2015 Volkswagen e-Golf First Review: Looks, Feels and Drives Like a Golf
It's not always easy to look at electric cars the same way we look at regular cars. Some still feel and look different than gas-powered cars, and there's the issue of range anxiety. However, with choices like the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf, buyers can enjoy electric cars that are just like their gas-powered kin--the only real difference being they plug in at night instead of making a regular stop at the local gas station. The e-Golf is a car that feels so well-executed and, well, normal, that it's easy to occasionally forget you're driving an electric car. Volkswagen also offers charging options that are affordable, convenient and quicker than you might think.
Fun to Drive
When you first get into the e-Golf, what is most striking is how the interior looks: it's the same as that of a standard Golf. It's refined, with smart materials. It looks elegant but not the least bit stuffy. If you look closely, you can see subtle cues that differentiate the e-Golf from the rest of the line, such as the blue stitching on the steering wheel and the transmission boot, and matching blue accents on the shifter itself. And there is data within the screen in the center stack that tells you the range, among other things. The biggest way you can tell this isn't a typical Golf is that once you push the button to start the car, you don't hear a thing, yet the instruments show that the Golf is running and ready to go.
Acceleration is very quick from a stop, making the e-Golf feel incredibly light, even though the battery pack adds 700 pounds of weight. The motor puts out 115 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque, with a single-speed transmission. Steering was surprisingly good, with better-than-expected feel. There are three vehicle modes--Normal, Eco and Eco+--and in Normal, or even in Eco (where horsepower, throttle response and air conditioning output are somewhat limited), it's very easy to forget that this good-looking hatch with a sporty ride isn't a regular Golf. The most noticeable difference is in Eco+, where the system does the most to ensure the absolute best range, so horsepower and torque are limited as is top speed, and acceleration takes noticeably longer. While the e-Golf has a firmer ride than other hatches on the market, it feels much like that of any other Golf, comfortable on the daily drive. Despite being a regenerative system, the e-Golf's brakes feel normal, something not all electrics can boast.
Life Without Gas
The e-Golf is on the same platform as the rest of the Golf line, and benefits from the same utility as a 4-door hatchback allows. What's especially nice is that the batteries don't take up any of that room. Instead, what VW has done is arrange the battery pack in a T-shape that sits under the rear seats and where the traditional transmission would've been. The end result is that legroom, headroom and cargo capacity are identical to that of any other Golf.
When it comes to living with an electric car, the same limitations come up: cost and range. The model we tested was a top-of-the-line SEL Premium. Pricing is $36,265, which is pricier than a Golf GTI, but it does mean never having to visit a gas station again. It has a range of 70-90 miles, and efficiency of 105 mpg-e, based on Volkswagen's estimates. When it goes on sale in November in select states, the e-Golf will come with a standard charger. This allows drivers to charge their vehicle three different ways. The first is plugging it into a standard 110/120-volt socket, a process that takes 20 hours. With a 240-volt box, which can cost about $450-$750, charging can take as little as four hours. The third option is to use ChargePoint charging stations. Everyone who buys an e-Golf is given a ChargePoint account, which provides access to one of 18,000 stations in the United States, about 60 percent of which are free. Some of these stations are fast-charging, meaning that the battery can be charged up to 80 percent in about half an hour. To control charging, whether at home or at a station, you can use VW's Car-Net smartphone app to remotely start and stop charging, look at information about the car, or you can even use it to see where your car is parked in a crowded shopping center. If you're looking for a way to get away from the cost of gas or are thinking green, VW's e-Golf is a choice that doesn't take away from the driving experience.
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