• 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium

VW’s Versatile Hatchback Ups Its Electric Capabilities

Fun to drive and quiet–and I will buy dinner if you can find a tailpipe. Yeah, I know there are no tailpipes on an all-electric car, but sometimes stating the obvious is necessary to drive home a point.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

All Golf; all electric

The point is that the Volkswagen Golf line-up is well-known as fun-to-drive small hatchbacks that get excellent fuel economy. The Golf even comes in Hot Hatch GTi and R versions that take the driving experience up a few notches. So with all their worldwide success with the extremely popular Golf platform, why would VW offer an electric Golf? Drive a 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf and the reason becomes clear real, real fast.

e-Golf Technology

The e-Golf has become a favorite at Clean Fleet Report. Introduced in 2014 and unchanged through 2016, the 83-mile driving range was right in line with EV competitors at that time selling in the mid-$30,000 price range. In 2017, the e-Golf has upped the driving range to 125 miles with a very good 119 MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent. MPGe is an EPA measurement of how far a car can travel, electrically, on the same amount of energy as is contained in one gallon of gasoline.

Charging and Stopping

The 35.8-kWh lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery is charged through the 7.2-kW onboard charger, which is standard on the 2017 e-Golf. Additional charging is through the regenerative braking system that converts braking or coasting into electricity. So driving around town, stuck in stop-and-go rush hour freeway traffic or coasting down hills will recharge the battery. The battery charge and mileage range are metered instantly by dash gauges.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Three charging level potential

The Li-ion battery is charged through a plug-in port offering three charging speeds. The batteries go from fully discharged to a full charge in:

  • 120V (Level 1)                    16 hours
  • 240V (Level 2)                   6 hours         
  • 480V DC Fast Charging  80% in 60 minutes or less

The Driving Experience

The 100-kW electric motor drives the front wheels, delivering 134 horsepower and 214 pounds-feet of torque that give the e-Golf a fun whoosh-factor. At 3,455 lbs., the 2017 e-Golf is quiet and smooth. The batteries are located under the seats, makes for a sure-footed driving experience that truly shines in city maneuvers and around tight corners. Considering it comes with all-season, non-performance 16-inch tires that are designed for low rolling-resistance, VW was careful not to dial-out too much of what the Golf is known for–a spirited driving car.

Road feel was excellent with rack-and-pinion electric power steering that thankfully was not programmed to take away the fun of driving. Body roll was almost non-existent, even when pushed above recommended corner speed limits, and highway 65+ mph cruising was solid and confident.

Drivers have the choice of driving modes and regenerative braking force. The mode levels go from Normal to Eco and Eco-plus, progressively reducing performance as the electricity use is reduced. You learn pretty quickly that you can’t drive like a racer and expect the e-Golf to get far down the road. Smooth and steady is the prescription for maximizing the 125-mile driving range.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

You can “C” the e-Golf coming

While there is nothing too unusual about multiple, driver-selected drive modes, the new, very cool and useful technology is the ability to control braking by your fingertips. Found on the left side behind the steering wheel, a paddle shifter, when blipped once, twice and maybe a third time, progressively increases the regenerative braking. What is cool about this is that it is possible, once you get the hang of it, to drive around without using the brake pedal except to make a complete stop. This technique lends itself to getting the most electricity from regenerated braking, as fingertips are far more sensitive than a foot tromping on the brake pedal. There is also a driver-selectable B mode for the heaviest regeneration. I found putting the e-Golf into B mode when going down long declining roads, really had a positive impact–I could see the battery level and driving range increase on the dash gauge.

A good handling car, of course, is nothing without good brakes. The e-Golf comes standard with ABS (an anti-lock braking system), power-assisted front vented and rear solid discs. Handling and driving confidence was also aided by the standard electronic stability control, brake-pressure distribution and hydraulic brake assist.

Driving Experience: Interior

Golf’s interiors are known for their clean fit and finishes. Renowned for being German tight, the e-Golf has a good mix of soft and hard plastics, with the simple layout of all gauges uncomplicated by fake woods, plastic chrome pieces or other design gimmicks. Volkswagen says their “driver-centric design focus” begins with the center stack being angled towards the driver: a design feature usually found on more upscale cars. The white backlighting for the dash gauges also added a premium element.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The cockpit is driver-oriented–as is the whole car

The heated V-Tex leatherette front seats have better-than-average bolstering, with the driver’s side getting power adjustments for height, sliding and lumbar adjustment. There was a good choice of seat settings that, when combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, made a comfortable position easy to find. Especially noticeable was how far back the driver’s seat slides: no circus contorting for the six-foot-plus crowd. Visibility was excellent and exterior noise was deadened to near nothing. The center console has a height-adjustable armrest and storage area. Head, leg, elbow and shoulder room was accommodating, even for 6-foot-plus drivers and passengers.

