The Hybrid Slayer? Maybe. The Volkswagen e-Golf was first introduced by VW in 2015; I had the 2016 SEL Premium model. The e-Golf comes in only two models and both basically come as equipped by Volkswagen – the SE priced at a very reasonable $29,815 and the SEL Premium priced at $36,415 (a Federal tax credit of $7,500 may be available to some purchasers). This was my first time with an all electric. I’m pretty familiar with the gas/electric hybrids out there, but I haven’t had any real time in a real plug-in. I was excited to get my hands on VW’s version, but I’ll admit I was filled with some preconceived notions.
Preconceived notions. Not based on fact or research. Based on rumor. Gossip. Ignorance. I’ve never really thought of myself as an electric car guy. Not really a hybrid guy either. But I recycle. Turn off lights. I don’t run the water while I’m brushing my teeth (usually). So I’m reasonably environmentally friendly. As much as the next guy anyway. So I like the idea of an electric car. Saves the environment. Saves me money. Makes me look environmentally friendly. My judgment was clouded. Slow. Sluggish. Boring. Conservative. No range. That’s what I knew about electric cars. Or you could pay six figures, buy a Tesla, and get an electric rocket ship. Well most people don’t have six figures to buy a rocket ship so I tried to shed my preconceived notions and have an open mind about the 2016 VW e-Golf SEL Premium.
My first impression? It doesn’t really look like an electric car. I even walked around the back to make sure there wasn’t a tailpipe. There wasn’t! It looked just like the regular sporty golf, except the e-golf has different rims (which I’ll admit I didn’t particularly like, but that’s really a personal taste thing). Mine was painted in Pacific Blue Metallic with a cobalt blue strip running through the front grill and the double stitching on the leather wrapped steering wheel and gear nob (which was a very nice accent to the Titan Black V-Tex Leatherette interior). The cobalt blue accent stripe said to me “Hey I’m electric, but I’m not going to paint it on the side in 12 inch letters like some hybrid tanks do”. Subtle! I like that. The e-Golf says I can be environmentally friendly but not be in your face about it. No one likes a preachy in-your-face environmentalist. So I got in, pushed the start button and nothing happened. Right! Its electric. I had already forgotten.
So the first day I drove like I imagined a reasonable electric car driver might drive hoping to get the claimed 83 miles per charge. I played with the three different regenerative braking modes and three different driving profile modes (normal, eco and eco+). When driving in the normal mode and switching among the recuperation modes I got close to the claimed 83 miles. Driving in normal mode and the least aggressive recuperation mode the car drives like a regular car. You don’t feel very much drag from the regenerative breaking and the performance is outstanding. However, when you use the most aggressive recuperation mode, when you take your foot off the accelerator, the car immediately begins to slow down converting massive amounts of kinetic energy into potential energy and thus charging the batteries (thus increasing your range). It takes some getting used to. It feels like there is a giant rubber band attached to the rear bumper pulling you backward when you take your foot off the gas. After awhile, you get used to it; but its not a normal driving sensation. When you use the eco+ mode it basically shuts everything off inside the car, including the heat. So you might extend the range but you might not be too comfortable. I seemed to get reasonable range without using the eco+ mode. I think that’s for those techie guys who like to squeeze every last bit of charge out of the car – not necessary for normal people but there if you want it.
The second day I left the e-Golf in normal driving mode, used the least aggressive recuperation mode and I drove in a fairly aggressive manner – in orders I drove like I normally do. Rapid acceleration. High rates of speed. The kind of driving that fires up my son and makes my daughter scream. I didn’t use the entire charge that day before I plugged it in for the night so I’m not sure how much I impacted the range, but suffice it to say I wasn’t getting 83 miles on a charge. But that’s ok. Because if you are the type of person who is buying an electric car, you either don’t drive like I do or you change your driving style.
So how was the performance? Was it slow and sluggish like I expected it to be? Not even close. The e-Golf is lightening quick (pun intended) thanks to its 115 horsepower electric motor with 199 lb-ft of torque delivered through its single speed automatic transmission. Regular gas powered vehicles have multiple geared transmissions (these days 6, 7 or even 8 speed transmissions). Electric cars have a single speed transmission. What does that mean? It means you enjoy quick acceleration with no pausing or delays from changing gears. Why? Because there is only one gear; nothing to shift. That’s why you never see a manual shift electric car.
I found the performance of the e-Golf’s 115 hp electric motor to be just as quick and aggressive as VW’s 210 hp 2.0T 4-cyliner TSI gas powered engine. And I don’t recall much difference from the slightly more aggressive 220 hp turbocharged engine, except without the lag from shifting gears or from the turbo. Totally blew my notions of electric car performance. Any time I saw someone I knew I made them go for a ride. So I could prove to them that electric cars can be lightening quick AND fun to drive. Every one who I took for a spin agreed. My friend with the 5 year-old Prius is doing some serious thinking. I think I may have an electric convert.
Finally, the e-Golf SEL Premium comes equipped with Apple CarPlay. If you haven’t seen this yet, you need to check it out. It has a seamless plug and play interface that couldn’t be any simpler. Simply plug your phone in to the USB and your are connected. Certain apps from your home screen show up on the car’s built-in display and you are ready to use the map app, send and receive texts, make calls and listen to Pandora or other music. Simple. Clean. Awesome. Check it out!!!