The Truth About Cars » Golf http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 27 Aug 2015 22:00:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Golf http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Ask Bark: Should I Lease a Jetta? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ask-bark-lease-jetta/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ask-bark-lease-jetta/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 16:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131809 This week’s “Ask Bark” comes from a reader who wants to know if he should prolong his Volkswagen-related madness or start new Volkswagen-related madness. Bark, I have read your articles. I like your style. I know about the fact people ask you for advice on what car to get and then completely ignore it. You’ve […]

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This week’s “Ask Bark” comes from a reader who wants to know if he should prolong his Volkswagen-related madness or start new Volkswagen-related madness.

Bark,

I have read your articles. I like your style. I know about the fact people ask you for advice on what car to get and then completely ignore it. You’ve said you won’t respond to that question anymore. I’m about to ask the same question. (WHY GOD WHY??? — Bark) But I really do want your answer.

Fine … here we go.

About me: I’m 32 years old. A lot of my friends and colleagues have BMWs (I’m a software engineer). Most of them don’t use their BMWs for all that they could be; it’s mostly a badge engineering thing.

I consider myself knowledgeable about cars, but fairly relaxed about them as well. I know how to drive a manual, but I’m not great at it.

I live near downtown Seattle and spend a lot of time in traffic commuting to work (20 minutes to an hour away).

I’m 6’3″ and 200 lbs with a physically fit frame. In cars, I tend not to be able to see traffic lights when I’m the first one in line. Trucks tend to not fit in the parking garages nearby me in downtown.

I’ve owned a lot of vehicles (some old and some brand new) and, while I’m very fiscally conservative, I find I go through vehicles every 3 years, so I haven’t really done all that well financially with automobiles. My cars in order have been a 1996 Prelude SI, a 2005 Acura RSX Type-S, a 2007 Toyota Tundra, a 1992 Nissan pickup, a 2007 Honda Pilot and a 2001 VW Passat GLX 4Motion. I liked the RSX the best as it was actually very roomy (love hatchbacks!) and the engine was great, but really didn’t have it all that long because I bought a boat that I needed to haul around. Then I lost my job and started over for a bit before buying the Pilot in an attempt to haul my boat but get better gas mileage (it didn’t). I went with the Passat because the Pilot was actually a lemon, the boat has long since been sold and I wanted something cheap that could get me to the mountains for snowboarding while I paid up my 401k.

Now onto my question (Whew, I was worried that I had missed it in there somewhere).

Fast forward to today, my 401k is happy with my current slot in life and I’m comfortable in the Passat, but it’s getting a little long in the tooth. While it has been fairly reliable, unlike what most people think of when they think of VWs, it is still a VW and the maintenance is not cheap. I did the math and it has cost me $3,600 in maintenance over the last 12 months (an engine leak, new tires, spark plugs, wires, brake fluids, transmission flush and oil changes/filters at independent shops rather than the dealer). The previous 12 months (actually 15 months) I owned two vehicles so I don’t have good math as it wasn’t a daily driver. Over the next 12 months I expect a little less, but it’s coming up on needing new brakes all around and what if the old VW curse comes for me.

So, being a guy who likes to try new things, getting a newer car that costs the same or less than I’m spending already makes a ton of sense for me. I’ve come to the realization that I’m never going to be the guy that buys a car and keeps it for 10 years (me either). I’m too fickle for that. I’m not opposed to leasing but I’m also a cheapskate when it comes to leasing. I’d rather pay more a month to consider something mine and be able to sell it later.

I’ve heard multiple sources say you can lease a Jetta for $100 a month right now. A Jetta doesn’t really excite too much (AWD, hatchbacks, all electrics, roofless vehicles and Apple car play excite me much more), but it’s brand new, the reviews aren’t terrible on the 1.8T, the gas mileage is way better and the maintenance should be null. I’m really into the idea of the Model 3 coming out but that’s not for a while longer and I’m tired of being patient.

Doing the math of $100 a month plus a few grand down seems cost-effective from my current standpoint. So all this wordiness being said: Is the Jetta 1.8T with a few added options a better car than a 2001 VW Passat V-6 4Motion? Are there any other cars you would suggest based on my desire to own it for three years and keep the costs lower than $3,000 a year? Should I go buy another RSX and relive my ricer days without any mods this time around?

Sincerely,

A Man Who Should Be Committed (He has a real name, but that’s what I’ve decided to call him based on this letter)

All kidding aside, thank you for your e-mail, sir.