Storage space, accessed through the rear hatch, is more like that of the largest midsize sedans. And, if it is only the driver and front seat passenger on a long weekender, the rear seat (with a ski pass-through) has a very handy system for lowering the 60/40 split seatback to an almost-flat position, providing 52.7 cu. ft. of cargo capacity–large enough for a full-size bicycle. Access through the rear doors was easy, with rear leg and head room accommodating for all but the tallest passengers.

Taking center stage on the dash of our SEL Premium trim level e-Golf was the eight-inch color touchscreen that handles the navigation and rear view camera. The centerpiece of the infotainment system is the eight-speaker sound system, delivering deep, full crisp tones for the AM/FM/HD radio and CD player. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM (a must for those fuel-efficient road trips), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music. Standard on all e-Golf trim levels is Volkswagen’s CarNet connected car technology that provides a seamless link between the car and an iPhone, Android smartphone or computer. Volkswagen says it “keeps you connected with your car even when you’re apart.” Now, isn’t that something we all dream of?

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The hatch can swallow a lot of luggage

Clean Fleet Report is a big fan of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls. VW does a nice job of making it easy to operate the radio and dual-zone HVAC system, with the turn of a few knobs. The black dash has accents of chrome, aluminum and piano-black finishes, and a leather-wrapped gearshift knob and hand brake handle.

Other conveniences are rain-sensing windshield wipers with heated washer nozzles, power windows with one touch operation and pinch protection, keyless access, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, power adjustable and manual folding exterior mirrors, multi-function car analytics and trip computer display, multiple power ports, front and rear reading and ambient lights, and front and rear carpeted floor mats and rear air vents.

Driving Experience: Exterior

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The Golf’s got some edges in its styling

If you are a fan of classic German design, the e-Golf will not disappoint. The front end leads off with a narrow grill, sleek Halogen headlights on the outer fender edges, all leading to the character line that extends to the horizontal tail lamps. A design element unique to the e-Golf are the “C”-shaped daytime running lights, which present an interesting look at night. The steeply sloped hood and raked windshield lead to a roof with a shark fin antenna and an integrated spoiler, ending with a large rear window with a wiper and LED taillights. This design is based on the MQB (Modular Transverse Matrix) architecture and has a “cab backward” look that gives it a lower visual center of gravity.  All this has created aerodynamic reduction with a drag coefficient of .027, placing the e-Golf with the likes of the Audi A6, BMW i8 and Nissan GT-R.

Safety and Convenience

All 2017 Volkswagen e-Golfs come with eight airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, Intelligent Crash Response System with forward collision warning, and the Automatic Post Collision Braking System. Clean Fleet Report’s SEL Premium had automatic LED headlights and LED daytime running lights, and rear parking distance control sensors, lane assist, blind spot monitoring and park assist.

Pricing, Warranties and Safety

There are three 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf models.

  • SE                           $30,495
  • Limited Edition   $33,795
  • SEL Premium      $36,995 (Clean Fleet Report’s MSRP)

All prices do not include the $850 destination charge.

The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf has not been rated by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, the gasoline-powered Golf received the highest ratings from IIHS as a Top Safety Pick, and a Five Star rating from NHTSA.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The e-Golf has some nice touches–like a blue door sill light

The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf comes with these warranties:

  • New Vehicle: Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain: Five years/60,000 miles
  • High Voltage System: Five years/60,000 miles
  • High Voltage Battery: Eight years/100,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance: Three years/36,000 miles
  • Corrosion Perforation: 12 years/120,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium

The e-Golf is a very comfortable and well-designed car. With great handling, a spirited all-electric driving experience and an intuitive interior, it lives up to its German heritage. The four-door 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf is the most solidly built of its direct competitors.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The most solid electric in this segment

Five seat all-electric compacts that sell against the e-Golf include the Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Soul and Fiat 500e (though a little below compact size). Sales currently are limited to California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington D.C. If you live in one of these states then the e-Golf should be very high on your consideration list.

If you don’t live in any of these states and must have an all-electric car now, Clean Fleet Report gives high marks to the Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf, which are direct competitors to the e-Golf, but are available nationwide.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

In order to give you, the reader, the best perspective on the many vehicles available, Clean Fleet Report has a variety of contributors. When possible, we will offer you multiple perspectives on a given vehicle. This comes under SRO-Second Road Test Opinion. We hope you’ll enjoy these diverse views–some are just below—and let us know what you think in comments below or at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf (Steve’s view)

First Drive: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI

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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: John Faulkner

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

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