FIRST DRIVE: 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf
The people's electric car.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: September 19th, 2014
Volkswagen's e-Golf represents a significant departure from VW's standard U.S. efficiency strategy. Anybody halfway familiar with Volkswagen's products will recognize the TDI name, which is given to the brand's diesel offerings. VW offers diesel models for just about every car in its U.S. lineup (sorry, Eos), but as the world moves towards electrification, it would be silly for VW to just ignore that. And so, we have ourselves an electrified Volkswagen - the e-Golf.
It's the right car to turn into an EV. The e-Golf has plenty going for it - it's small, it's sensible, and it's already a very popular model here in the States - but are those qualities enough to unseat the other, already-established electric cars in the U.S.? We think so.
The interior of the Volkswagen e-Golf is, well, simple. It's a Volkswagen, after all, and the brand has been given some flak of late for having interiors that weren't so much designed as put there. That theme of Spartan sensibility makes its way over to the e-Golf, although Volkswagen sees fit to add a few blue stripes around the interior (its tell-tale EV detail, both inside and out) to keep things slightly interesting.
Otherwise, the interior is straight Golf - which is totally fine by us, because that gives an electric car an interior that's basically the same as a passenger car. While this is similar to the Ford Focus Electric, it's a far cry from the weird bits floating around the Nissan Leaf's interior, and we think that sensibility in EV design will go a long way in shifting public opinion towards electric cars; while people might enjoy the idea of driving an EV, they might not enjoy the idea of shouting that idea to every person on the street by way of a "unique" design.
It's a Golf. Have you seen one in the last eight years? Then you're not missing anything.
Okay, that's not entirely true. The e-Golf uses a pair of signature C-shaped LEDs on the lower front fascia, unique to the electrified member of the Golf family. It's also missing tailpipes.
On the Road
Electric cars, despite what the coal-rolling naysayers go on about, can be plenty fun to drive, and the e-Golf is no exception. There's ample torque available with the slightest press of a right foot, so you never feel like you're chugging along, unable to keep up with the Camry that's applying 20 percent throttle. It'll get going, and it'll pass, and it will do it all with the aplomb and sure-footedness of a gas-burning Golf. The suspension is compliant without softening (and ruining) the driving dynamics, but we think the steering is a little too soft for even normal drivers. The resistance in the wheel is the same at all speeds, through all types of turns, which makes it feel awfully artificial.
However, the experience remains largely Volkswagen-like, and you don't really feel like you're constantly striving for efficiency - until you switch to Eco or Eco+ mode. In those modes, power delivery is reduced, and in the case of Eco+, the air-conditioning power is reduced and top speed is limited to 55 mph. The standard range for the e-Golf is anywhere between 70 and 85 miles (depending on your driving, the climate, etc.), but with Eco+ engaged, Volkswagen estimates a 100-mile range. If you're driving through a hot part of the country, don't plan on using Eco+ too often ... unless, of course, you like sweating your way down the road.
Also, we suggest staying on well-paved roads. Once you take the e-Golf's low-rolling-resistance tires onto pavement of lower qualities, you'll be met with an ample amount of annoying road noise. You can always change the tires, but don't expect your range estimates to go anywhere but down.
It makes sense that Volkswagen would release the most sensible electric car to date. In that regard, its closest competition would be the Ford Focus Electric, although the Ford's interior is still a little fashion-forward for your average American who is looking for a somewhat seamless transition from gas to electric. The Golf is, and has always been, the sensible choice. Now, with an electric motor replacing the gasoline one, the e-Golf remains just as practical, albeit with an added dose of the feel-goods. Current Volkswagen owners will hop into the e-Golf and feel right at home.
Specs & Price
Engine: Synchronous AC permanent-magnet electric motor
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Power Output: 115 hp / 199 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg-e): 126 city / 105 highway (116 combined)
Estimated Electric Range: 80 miles
Base Price: $36,000 (before incentives)
Updated Information (as of 11/11/2014):
Initial availability is limited to E-Mobility dealers in ZEV states: California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut.
More information can be found at http://www.vw.com/models/e-golf/.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2015 Volkswagen Golf, click here: 2015 Volkswagen Golf.