OK, there’s several things to consider here. First of all, thanks for demonstrating the reality of the Modern Day Car Shopper. You’ve owned a hatchback, a couple of pickup trucks and an all-wheel-drive, 14-year-old sedan. Now you’re considering an econobox, or maybe another older hatch. People think that most car shoppers have it narrowed down to just one or two models, but all of the research available today suggests otherwise. In fact, most people actually expand their search to more cars and models as they get closer to the actual purchase event — which is exactly what’s happening here.

Now, let’s talk about your actual question. Is the Jetta 1.8T better than a 2001 VW Passat V6 4Motion? Only in the sense that nearly any 2015 car is going to be better than a vehicle from 2001. The new Jetta is not a particularly fun car to wheel, but the 1.8T at least makes it bearable.

The problem is that I can’t find anything like a $100 a month lease on the 1.8T (I’m sure the B&B will prove me wrong immediately) — it’s the base 2.0 liter engine, manual transmission variety that has the $139 a month lease special with $2,199 down, $1,000 VW cash, and a dealer contribution of $2,167. Trust me when I say that you’re not going to want anything to do with a 2.0. I had that same motor in my MkIII Jetta back in 1994, and it’s not any faster today than it was then.

The 1.8T looks closer to $197 a month with $2,000 down (which is the approximate value of your trade). To get it down to the magic $100 a month, you’re going to have to float a couple grand of additional cash above and beyond your trade. However, VW dealers aren’t exactly ringing the register with any great regularity nowadays, so they might be willing to increase their dealer contribution a little more than usual.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of putting money down on a lease. I’ve done three leases in my day, and I never put down a single dime above and beyond whatever customer cash and/or rebates were available at the time. There’s not much, if any, financial advantage to doing so unless you’ve come into some money and you’re prone to letting cash burn a hole in your pocket. I’d put your trade on the table (or, if you’re not in a hurry, sell it privately for a few hundred more) and that’s it.

The second part of your question: Are there other, better cars that would cost you less than $3,000 a year for the next three years? Abso-effing-lutely, especially given your preference for hatches. At the very same lot where they’re struggling to pay the electric bills, the Golf 1.8T is leasing for $219 a month with the $1,999 down. If you like hatchbacks and VWs, why not get the Golf?

Or how about a Focus? They’re putting $2,000 on the hood right now. You can get a Titanium hatch for less than three grand a year with your trade-in. In fact, you can damn near get an ST. Or, if you’d rather buy, you can get a Focus SE hatch for about $235 a month on a 0 percent, 72-month buy (which is exactly what I’d probably do — whine away about long-term loans, haters).

So here’s the Tough Love portion of this post: Life is too short and money is too precious to spend a freaking cent of it on a car that “doesn’t excite” or of which the reviews “aren’t terrible.” You make good money, you have a good job — why are you punishing yourself? Spend some of that money on something that does excite during that dreadful Seattle commute (my office used to be in Bellevue, so I totally get it). You’re going to be in your car upward of two hours per day sometimes. You like hatchbacks. Why not get one? Besides, the Jetta interior is not a particularly pleasant place to spend that much time, even if it does come with modern conveniences like Bluetooth. Your purchase history doesn’t suggest that you’d be happy in one.

Regarding your RSX idea: When I was your age, making what was probably similar money to what you make now, I realized that I needed to grow up a bit and get a sedan. So I bought a Pontiac G8 GT. If I’d had even the slightest bit of patience with that car, I could still be driving it now and it would still be worth about what I got when I traded it. Alas, I wasn’t. Sometimes I see a G8 GT on the road and I get a little sad that I don’t have one — until I remember that it had major mechanical issues that caused me to be without it for months at a time. Yet, the further I get away from actually having had to drive a Chevy HHR rental for a month because of a parts availability issue, the more I romanticize the idea of the G8 in my mind. Sigh.

Where was I? Oh, right. Buying an RSX. Yeah, don’t do that. The amount of money those things pull on the used car market is downright mind-boggling. Your monthly payment over 36 months for what is now a 10-year-old car would be equal to or greater than a 36-month lease payment on any number of hatches that are just downright better. Yes, at the end of it, you would own it, but at the end of it, you’d also now own a 13-year-old car.

So, here’s the Bark-approved final answer: Don’t get a Jetta 1.8T. Don’t get another RSX. I am really trying hard not to recommend leasing a Fiesta ST, mostly because I don’t think you’d enjoy the harsh suspension and the manual transmission on that commute. So here’s what I’d do: Go drive both a Golf 1.8T automatic (since you apparently have a little VW thing going on) and a Focus Titanium automatic — which are two very different cars — and pick whichever one suits your driving style better. Or, if you can’t stomach the idea of leasing a car for that much money, drive the Focus SE hatch and work the numbers on buying one of those over 72 with 0-percent financing.

Over to you, B&B!

