When you drive the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf for the first time, we bet you are going to have to keep reminding yourself you are in a full electric vehicle. Unlike some others in the segment, the e-Golf doesn’t go out of its way to advertise the fact that it is all-electric to those outside the vehicle or, for that matter, to those behind the wheel. Instead, it has the look, feel and driving demeanor of a mid-level Golf that somehow has an incredibly quiet engine and a velvety smooth automatic transmission. It is not GTI fast or agile, but neither is it the glorified golf cart that the uninitiated might expect.  

Upgrades everywhere

After just two years of selling the previous e-Golf, Volkswagen has upgraded the 2017 version in every area – drivetrain, power storage, equipment and style. All the changes are welcome, but we’d submit to you the most important change comes in the new lithium-ion battery and the commensurate 50-percent increase in range. The revised battery has an energy capacity of 35.8 kWh, up from 24.2 kWh, and that is the change most responsible for the significant increase in range on a full charge. The 50 percent difference is big, but it really understates the effect, because by boosting range from an EPA-rated 83 miles to 125 miles on a single charge, the e-Golf transitions from being a single-purpose curiosity to approximating the utility of a conventional automobile.  No, you won’t choose it for the interstate cruise to visit the relatives, but you don’t have to panic every third minute that you’ll run out of juice on your commute home to the kids either.

Enhancing the e-Golf’s usability is the 7.2 kW on-board charger that is standard on all trims, enabling the battery to be charged in less than six hours at 240-volt charging stations, which are becoming more common. Further with DC Fast Charging, the battery can be charged to 80 percent capacity within an hour. That still doesn’t make the e-Golf a cross-country tourer, but it opens possibilities that didn’t exist before. (DC Fast Charging is optional on SE and standard on Limited Edition and SEL Premium trim levels.)

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Available in 3 trim levels

The fact that the e-Golf is offered in three different trim levels is telling, because if it were strictly a “compliance car” meant to satisfy zero-emission requirements in the states that mandate it, Volkswagen might simply offer it in one take-it-or-leave-it trim. Though the car for the time being is only offered in ZEV states plus the District of Columbia, the e-Golf has the smell of a sub-model that will have some life beyond simply checking an administrative box and giving VW some environmental talking points.

More powerful motor for more (silent) punch

The bigger-capacity battery is accompanied, much to our applause, by a more powerful electric motor. The new 100-kW electric motor delivers 134 horsepower versus the 115 horsepower offered by the 85-kW motor in the 2016 e-Golf. Maximum torque is up from 199 lb-ft to 214 lb-ft enabling the e-Golf to feel more Golf-like with a zero to 60 mph saunter in 9.6 seconds. Its top speed, limited to 85 mph, is adequate for the duty it will typically see and another reason why you wouldn’t pick the e-Golf for a cross-country drive through Wyoming.

New styling inside and out gives the already good-looking Golf even more panache and it presages the changes the rest of the Golf lineup will experience in the 2018 model year. Those changes include restyled bumpers, front fenders, headlights and grille. Perhaps the most notable is the switch from bi-xenon to energy-efficient LED headlights on the SEL Premium model. Every 2017 e-Golf will incorporate C-shaped LED daytime running lights and LED taillights, and while the distinction between e-Golfs and conventional Golfs is anything but strident, e-Golfs feature unique badges and blue accents. The tailpipes of the conventional Golfs are replaced with a sleek trim piece at the rear.

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Interior filled with VW class

The cabin features the class and fashionable tailoring that have endeared VW interiors to us for years. As you’d expect, the instrument cluster has been redesigned to provide the driver with the requisite EV information including a power display that indicates if the motor is ready, whether the battery is being recharged or if power is being drawn by things like, well, like driving.  The speedometer includes a gauge that shows the battery’s current charge state, and another indicator lets you know at a glance (okay a long glance) the estimated remaining range. 

Equipment levels vary from good to sumptuous depending upon trim level.  Notable standard and optional equipment include keyless entry with push-button start, heated front seats, cruise control and a rearview camera/display. The standard MIB II infotainment system shows off its capabilities via a glass-covered 8.0-inch touchscreen display, and the interface is easy to understand and use without a course in Applied Astrophysics. 

In all, the e-Golf seems like a willing and practical partner for most of your day-to-day automotive chores. Its overall handling might well be described as like a conventional Golf that has some junk in the trunk.  (Yes, we know Golfs don’t have trunks, but please humor us.) You have to like the EPA-estimated average fuel cost of $550, but balance that with the e-Golf’s expected premium purchase price versus its sisters before you start congratulating yourself on your financial acumen. If you want an e-Golf you should also be aware that it will only be available in select VW stores in ZEV states, and it should be in those showrooms this summer. 


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