2017 Volkswagen e-Golf EV Review Some car companies were dragged kicking and screaming into the electric-vehicle market by the 10-state zero-emission-vehicle (ZEV) mandate, hastily shoving electric motors and batteries into existing products with only the most minor changes. Volkswagen, however, seems to be warming to the presumably still unprofitable task of selling EVs, bringing out a refreshed e-Golf only two years after launching an 83-mile-range model that nonetheless managed to sell nearly 4000 copies in the U.S. last year.
The 2017 e-Golf’s best trick is that it can now stretch 125 miles of range out of a lithium-ion battery pack that, we’re told, has the same number of cells and weighs the same as before yet rises from a rating of 24.2 kWh to 35.8. Magic? It reminds us of the horsepower screw that Wolfsburg turns to make identical engines achieve different output ratings in VW and Audi models.
VW says the e-Golf’s improvement was accomplished via battery optimization. The new model is indeed packing a new battery pack with revised cell chemistry, not just a software change, and there are no plans to offer owners of older e-Golfs the upgrade. Hey, they didn’t upgrade that iPad of yours every time a new one came out, did they? Welcome to the incrementally improving world of e-cars!
Horsepower also increases, from 115 to 134, while torque rises from 199 lb-ft to 214, which should make the e-Golf scamper a bit harder. VW will offer the new e-Golf in three trim levels: the SE, the loaded SEL Premium, and a Limited Edition model that splits the difference and includes some of the SEL Premium’s features. The 7.2-kW onboard charger becomes standard on all three models, meaning a common Level 2 240-volt charger will recharge the car in less than six hours. While that sounds like a long time for a refill, anyone who has lived with an EV knows it will suffice for most situations. And DC fast charging, which is an option on the SE but standard on SEL Premium and Limited Edition models, can do an 80 percent charge in an hour.
2017 Volkswagen e-Golf EV Features
A short drive along the California coast proved that the reasons to choose an e-Golf are the same as the reasons to choose any Golf: access to VW family values, including a rock-solid platform, excellent dynamics (improved, actually, with a lower center of gravity due to the battery mounting below the floor), and fastidious interior packaging. The new 3450-pound e-Golf can indeed be a silent sprinter off the line, with plenty of thrust to keep pace with traffic—60 mph is yours in a claimed 9.6 seconds, but that’s surely conservative, as we did it in 9.4 with the 2016 model. It’ll go 85 mph, sufficient to collect a speeding ticket pretty much anywhere in America.
And it loses none of the great Golf steering and brakes that we enjoy in the more conventional models. We’re told that the car makes a hum at low speed to warn pedestrians of its presence, but we couldn’t hear it from inside—nor much of anything else in the well-insulated cockpit.
Some minor exterior changes denote the updated model, including standard C-shaped LED daytime-running-light strips and new, 16-inch flush-looking aluminum wheels. Amusingly, VW added a chrome strip on the rear bumper to call out trapezoidal faux-exhaust portals that the company thinks make the car look sportier. We’re not sure they understand that fake exhaust holes probably won’t appeal to the EV believers, but whatever.
Inside, the old 6.5-inch center infotainment display has been broomed in favor of the 8.0-inch screen that’s now standard across the line. VW’s 12.3-inch Digital Cockpit instrument-cluster display is part of the full-zoot Driver Assistance package (available on the SEL Premium) that also includes adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning, among other features.
All of which makes us excited for the near future, when VW plans to launch a dedicated EV platform that won’t be just a gasoline car stuffed with a battery pack and an electric motor.