Frankfurt, Germany – December 10, 2015 — Snaking through Kaiserslautern rush-hour traffic in the 2016 Volkswagen eGolf brings with it a sense of calm slightly inappropriate for the mad-dash passing by and the cramming-through-the-narrow-roads of the city. The way this electric car effortlessly glides around town is shocking – pun intended. The eGolf is a stealth-fighter next to the archaic motor vehicles with their rough and tumble piston engines that explode and heave and puff and exhaust.
Revving engines and clutch engagements seem barbaric compared to the unassuming yet functionally-elegant eGolf. Guilt sustains the driver in the most-happy way guilt can sustain, knowing how the other transports on the road are chained-forever to a rubber hose and a nozzle, and that attachment is measured at nearly 6 Euro per gallon (approximately $6.50).
The short of it is this: The eGolf will not save the environment. The eGolf is not about saving money for the consumer, priced at about 33,000€ (~$35,000). Thirty-five large would but a Lot of gasoline; even more diesel.
Coming from a track-day mindset disliking this car from the onset was the wrong choice. Absent was the expected lethargy and numbness generally reserved for EV’s and Ex-wives. The car is lively, smooth, comfortable, and fun. Steering light but not twitchy. The eGolf is more than a political or environmental statement because the eGolf is built with the driver in mind.
To compare this car to other EVs is unfair because this car can hold its own in almost every performance category except ‘range’ and ‘top speed’ against any gas-powered car in its class (see insert for more on range and speed). The suspension tuning is spot-on for modern non-sports-cars, allowing the standard ‘too much body roll’ but everything feels otherwise buttoned-down.
Even wearing winter tires the car stops solidly and turns admirably. Frankly with a chassis as good as the Golf, the type of engine/motor motivating the car becomes irrelevant. This car with sticky tires and a couple laps of Nurburgring might be just the ticket for a fun-filled afternoon (If you’re reading this VW, please know the car was NOT brought to the ‘Ring. But if you ask, we can arrange it!).
Drawbacks. The car’s limited range and top speed are the least-offensive aspects of ownership. Gone are the days of demanding “gas” money to take friends where they need to go. Gone are the days of stop-light drag racing because short of putting down the window and yelling VAROOM at the top of your lugs, the driver of the car beside you will never know your intention – this car doesn’t rev.
The best relationships, even between car and driver, happen when participants are who they are and the other one simply enjoys being there. Nobody has to change. Driving this car required no changes – even from a driver with decades-long sports car and track day background. Skating around traffic circles, lift-throttle-oversteer, and polar moment of inertia apply to this car and the car takes easily input and responds with solid steering and brake feel – the aforementioned regen braking modes notwithstanding – and body motions happen effortlessly and without surprises. And the lack of surprises is the most shocking thing about this car. This car is what it is – no apologies. It’s beyond a niche car – it’s a good car. Period.