Electric cars are maturing. and going electric means having more choices every year. And this year’s most welcome electric-car debut is the Volkswagen e-Golf, because it is a fun one to live with.
First, let’s answer the question most have about electric cars: what’s the range? The e-Golf quotes it at 83 miles. Charging a depleted e-Golf from a standard household plug takes 20 hours. A fast charger can do it in four, and VW has configured the battery to be charged to 80 percent in a half hour with some fast chargers. It comes loaded as an SEL Premium trim and costs $35K before tax incentives.
So that’s the e-Golf’s benefit package in a nutshell. Zero tailpipe emissions in California means qualifying for the coveted carpool-lane white sticker, which could potentially add whole weeks of time to your year of not sitting in traffic.
And there are many other neat things about the e-Golf, which we’ll get to in a bit. But you’d just have to determine if the e-Golf’s range, charging time and price agree with you.
If they do, then you’re in for a treat. The entire Golf line was refreshed for 2015 – Car Of The Year, according to Motor Trend – so the platform in which VW placed this electric powertrain is up-to-date from stem to stern.
From first touch, the Golf feels like an expensive car throughout, and that’s a nice switch from the slight dip in apparent quality we were seeing in previous generations.
One cool touch is VW’s first application of energy-saving LED headlights in a US production car.
The e-Golf converts electricity into 115 horsepower. That sounds ho-hum until your see that it also produces 199 lb.-ft. of torque, and unlike gas engines that have to rev up before they hit their torque peak, the e-Golf has it all ready for you at go.
As such, the e-Golf takes off like a shot, spinning its tires and thrusting forward. And the miracle of electricity means it happens without internal-combustion noise or torque steer pulling the front wheels off course. Pin straight, the e-Golf bullets silently toward the horizon.
The transmission operates innocuously, and a B-for-battery setting increases engine braking to preserve the the most remaining charge. Eco and Eco+ modes cut power and limit top speed to extend the range further.
Inside, the rich materials referenced earlier are everywhere. The e-Golf clearly looks and feels premium. Volkswagen calls the upholstery V-Tex leatherette, and it does a fair impression of leather, with a notably soft feel.
With just a little more thigh support for tall drivers, these seats would be without complaint. They’re comfortable and supportive befitting a car of the e-Golf’s performance.
There’s no power sunroof available in the e-Golf, which is a bummer if you like a little light coming in from above. But the lack of a movable panel means plenty of headroom front and rear, and legroom at 35.5 inches sounds tight but was fine for six-footers.
The instrument panel is an appropriate mix of round and square shapes, and all are surrounded with low-sheen plastics.
Door panels are solid, and the attractive trim fits tightly.
Door pulls have a tightly creased shape. Armrests are soft, and the heavily carpeted indentation for the bin is a nice thing to brush against.
The electric parking brake switch is another luxury touch.
Instruments are familiar to VW drivers. What would have been the engine’s rev counter on the left now serving as a charge meter.
Remaining charge is measured by a dial beneath the speedometer.
VW’s smallish 5.8-inch center screen gets the job done with a crisp display and a quickly-reacting interface.
Volkswagen’s proprietary Media Device Interface (MDI) requires that you buy separate dongles to connect your devices, but they’re pretty easy to find online. The MDI offers iPod connectivity if you roll with Apple.
In back, luggage space is tall, deep and nicely trimmed.
The charger is stored in a shallow bin below, along with a first-aid kit.
The e-Golf will be limited to 10 states and Washington D.C. in areas spanning the northeast and northwest US. That’s more widespread than electric cars like the Fiat 500e, which is limited to California and Oregon.
So if the e-Golf is at a dealer near you, then you’d want to do some hard thinking about how you use your car. If the range and subsequent charging times are something you can manage – especially if you could charge up at work – then the e-Golf should be at the top of your test-drive list.
When battery technology catches up with the distances most Americans drive, then many more will be able to enjoy what the e-Golf has to offer. For now, the e-Golf is for a select and lucky few.
2015 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium
Base Price: $35,445
Price as Tested: $36,265
Destination Charge: $820
Smooth and confident performance
Front seat cushions short on thigh support
Limited electric range
Long charge time on a household outlet