conventional and they simply add readouts relevant to the electric powertrain. Most important, in my view, is the one showing the range, or how many miles worth of electrons we have left.

The generous and comfortable leatherette seats, and all the other trim inside, pander not to trendiness or unnecessary excess. For its size Golf offers among the best levels of interior and cargo volume. The battery pack only reduces the cargo area by about 10% leaving a decent 22.8 cubic feet for our stuff, and 42.3 cubic feet with the rear seat backs folded.

The powertrain is, of course, the big news here.

Introduced in 2014 this is VW’s first all-electric car. It is a front-wheel drive, zero-emission, compact, 4-door sedan. The 85kw electric motor is good for 115 horsepower and an amazing 199 pound-feet of torque. All that torque is available from a dead stop, unlike an internal combustion engine that has to get spinning before you get to the max torque level. That means initial acceleration gets your attention quickly but then it begins running out of breath after about 30 or 40 mph. The 0-to-60 time is an unimpressive 10 seconds, but 0-to-30 is mighty quick.

Three driving modes – Normal, Eco and Eco+ - allow a few extra miles of range in exchange for access to a bit less power. And, an aggressive regenerative braking scheme can add some range as well with a bump of the shifter to capture kinetic energy normally lost in stopping. With maximum regeneration selected I could drive all the way across town without touching the brake pedal just using the motor/generator’s resistance to do the stopping.

The EPA has a convoluted formula for calculating an electric car’s equivalent of miles per gallon that I won’t pretend to understand. It is meant to make some a comparison between electrics. The e-Golf is rated at 126 eMPG in the city, 105 on the highway and 116 eMPG combined. I take from that that the e-Golf is at least 3 times more efficient that most economy cars. They calculate that over a 5-year period you should save about $8,250 in fuel costs, which makes that essentially the pay-off period if you compensate for the extra cost of the electric powertrain over the gas version of a comparably equipped Golf.

More important is the range – the number of miles one can get on a charge. The eGolf’s real world number is just over 100 miles. That would more than satisfy most motorists’ daily needs. Living in a rural area and being a roadie covering events often 70 miles from home I would be stuck a good share of the time. If I knew I would have access to a 240V charging station and I would be at my destination for more than a few hours I might get by. But most people do not have the longer distance needs that I have. Even so, this would make a great second car even for me.

Recharging time using just a standard 110V outlet takes a long, long time – overnight at least from if charging from very low to full charge. (By the way, when I plugged my leaf blower into the same outlet it tripped the breaker after 15 minutes of blowing.) Using the 110 is how I had to do it, but if you owned an e-Golf, or any electric car, you’d certainly want a 240V, 30-amp charging unit installed.

Handling and road dynamics is about the same as the conventional Golf, that is, impressively tight, firm and quick. The electro-mechanical steering has a lighter feel with not much feedback but is precise. Suspension tuning nicely balances comfort and sportiness. Most impressive is the quietness. Yes, we know, there is no engine to make noise, but even at extra legal speeds on rough highways the road/tire and wind noise do not intrude on the cabin. At low speeds an artificially generated noise like an engine thrum warns pedestrians (perhaps blind or with backs turned) to the presence of the car. The heavy batteries are located beneath the seats and along the center hump lowering the center of gravity and making for even better handling.

Our test car is the better-equipped SEL listing at $35,445. That price includes such niceties as low rolling resistance tires, LED headlights, navigation, dual-zone climate control, leatherette seating surfaces, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, keyless access with push button start, and plenty more stuff. A $7,500 Federal Government subsidy may still be available and another couple grand is available if you live in California. (Those subsidies would significantly alter the earlier-mentioned pay-off period calculation.) Most comparable competitors to the e-Golf are the Nissan Leaf and Ford’s Focus EV. Smaller and less robust entries from GM, Fiat, Smart and Mitsubishi cost less, and electrics from BMW, Mercedes and Tesla cost way more.

VW’s warranty covers the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles, the electric propulsion components for 5 years or 60,000 miles and the high-voltage batteries are covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles.

For those who seldom drive longer distances and don’t want to own two cars it could make sense to own the e-Golf and just rent a car once in a while for a trip. My recommendation, when thinking about electrics, plug-in hybrids, extended range hybrids or even mild hybrids and diesels, is to seriously look at your driving needs and run the numbers. You might be surprised by the result.

In any event, if you decided that an electric is in your future, the e-Golf would be an excellent choice.

Late breaking 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf News

  • New value-oriented SE model
  • MIB II infotainment system with USB and VW Car-Net App-Connect
  • New Driver Assistance Package (Late availability)
  • Lowering the cost of entry to e-mobility, the 2016 e-Golf SE offers most of the features of the SEL Premium model. A 3.6 kW onboard charger is standard, but the DC Fast Charging Package (late availability) adds the 7.2 kW onboard charger with DC Fast Charging.
  • Both e-Golf models get MIB II infotainment systems; SE models feature a 6.5-inch touchscreen, and SEL Premium models have an 8-inch touchscreen. A new Driver Assistance Package, which includes Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist) and Parking Steering Assistant (Park Assist), is available on SEL Premium.

Stay tuned for my 2016 e-Golf review coming soon, SP.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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