2017 Volkswagen e-Golf Review: Goes A Lot Further, A Little Bit Faster

6 months ago by Steve Siler 38

2017 VW e-Golf gets improved in more than a few ways over last year’s model

Here in the U.S., the Volkswagen Golf was a favorite among environmentally mindful buyers, many of whom were seduced by the Golf TDI, with its dieselicious torque and jaw-dropping fuel economy and handy little cheat devices that secretly switched to an emissions-compliant driving mode for EPA tests but spewed up to 40 times more pollutants from their tailpipes most other times.

2017 VW e-Golf Interior

When that little act of fraud blew up in in VW’s face, TDIs were banished and VW became a pariah in the eyes of many, and which also forced lead the company to embrace plug-in technology more openly.

Fortunately for VW, exactly one year before, it had introduced a Golf model that made no emissions at all, the all-electric e-Golf.

Developed mainly as a “compliance car” to help VW meet governmental mandates for zero-emissions vehicles both here and abroad, the e-Golf was expected to represent no more than a tiny percentage of Golf sales.

The original e-Golf was rather sluggish, weighed more than 400 pounds more than the standard Golf, and couldn’t travel more than 83 miles without sucking up to an electrical outlet for a few hours, but in all other respects, it was as winsome as any other Golf. Now, with the dust of Dieselgate settling (in courts) and the Golf TDI not expected to return any time soon, the e-Golf has a more prominent role, so we welcome the refreshed and improved 2017 e-Golf, with its snappier styling, better performance, and a more livable driving range.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf: Arriving at dealers in about a month or so

Pros

Goes a lot farther. The most significant change for 2017 is undoubtedly the massive 50-percent increase in driving range, now a respectable 125 miles. Credit its larger, more efficient 35.8-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, up from 24.2 kWh in the 2016 model, as well as improved battery chemistry that raises fuel efficiency to 119 MPGe from 116 MPGe before. Furthermore, while most of my brief, 31-mile drive from Manhattan Beach, California to Malibu was on generally flat stretches of Pacific Coast Highway – not exactly Autobahn speeds or range-gobbling hills – I was nonetheless surprised that when I arrived, the indicated range had only dropped by 29.

Sprightlier acceleration. Like most electric cars, the last e-Golf launched with a firm, silent shove but petered out long before highway speeds were attained, which is what happens when a wimpy 116-hp electric motor is charged (pardon the pun) with getting a 3,400-pound hatchback up to speed. This year’s upgrade to a 134-hp motor helps cut the 0-60 time from almost 11 seconds to a more acceptable 9.6, all in that eerie silence for which electric cars are known. Keep the right foot planted and you can now hit 93 miles per hour, up from 87 before. When not on the gas, the car is stoic and obedient, with excellent high-speed stability and quick and precise, if numb, steering.

Good looks. The 2017 e-Golf adopts the handsome, refreshed styling that will make it to the rest of the Golf line for 2018, with certain model-specific cues – blue accents, aero wheels, C-shaped LED running lamps below the front bumper, and a unique rear bumper panel with what appear to be cutouts for tailpipes but aren’t. Inside, it’s as sensible as any other 2017 Golf; other than some blue stitching on the steering wheel and shifter boot, gauge clusters that depict battery state of charge rather than fuel level, and some unique menus in the infotainment system, there’s little to distinguish the e-Golf from non-e-Golfs.

A look at the cargo room of the 2017 VW e-Golf

Cons

125 miles is still not enough. While 125 miles is a lot further than 83 – I could have done the round trip from Hawthorne to Malibu twice without recharging – it’s still less than half the range of most gas-powered cars, and far short of the 238-mile EPA-rated range of that other new electric hatchback, the Chevy Bolt. As such, the e-Golf’s 125-mile range isn’t enough to eradicate range anxiety for every potential customer, it merely serves to downgrade it from a full-fledged disorder to mild, circumstantial stressor.

Charge times still too high. With the 7.2-kW onboard charger that comes standard on both the base SE and SEL Premium trim levels, complete battery charging takes less than six hours from a 240-volt power source. A DC fast charger, optional on SE and standard on SEL Premium models allows 80 percent of the battery to be juiced up within an hour at a DC fast charging station, though such facilities remain relatively sparse.

High cost and limited availability. As before, the 2017 e-Golf will be available only in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. VW won’t release final pricing of the 2017 e-Golf until closer to its on-sale date sometime this summer, but as an electric car, it will certainly cost considerably more than the standard model. So you don’t have to look it up, the 2016 model cost at least $6K more than a comparable gas-powered Golf, starting at $29,815 for the SE and $36,415 for the SEL Premium. With its larger battery, the new model will likely cost more than last year.

