New Car Review
2017 Volkswagen e-Golf: New Car Review
The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf has been upgraded for this model year. As well as offering new gadgetry like gesture control for the infotainment system, it also improves the basics, like vehicle range and propulsion power.
The e-Golf represents most of the things we all know and love about the regular Golf, only it's electric. The driving experience is surprisingly familiar, despite a lithium-ion battery powered drivetrain. It also comes with impressive practicality, thanks to its 5-door hatchback body style and 5-seater interior offering the same generous passenger and cargo space as any other Golf.
The Golf in general is a stand-out in the compact hatchback world. Rivals are only just catching up with the levels of refinement and cabin material quality, but even those alternatives are few.
Among the e-Golf's particular attributes are reasonable acceleration, an impressive charge time of under six hours (with the 7.2-kilowatt charger) and 125 miles of range. The battery pack is installed under the car's floor, resulting in a low center of gravity which gives the e-Golf quite a sporty attitude.
Naturally, the e-Golf has an app. This allows owners to pre-heat or pre-cool the car before seeing off. Charging can be started, stopped, or set with a timer. Owners can also access information on miles driven, journey time and estimated power consumption. And they can check the locks, lights and GPS location.
Volkswagen's roadside assistance plan helps to reduce the range anxiety that drivers of electric vehicles are assumed to suffer from. If an e-Golf runs out of juice within 100 miles of the owner's home, VW will arrange for it to be delivered to a convenient charging spot, and even pay any taxi or transportation costs the owner might have incurred.
If there are any negatives to the e-Golf, it's that the car is only sold in the handful of states that match California's strict emissions requirements. These are mainly on either coast, plus Washington D.C. So a huge number of American drivers don't have the chance to buy one.
What's New for 2017?
Thanks to a new, more capacious lithium-ion battery, total range for a fully charged car has increased to 125 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The previous year's figure was 83 miles. The electric motor is more powerful. And a 7.2 kW on-board fast charger is now standard.
A styling tweak brings new bumpers, front fenders, and LED lighting front and rear, in addition to a minor spruce-up in the cabin.
VW's Digital Cockpit (12.3-inch configurable instrument display) is now available in the top trim. So is the Discover Pro infotainment system with a 9.2-inch screen and gesture control for various functions.
Pedestrian monitoring also joins the forward collision mitigation feature.
What We Like
Reasonable performance; practical interior; quick charge time
What We Don't
The 2017 e-Golf's new 100 kW electric motor produces 134 horsepower and 214 lb-ft of torque (up from 115 hp and 199 lb-ft), and sends that energy to the front wheels through a special single-gear transmission.
A 7.2-kilowatt charger means a complete charge time of less than six hours when connected to a 240-volt power source. The SEL version also has a DC fast-charge function for an 80-percent charge in under an hour.
The EPA has a method for calculating what it calls miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe). It puts the e-Golf at 126 MPGe city, 111 MPGe highway and 119 MPGe combined. These are class-leading figures, according to the EPA. The agency now estimates maximum range as 125 miles and puts annual fuel costs at $550.
Standard Features & Options
The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf comes in SE and SEL Premium trim levels. Remember there are various federal and state credits for buying a car that uses "alternative fuel."
SE (TBA) has 16-inch alloy wheels wearing low rolling resistance tires, keyless entry/start, LED lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, rearview camera, leather-wrapped shift knob, plus VW's MIB II infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, USB port, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and a 7.2-kilowatt charger.
SEL Premium (TBA) has the DC fast-charging function (an option in the SE). It also gets leatherette upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, navigation, cruise control, ambient cabin lighting, illuminated scuff plates, 8-inch touchscreen, heat pump (for greater energy efficiency), and Park Distance Control.
The SEL Premium trim is eligible for a Driver Assistance Package that includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assistance, plus a parking assistant feature.
Cargo space behind the rear seats is 22.8 cubic feet. This expands to 52.7 cubic feet when those seats are folded down. That's the same as the regular Golf and among the best in its class.
As well as all the usual protection features (side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and front-side airbags), the e-Golf adds a few high-tech items such as a post-collision braking system that brings the car to a stop after a collision has already occurred. It may seem unusual, but it can help stop the e-Golf from rolling into other cars if the driver is unable to apply the brakes after a collision. A rearview camera is also standard.
The e-Golf has not been crash tested, but the regular Volkswagen Golf has earned top scores from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The latter agency made the Golf a Top Safety Pick Plus.
Behind the Wheel
Apart from things like brake regeneration and a driving mode selector with Normal, Eco, and a super-efficient Eco Plus mode that cuts horsepower to boost range, the e-Golf does a good job of giving the impression that this a normal, everyday car capable of doing normal, everyday things. That's not the case for some electric vehicles.
The better battery and upgraded motor (compared with last year's model) results in a one-second quicker sprint from standstill to 60 mph, which the car now performs in 9.6 seconds, and a higher top speed of 93 mph (up from 87 mph).
There are some other differences compared with a standard Golf, including low-end torque (a plus), lack of engine noise (also a plus) and weak acceleration at higher speeds. But any downsides are offset by a nicer interior than many rivals, along with comfortable yet stable handling, excellent outward vision and generous passenger and cargo space.
Other Cars to Consider
2017 Chevrolet Volt -- A plug-in hybrid as opposed to a fully electric car like the e-Golf, the Volt offers an electric motor capable of about 53 miles until a range-extending gasoline engine kicks in.
2017 Ford Focus Electric -- Plenty of regular Focus virtues and range has stretched to 100 miles for 2017.
2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric -- A newcomer. Range is 124 miles, 136 MPGe (claimed), and can recharge in four hours. Well worth checking out.
2017 Nissan Leaf -- The popular Leaf is cheaper than the e-Golf. Base models offer fewer features and a smaller interior, but this is one of the better-selling electric vehicles. A new generation is expected later in 2017.
There's a lot to like about the e-Golf, such as its comprehensive equipment, regular-car driving experience, roomy interior and impressive charge times. Probably the biggest disadvantage is that most people aren't able to buy it.
For those living in areas where the e-Golf is available, there's some thinking to do. How routine are your driving activities and needs? How easy is it to recharge, say, at work? Although this new boost in range is a step in the right direction, it still doesn't seem quite enough to promote the e-Golf from acting as a great second car to being an only car.