By Andy Lilienthal, photos by Mercedes Lilienthal
If there’s one thing the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf does better than any other EV currently on the market, it’s that it acts like a normal car. It doesn’t go out of its way to be super futuristic. It doesn’t do a whole lot of shouting, “Hey, I’m electric!” It’s based on Volkswagen’s already solid Golf, which is a good thing, and VW didn’t seem to mess too much with its world-class driving dynamics. Perhaps the lack eco chic could deter some buyers looking for that “I’m saving the planet—ask me how” cache. In fact, there are only a few subtle clues that differentiate this Golf from one that burns gasoline.
Of course the car is quiet, since it’s electric. There is a slight bit of noise under acceleration; sort of a purring sound. I’m not sure if it’s truly the motor or if it’s an artificial sound so pedestrians can hear it. Acceleration didn’t feel quite as strong as the Chevrolet Spark or Fiat 500e, but it’s more than adequate with plenty of low-end pull. The car makes 115 horsepower and 199 ft/lbs of torque, and it’s enough to make in-town driving fun. Of course the car has regenerative braking, but the e-Golf actually has three levels of regen. Level one lets you coast pretty easily in traffic. Level two certainly lets you feel the motor dragging to send power back to the battery pack. Level three nearly puts you through the windshield when off the throttle, but it definitely helps with recharging. To select these modes, you move the gearshift left or right. It’s pretty slick. There’s also a B mode that you can select by tapping the shifter down once. This lets you sent the most power back to the battery pack. To go back into D, you have to tap the shifter back again rather than put it forward. I was constantly putting the car into neutral.
On the highway, the e-Golf remains extremely quiet and feels very refined. It feels less like a compact hatchback and more like an upscale European vehicle. It was rattle-free, and super solid, and has a firm but silky ride. If feels like you could cruise in it all day, so long as that “all day” is under 85 miles.
The climate control system works efficiently, but every time I turned it on the air conditioning powers up—not something you want in an EV, since it sucks up the range. Perhaps you can change this via the car’s system settings; I didn’t get a chance to find out.
The car features heated leatherette seating surfaces as well as a leather-wrapped wheel and shift knob. The interior is classic, clean, and modern—it’s very Volkswagen. They do nice little things like carpeting the door panels, and using LED interior lights with upscale looking lenses. It feels well built, well screwed together, and upscale. Our model had a fantastic sounding eight-speaker stereo and 5.8-inch touchscreen with navigation. Other amenities include dual climate control, an illuminated glovebox with cooling, and keyless access with pushbutton start.
If you’re a fan of VW Golf styling, the e-Golf will fall right into place for you. Our SEL Premium has funky LED headlights with blue accents and feature dynamic range adjustment, too.
We can’t talk EVs with talking charging. The Golf has level 1 (120V), level 2 (240V), and supports DC fast charging. Total range is 83 miles and it’s rated at 116 MPGe combined, 126 city, and 105 highway. If you’re charging on 240V, it’ll take four hours.
The car comes with a 120V cord for charging at home, but it’s very short and the charge port is where the fuel door would normally be—on the passenger’s side rear. This makes it rather difficult if your outlet isn’t right next to the car. We almost needed to have the car on the lawn to reach our outlet. Another notable charging bit: The car has a locking charging port. You plug it into the car, and it locks in place. You use the keyless entry to unlock it. I initially found this rather inconvenient, truth be told. However, it does certainly deter any theft and, in talking with my co-worker who owns an EV, he says it will also stop people from randomly unplugging your car at the charging station. Yes, apparently that’s a thing.
Our 2015 e-Golf SEL Premium has a retail price of $36,265 before any tax credits. Do keep in mind that the annual “fuel” cost is only $550, by the way. Considering the price of other EVs currently available, this is certainly in line price wise. And for as nice of a vehicle as this is, it’s certainly worth any premium you might pay.
One thought, and it’s a personal experience: I know a lot of people that have had electrical issues with their VWs. So the idea of owning an all-electric VW sounds like it could be a giant labyrinth of electrical gremlins. Hopefully this German-made VW EV won’t have any “shocking” problems.
I think the biggest issue I have with this EV is that I wanted to be able to drive it farther. I can’t say that about all EVs. But the e-Golf is so comfortable, solid, refined, and quiet, that I wanted to drive it to the coast or to the mountains as well as to work. But until EV battery technology evolves, this will have to be one fine urban runabout.
|THE BASICS: 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium|
|MSRP As Tested:||$36,265|
|Motor:||Synchronous AC Permanent Magnet|
|Curb Weight:||3,391 lbs.|
|Suspension:||F: Struts w/lower control arm |
|Brakes:||F: Disc w/ABS and regen |
R: Disc w/ABS and regen
|Tires:||205/55R16, low rolling resistance|
|Range & MPG:||105 highway, 126 city, 116 MPGe|
|Battery Type:||Lithium ion, 75 Ah, 24.2 kWH|