It’s worth noting that e-Golf buyers will qualify for the Federal tax credit of $7,500 that applies to all new electric cars with various other incentives bringing that cost down even more, depending on where it was purchased. Those same tax credits also would apply to other EVs like the $37,495 Chevy Bolt with its 238-mile EPA-rated range, and the upcoming, all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf, which is also rumored to have a high-capacity battery and 200-plus miles of range when it debuts in September. All things considered, don’t expect prices to rise too much.

Competitors

  • Chevy Bolt
  • Fiat 500e
  • Ford Focus Electric
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric
  • Nissan Leaf

Below: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf Gallery

 

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38 responses to "2017 Volkswagen e-Golf Review: Goes A Lot Further, A Little Bit Faster"

  1. philip d says:

    I wish they would just knock it off and give the EV Golf 170 hp like the base regular Golf.

    Quit trying to make it worse than the cheaper base gas model. If it’s going to cost more at least give it the same power output and it will have the bonus of better torque as the justification for the higher price.

    I’m glad to see GM and Tesla getting it and giving their EVs comparable power outputs to the gas cars in a similar class.

    1. Foob says:

      170hp from a 36kwh pack is what? 4Cish? That’s not a crazy high C rate, but given the Golf platform is designed for multiple engine types, I bet they’ve only got limited space for batteries, so they’ll have traded power density for energy density…

      1. SparkEV says:

        eGolf batteries are not active cooled, so there could be heating issues if the batteries are pushed too hard.

        1. pjwood1 says:

          Then, the question “why the baked in heat ceiling?” is completely fair. Maybe VW should take the water jackets off their ICEs, go back to oil cooling and dial the power back enough to handle the extra heat.

          This car, like other German battery cars, was designed with a desired outcome in mind.

          1. SparkEV says:

            Not sure what you mean by “heat ceiling.”

            If eGolf was meant to compete against 2017 Leaf, and they can keep the price at that level, they did a decent job. But non-active cooled battery is not that great against most other EV, and especially not against Bolt. eGolf has to be significantly cheaper than Bolt, which I doubt will happen.

      2. pjwood1 says:

        Exactly.. 136HP sand-bags a 34.8KWh battery. It’s a “cork”.

        Watts = Amps X Volts

        Tesla found a limit above 500KW (670HP), for its 90KWh cars. So, more than a third of this capacity should be good for about 260HP.

        Maybe someone else can chime in about how much more expensive a 150KW, or 200KW electric motor would be (at VW’s scale). The author is exceedingly generous about “9.6 seconds” being an improvement over the previous 11. I’d guess $200-400 could have taken the 0-60 down to 5-7 seconds. That about as much money as buys a diesel filter (er, SCR).

        1. SparkEV says:

          Properly designed, 200 HP motor probably doesn’t cost all that much compared to 136 HP motor. But if eGolf has 200+HP, that could be quicker than GTI, their gas car hot-hatch. It’s unlikely they want to compete within the same brand.

          For Chevy, there really isn’t any hot-hatch, so Bolt doesn’t compete with any of their gas car offering.

        2. Terawatt says:

          > how much more a [more powerful motor would cost]

          It depends. Electric motors are not like ICE and do not have a maximum power per se. They are thermally limited. So the motor it already has can produce lots more power for short periods if the power electronics can push it, and likely a fair bit more sustained power too, but at the cost of efficiency.

          But in general, if you simply scale up the motor, the cost increase is simply the cost of extra materials. Of course you do not have unlimited space though! Other ways to boost motor power exist, but how expensive they are depends a lot on how near the bleeding edge you are to begin with. In this case I’d guess it’d be fairly easy and cheap, based simply on the fact that it’s not very powerful. But at the high end, gaining more power by use of exotic materials with extremely low resistance (thus being able to deliver more mechanical power for the same heat loss, effectively raising the thermal ceiling) is expensive. There are those who think we will soon get affordable superconducting rotors, which would mean extremely compact, efficient and powerful motors…

          https://chargedevs.com/features/teslas-chief-motor-engineer-discusses-the-potential-of-next-generation-motor-technologies/

          Anyway, it seems to me the battery pack may well be the limiting factor here. The Bolt makes good use of the available power from it’s pack, and the Golf had only a bit more than half the capacity and roughly the same voltage. I suppose they prefer to err on the side of being too conservative, and therefore choose not to pull more power from it.

