Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium

2015 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium

By , 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.

VW e-Golf wheels
The most EV-looking feature on this VW are the aerodynamic 16-inch alloy wheels, which do have that disc-like style common on many EVs, since it’s actually a functional aesthetic. Those wheels are wrapped in rather meaty 205/55/16 Continental tires. And while they are low rolling resistance tires, VW didn’t go narrow with them. And because of this, the e-Golf handles better than any of the EVs I have driven thus far. Remember, this is still a Volkswagen and nearly all of VW’s cars have great driving dynamics, and that includes its EV.

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.

2015 VW e-Golf interior
That solid feels translates into the cabin as well. The doors close with a satisfying vault-like heaviness. Anyone that’s been in a recent Golf will be familiar with this interior. In fact, it’s nearly identical to a conventional Golf. The only noticeable difference is the power gauge which replaces that tachometer. But even that power meter, which is an analog gauge, looks kind of like a tachometer. It goes from 0–10 (to the right) and swings to the left when recharging. It’s much more pleasing to look at that many other EVs’ continually moving digital readouts that, frankly, you want to turn off half the time anyhow.

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.

2015 Volkswagen e-Golf charge cord

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.

2015 Volkswagen e-Golf rear

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
Transmission: Single speed
Horsepower: 115
Torque: 199 lbs/ft
Curb Weight: 3,391 lbs.
Wheelbase: 103.6"
Overall Length: 168.1"
Suspension: F: Struts w/lower control arm
R: Multi-link
Brakes: F: Disc w/ABS and regen
R: Disc w/ABS and regen
Wheels: 16" alloy
Tires: 205/55R16, low rolling resistance
Range & MPG: 105 highway, 126 city, 116 MPGe
Battery Type: Lithium ion, 75 Ah,  24.2 kWH

VW e-Golf shifter

VW e-Golf exterior light

VW e-Golf headlamps

VW e-Golf door panel

Volkswagen e-Golf Logo


Ducati Scotty said...

Another car with "leatherette"? Ugh! I grew up in the 70's and I don't miss vinyl seats. I wonder about the wheels. The Prius ate the Honda Civic hybrid's lunch and the Honda's only styling cue was the different wheels. For better or worse, eco-chic seems to be an important in selling green cars. It's nice to see an electric that handles as well as it's petro brethren.

Unknown said...

Fantastic car post! I will share it, it's worth!

Lee Seelig said...

Scott, This ain't your grandfather's vinyl seats. I live in Texas, yet I never stick to them. They are quite breathable. The only way you can tell at a glance that they aren't leather is that the material has very tiny holes.

Ducati Scotty said...

I'll have to check out some of the be leatherette up close. Thanks Lee.