QUIET RIDE BE­LIES POWER BE­HIND THE VW PEDAL

All-elec­tric hatch­back re­tains the fun and prac­ti­cal­ity of its gas-pow­ered sib­ling

Regina Leader-Post - - DRIVING - PETER BLEAKNEY Driv­ing.ca

The Volk­swa­gen Golf I’m piloting nips and tucks its way along the ser­pen­tine roads that wend their way be­tween the an­cient vil­lages of Mal­lorca. It shows the hall­marks of VW’s class-defin­ing hatch­back: alert steer­ing, a will­ing chas­sis and a sense of com­po­sure, so­lid­ity and re­fine­ment.

The front bucket hugs me in a way — well, in the Volk­swa­gen way — that blends sup­port with long-dis­tance com­fort. And I’m flow­ing from cor­ner to cor­ner on a wave of what feels like bot­tom­less torque.

But some­thing is miss­ing.

Ah, that would be the sound of an in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine. This is the fully elec­tric 2017 e-Golf, and it rep­re­sents the fu­ture of Volk­swa­gen. VW will be mop­ping up Diesel­gate for some time to come, but for bet­ter or worse, the Peo­ple’s Car is done with Ru­dolf Diesel and his en­gine.

Make no mis­take, the e-Golf is a break­through car for Volk­swa­gen; it is by no means a re­luc­tant nod to elec­tri­fi­ca­tion or a di­ver­sion­ary tac­tic. VW seems deadly se­ri­ous about this, and to show its in­tent, the com­pre­hen­sively equipped 2017 e-Golf arrives in Canada in June with a start­ing price of $35,995 and a NCR/EPA range of 201 kilo­me­tres.

From the out­side, the e-Golf looks like any other Golf, that is to say el­e­gant and well groomed. How­ever, the e-Golf dif­fers from other Golfs un­der its skin. Volk­swa­gen’s MQB mod­u­lar plat­form was de­signed from the out­set to han­dle elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, and as such the 35.8 kWh lithium-ion bat­tery pack in­trudes very lit­tle on the e-Golf’s roomy cabin. The only real give­away is a cen­tral floor hump that will make mid­dle rear seat pas­sen­gers splay their legs. Un­der the hood is a 100-kWh elec­tric motor driv­ing the front wheels, pro­duc­ing 136-horse­power and 214 pound-feet of torque.

Base e-Golfs get a new eight­inch touch-screen in­ter­face with prox­im­ity sen­sor, voice con­trol, Ap­ple CarPlay, An­droid Auto, CD player, eight-speaker audio, USB and one SD card slot. Also stan­dard are prox­im­ity key with push-but­ton start, auto-dim­ming in­te­rior mir­ror, dual zone cli­mate con­trol, heated fab­ric seats and heated wind­shield, full LED head­lights, LED tail lights, rear-view cam­era and rain-sens­ing wipers.

Up­grades in­clude the $2,305 Tech­nol­ogy Pack­age, which adds a high-res 9.2-inch touch screen with ges­ture con­trol, wire­less hot spot, nav­i­ga­tion, VW Me­dia Con­trol (wire­less phone and tablet in­te­gra­tion), and a few other good­ies.

If you want leatherette, add $360, and for driver’s aids look to the $2,305 Driver As­sis­tant Pack­age (re­quires the Tech Pack­age) that be­stows blind-spot warn­ing, adap­tive cruise with stop and go, col­li­sion mit­i­ga­tion with pedes­trian de­tec­tion, lane as­sist, park as­sist, light as­sist and an im­pres­sive 12.3-inch dig­i­tal dis­play.

Over a cou­ple days of driv­ing the e-Golf, its pre­dicted range of 200 km seemed to­tally re­al­is­tic. In­ter­est­ingly, the Euro­peans are more le­nient with their rat­ings, giv­ing the “Volts-wa­gen” a 300km range. Take that as you will.

This hatch is a swift lit­tle thing, and it is hard not to dip into that deep well of in­stant torque at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. From crawl to high­way speeds, the e-Golf surges ahead with a sur­pris­ing vigour, and be­cause tire rumble and a bit of wind noise are the only in­tru­sions, it’s all too easy to creep into im­pound­ment ter­ri­tory when pass­ing one of those an­te­dilu­vian, emis­sion-spew­ing, in­ter­nal­com­bus­tion cars. If you want max range, don’t drive it like a GTI, al­though pre­clud­ing this type of ac­tiv­ity are the e-Golf’s ex­tra 300+ kg and 16-inch low-rollingre­sis­tance tires.

Charg­ing the e-Golf from empty to full takes 26 hours from a 110-volt plug, or four to five hours on a home or pub­lic AC charg­ing sta­tion. With a pub­lic DC Fast Charger, you’re look­ing at about 30 min­utes to 45 min­utes for an 80 per cent charge.

Ini­tially, the e-Golf will be avail­able only in Bri­tish Columbia, Man­i­toba, On­tario and Que­bec. Thanks to a pro­vin­cial bribe of $14,000, it will be a screamin’ deal in On­tario; B.C. res­i­dents can ex­pect $5,000, while those in Que­bec get an $8,500 in­cen­tive. With the list of $35,995, you can be pretty sure Volk­swa­gen is tak­ing a bath on each one.

Yes, this is a silly and un­sus­tain­able eco­nomic sce­nario, but if you’re on the right side of the equa­tion (and the idea of an elec­tric Golf spins your wind tur­bines), this is an op­por­tu­nity al­most too good to be true. It’s an ex­cep­tional ve­hi­cle, both in the way it drives and what it de­liv­ers: com­fort, func­tion­al­ity, near main­te­nance-free motoring, cheap run­ning costs and, of course, a big wavy green flag.

PETER BLEAKNEY/DRIV­ING

The 2017 Volk­swa­gen e-Golf has got a 201-kilo­me­tre range and all the pep you’d ex­pect from the fos­sil-fuel-pow­ered ver­sion of the hatch­back. The fully elec­tric car rep­re­sents Volk­swa­gen’s fu­ture.

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