          The new pack is nearly 50% bigger than the old, so they have actually decreased the max discharge rate (or C if you prefer) a bit, but the new pack is also more energy dense which sadly tends to also make it less power dense.

          But compared to Tesla it certainly seems very conservative, since Tesla has both higher energy density AND higher power density. Go figure.

          1. unlucky says:

            Although electric motors don’t usually operate anywhere near their max power they certainly do have actual max power outputs and for the same reason ICE engines do.

            The motor will be designed with physical characteristics which, if exceeded, will result in the destruction of the motor. That, like on an ICE, limits the max possible power output.

            And there certainly are practical measures too. Like on an ICE it may be difficult to get as much air into the engine as you need to make more power on an electric motor it may be difficult to get as much current in as you need because of the wire gauge and winding configuration.

      3. philip d says:

        I know they are different cells but my Volt has an 18.4 kWh pack and has a peak of 160 hp.

        1. David Murray says:

          Yep. I was just about to bring that up. It’s sad that the Volt has a smaller capacity pack, plus it has to carry around the engine too. And yet, it can still outrun the eGolf. I think VW needs to go back to the drawing board. I don’t think there is any good excuse for an all-electric EV to be this slow. I can forgive a PHEV when operating in electric mode with their smaller batteries and motors.

          1. Mark.ca says:

            It’s not this slow…even the ’16 model comes in at mid 9s not the 11s posted here so i bet the new version is under 9 seconds.

  2. LarsP says:

    The author of this article should take a look into global Golf TDI sales. The world is bigger than the US…

    1. Sch says:

      It would be interesting to see how the TDI would sell would it not be banned in the US.
      In Europe the TDI sales have moved just a little. The people buy cars with their wallet not ethics. And with fuel prices attacking 7 dollars a gallon the fuel savings are even more important.

      1. Terawatt says:

        Except that VW makes the cleanest diesel cars that are on sale in Europe.

        I’m not sure what you consider ethical, but if it’s to do with emissions rather than with cheating on US regulations, then VW is as ethical as it gets on the European market. Their Euro6 diesels (the newest regulation) emit only 180% the lab limit, whereas Renault/Nissan and Fiat Chrysler emit well over 1000%.

        Read the report, it’s pretty interesting:
        https://www.transportenvironment.org/publications/dieselgate-who-what-how

        (Scroll down and download the PDF. The web page is just a short summary.)

        1. unlucky says:

          For Euro 5 VW has 50% more non-conforming cars on the road than any other make. For Euro 5 and 6 they have 30% more than the next make.

          VW Is not “as ethical as it gets”. They displayed a systemic operation designed to cheat testing and get dirty cars out onto the road.

          As to the person you respond to, people are buying car with their wallet and as Diesel has been preferentially taxed (both the fuel and car fees like MOTs) people are still buying Diesels in Europe. But that is already (and finally) beginning to rapidly drop as these advantageous taxation figures are rolled back. Hybrids and PHEVs are going to be given preference and so certainly you’re going to see drivers get out of TDIs and into hybrids and PHEVs in Europe as we have already seen in the US.

          1. LarsP says:

            Maybe you should look into how many cars VW have on the road in total and adjust your calculation accordingly.
            Dieselgate is only an american thing. Everyone else knows that VW just happened to be the ones caught (which was good of course).
            Take a look at the report

  3. SparkEV says:

    Manhattan Beach to Malibu is about 30 miles. Why is it surprising that eGolf consumed 29 miles?

    eGolf has one of the best behind-rear-seat cargo area among EV. It’s a nice cube shape. We will see about the pricing, but they won’t do well if it’s $35K. It should be $29K ($19K in CA) to compete against Ioniq’s generous deal (unlimited miles and charging reimbursement).

    1. Mark.ca says:

      It all depends on the leases, if they offer something close to the ’16 eGolf than it will sell.

  4. Lawrence says:

    I received a call from the local VW dealer letting me know that the new longer range eGolf will be at their dealership to replace my existing eGolf once the lease is over late this year.

    I said that I’m not interested. It’s amazing how much EV’s have evolved in the past 3 years, especially with the introduction of the Bolt. The eGolf went from being a contender to in the segment to lagging far behind. Even with the battery upgrade, it’s range is only a little bit better than half of the Bolt’s.

  5. Brian says:

    I like almost everything about the e-Golf, but you’re right in that 125 miles is still not enough. My degraded Leaf gets about half that now, and yet can cover 90% of my needs. 125 miles would get me to maybe 92%. I really need 300 miles (either via a single charge or 200 miles plus a supporting DCQC network) to warrant replacing my Leaf.

