2016 Volkswagen e-Golf | CarGurus Test Drive Review

Hi, I’m Mike Perkins from CarGurus, and this is the 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf. Motivated by a permanent-magnet AC motor like the Nissan Leaf and powered by a 24.2-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, the e-Golf produces a maximum of 115 horsepower and a 199 pound-feet of torque in its Normal driving mode. This equals out to an EPA-estimated range of 83 miles, although VW offers a range of between 50 and 120 miles depending on driving style and environment. After debuting in 2015, the e-Golf has already undergone some changes—and not all of them for the better. This year, the base Limited trim gets replaced by the SE, which gets a price reduction as well as less standards. Specifically, it loses the navigation system, quick-charge port, front and rear parking sensors, and the auto-dimming mirror that were all included last year. However, you can still add the quick-charge port to the SE for some extra cash, and all Golfs benefit from the new infotainment system offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. So let’s take it for a ride and see how it does. First, let’s talk about range. Those numbers are pretty confusing, but there’s a reason for that. When VW says that range could be anywhere between 50 and 120 miles, they’re basing that on how you use your accessories, how aggressively you’re accelerating, and whether or not you’re taking advantage of one of the four increasing levels of regenerative braking. Now, while VW includes several passive features to extend the efficiency of the e-Golf—things like the shuttered grille, the electrically heated windshield, and the LEDs and the heat pump in the SEL trim—you can actually change the performance characteristics here through three different drive modes and the regenerative braking system. Keep it in Normal mode and ignore the regen braking—you’re going to find yourself with around 70 to 80 miles of range. Do that in winter, and it will drop down to 50. But if you do everything right, you’re going to find yourself with well over 100. And here’s the best part: you don’t really have to sacrifice much of anything get that. Scrolling through the drive modes here, you’ll see you have the choice of Normal, Eco, and Eco+, both of which will reduce your climate control efficiency and total power output. Eco drops power to 94 horsepower and 162 pound feet, while Eco+ gets you just 74 horsepower and 129 pound feet. But here’s the thing—there’s a kickdown button under the accelerator. Press that and you get full power anytime you want. Now I’ve been coupling that with the B mode of regen braking, and that offers the most aggressive level, plus simulated engine braking. And honestly, it’s been real fun. When it comes to charging, the standard 3.6-kilowatt-hour charger will take about 7 hours to replenish a dead battery if you’re hooking it up to the 240-volt level-2 plug—the same as you’d have for a major appliance. But on the standard 110-volt like you have throughout your house, that’s going to be 20 hours for a full recharge. Jump up to the 7.2-kilowatt charger, and you can do the same dance in just 4 hours on a 240-volt plug. And if you can find a DC3 station, you can get 80% charge in just 30 minutes. Not bad at all. The decontenting of the base trim isn’t great, but it still comes really well equipped with standard power-heated mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate controls, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, rear- view camera and heated seats, plus the new infotainment system and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The removal of the standard navigation system isn’t too much of a bother. What really cramps my capacitors is that features like the LEDs and the heat pump for the climate control system—features that actually affect the overall range of this vehicle— are being relegated to a higher and pricier trim. Especially now when electric vehicles are fighting for collective acceptance as a viable alternative, it just seems a really poor corner to cut. You can, of course, add the larger 7.2-kilowatt charger that comes with a DC quick-charge port to the SE for $1,675. But if top-of-the-line is all you accept, the SEL also adds cruise control, fleather, ambient lighting, and an 8-inch touchscreen with SD card-based navigation. You also get front and rear parking sensors, but for the full safety suite, you should go with the optional Driver Assistance package, which will add a frontal-collision warning system, autonomous breaking, and even parking assist for just $395. Now that’s new, and frankly, it seems like the options deal the decade. But regardless of the trim, it’s still based on the Golf, which means you’ll get impressive build quality, materials that exceed the price point, plus all the utility of everyone’s favorite 4-door hatch. Just like the Leaf, the batteries are located under the floor so you don’t sacrifice any space in the trunk. So that’s 22.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up, and dropping them means you have 52.7 to play with. No competitor can offer that. Plus, the extra weight under the floor has actually improved the ride over the regular Golf. Despite eco tires pumped up to over 40
psi, things are solid, smooth, and just generally nice inside. And with $10,000 in government rebates, that means you can drive away in an SE for less than $20,000. Even if you add the optional Quick Charge package, it’ll still be just a few hundred dollars over. What that means is
you have to decide whether or not the LEDs, the heat pump, the fleather, the safety systems, and the upgraded infotainment system with navigation is worth the extra $6,000 to move up to the SEL. It’s tempting, but I think I’d stick with the SE with the optional Quick Charge package. Of course, I live in California so I have that option. The e-Golf is currently only available on the coast, so that’s going to make the decision for a lot of you guys. For those of you who live in the interior of the country, is this a car that you wish would come to your state? Let me know in the comments. Hey, thanks for watching. For more information on the 2016 e-Golf, just click the link in the description to read my full review over at CarGurus.com.

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