    I’ll be waiting (not so) patiently for the I.D. Hatchback. Or maybe I’ll just go with a Bolt/Model 3/Leaf 2.

  6. billyb says:

    Very nice looking car, too bad VW didn’t match Chevy.

  7. ffbj says:

    led the company
    (which also lead the company to)

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Indeedie. Fixed, thanks ffbj!

  8. vdiv says:

    Hmm, if the tiny Zoe could fit in a 40 kWh battery…

    1. wavelet says:

      The Zoe is a pure-BEV platform, with flat battery in the (virtually entire) floor.

      The Golf (Mk. VII) platform used for the e-Golf has to support multiple drivetrain types, not just BEV (gasoline, Diesel & Turbodiesel ICE; hybrid PHEV; CNG; FCEV (although they don’t make one)).
      They can’t make the battery physically larger, so a serious improvement will have to wait for VW’s purpose-designed BEV platform, the MEB.

  9. tom911 says:

    With current 2016 e-Golfs leasing at $29-89/month it will be interesting to see how much the 2017 model will lease at.

    If the Bolt is under $300/month now, the 2017 e-Golf better be leasing at no more than $179/month IMO.

  10. David says:

    Really wish this car was available in Michigan, but this article seems to confirm it will not be.

    Not even available in WA state!

    1. vdiv says:

      It is available, can always get it out of state and bring it in, or even drive it in 🙂
      2015 and 2016 used models can be found for a very agreable price, including the shipping.

  11. Terawatt says:

    I like it, but it’s a pity VW didn’t feel it was necessary to adhere to the new baseline of 200 miles minimum. And a fair bit more power, which would also be easier with a bigger battery pack.

    It’s a funny situation in the market right now. The Bolt is totally in a league of its own on paper. Everyone seems to want it outside the US, but can’t get it, and nobody seems to want it in the US, where GM insists on piling up inventory.

    Hopefully the next LEAF will bring the 200-milers to the masses.

    Even if not, Model 3 will of course create quite a stir. Hopefully the ramp up goes well, and if it does the pressure on incumbents will dramatically increase, and their plans pushed forward. I still don’t know if Tesla’s plan is believable or not, but it’s not that long until we begin to see…

    1. Lawrence says:

      I have a theory on this. EV owners are mostly on 3 year leases. The Bolt is not a car that someone will pay a penalty and terminate a lease early for, so their sales growth will slow and steady as EV leases are up. They will own most of the market share especially if you factor in that they will have the $7500 tax credit as Tesla will be out of them by Q1 2018.

      1. Nix says:

        I hope that isn’t the case. I’ve been hoping that longer range was the key for getting more EV buyers to join the party. If the Bolt isn’t drawing in more net-new EV owners with their market segment leading range, that would be a big blow to my theory.

        If the Bolt is just attracting previous EV owners who have already figured out how to make half as much range work for their needs, my fear is that EV’s won’t be able to break into the mainstream as soon as I hoped.

        1. unlucky says:

          I’ve sold one person on a Bolt who didn’t have an EV before. And another friend who has never had one is going for a test drive soon (of course, he said that last week too).

          So I hope others are seeing the same thing. But I can’t really speak for others.

    2. unlucky says:

      It was the #1 selling EV in the US last month. Where does the idea no one wants it come from?

  12. David Murray says:

    Despite the recent article I wrote about PHEVs being necessary due to range, I think I could happily go back to an all-electric vehicle for 125 miles of range. I think that would probably be the threshold that I could accept leaving the range extender behind.

    However, the eGolf is still to slow for my taste. My Volt with its smaller battery can still outrun it easily. Plus I guess I’m just not a huge fan of the styling of the Golf in the first place.

  13. Nix says:

    There is still a market for 125 mile range EV’s. I don’t have a problem with them filling that market niche. This is the kind of evolutionary upgrade that would be natural for a GEN II. No, it isn’t the revolutionary leap like the Bolt and TM3, but that isn’t the end of the world.

    With that said, Audi/VW is falling behind. They indeed do need to join the revolution.

  14. QCO says:

    The coolest thing in the e-Golf is the retro analog “load meter”, which looks the same as the ones found in diesel-electric locomotives.

    Clockwise for power, counterclockwise for dynamic braking. Very intuitive.

    1. unlucky says:

      Most EVs which share parts and platform with a non-EV have something like that. They repurpose the tachometer to create it.