Send your “Ask Bark” questions to barkm302@gmail.com. Bark really has nothing else better to do than answer your questions. I mean, there’s the whole “parenting” thing, and there’s also his actual job. So, maybe he has couple of better things to do than answer your questions, but he’ll do it anyway.

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Volvo Bringing New V40, S60L to United States http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volvo-bringing-new-v40-s60l-united-states/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volvo-bringing-new-v40-s60l-united-states/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 18:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1130217 Volvo will bring its smaller, compact-sized V40 wagon, its related crossover and long-wheelbase, Chinese-built S60 sedan to America, Autoblog is reporting. The newest generation of the Volkswagen Golf-sized V40 wagon is being built with the U.S. in mind, Volvo senior vice president Alan Visser told media in the Netherlands. The earliest it could reach the United […]

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Volvo V40 R-Design - model year 2016

Volvo will bring its smaller, compact-sized V40 wagon, its related crossover and long-wheelbase, Chinese-built S60 sedan to America, Autoblog is reporting.

The newest generation of the Volkswagen Golf-sized V40 wagon is being built with the U.S. in mind, Volvo senior vice president Alan Visser told media in the Netherlands. The earliest it could reach the United States would be 2017.

Visser also said the XC40, a compact crossover based on the V40 Cross Country, would make its way to the States shortly after the V40.

It’s unclear what engine would power the V40 in North America. Worldwide, the V40 is powered by a inline, four-cylinder diesel- or gasoline-powered engine. Visser told De Telegraph that the V40 would also be available as a hybrid.

The company also said that it would make available its long-wheelbase version of the S60. The Chinese-built S60L would go on sale later this year in North America and Russia, according to Reuters.

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Volkswagen Bringing Safety To The People For 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-bringing-safety-to-the-people-for-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-bringing-safety-to-the-people-for-2016/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 21:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1128569 Volkswagen has announced sweeping changes to their suite of tech-driven safety features for the 2016 model year, making a vast array of options available on almost every model within its range. The features, which are currently only available on the Touareg, will trickle down to a number of other models including the Beetle, CC, Jetta, […]

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Der neue Volkswagen Touareg

Volkswagen has announced sweeping changes to their suite of tech-driven safety features for the 2016 model year, making a vast array of options available on almost every model within its range.

The features, which are currently only available on the Touareg, will trickle down to a number of other models including the Beetle, CC, Jetta, Passat and Golf in all its flavors.

Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist); Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC); the Parking Steering Assistant (Park Assist); and an active Lane Departure Warning (Lane Assist) system” are all mentioned in the release sent out today by Volkswagen of America.

The changes are also part of a planned upgrade to infotainment systems in Volkswagen vehicles for 2016. The new infotainment system, dubbed MIB II, will bring with it an improved touchscreen display and USB ports to Volkswagen’s most popular models.

You can check out the full changes to Volkswagen’s safety features on their media portal.

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2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen TDI Review – Hold Right There http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-tdi-review-hold-right-there/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-tdi-review-hold-right-there/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 13:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1122873 Great. Another diesel Volkswagen. This time it’s the Golf SportWagen — a car every enthusiast said, “I’d buy that with real, non-Internet money.” We all know exactly how this is going to go: The Golf is better than the Jetta. The Golf SportWagen is better than the 5-door Golf if you have two kids and […]

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2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (1 of 14)

Great. Another diesel Volkswagen. This time it’s the Golf SportWagen — a car every enthusiast said, “I’d buy that with real, non-Internet money.”

We all know exactly how this is going to go:

  • The Golf is better than the Jetta.
  • The Golf SportWagen is better than the 5-door Golf if you have two kids and a dog.
  • The 1.8 TSI is more fun than the 2.0 TDI.
  • The 2.0 TDI is more efficient than the 1.8 TSI, but not enough to justify the increased MSRP when fuel prices are low.
  • You should get the manual if you can.
  • Stop buying Tiguans and get the Golf SportWagen instead. (Never mind. Nobody’s buying Tiguans.)
  • You should also buy this if you care about manuals and wagons and diesels, especially as a package. (Brown is for Luddites.)

It’s with these points in mind I plunged into a week-long test of the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen — just a mere two weeks after driving the Jetta TDI.

And as much as I like it — really, really like it — the long-roof Golf is hard to justify for exactly two reasons.


The Tester

2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI SEL [USA]/Sportwagon Highline [Canada]

Engine: 2-liter DOHC I-4, turbodiesel with intercooler, direct injection (150 horsepower @ 3,500-4,000 rpm, 236 lbs-ft @ 1,750-3,000 rpm)

Transmission: 6-speed automatic, DSG with Tiptronic

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 31 city/42 highway/35 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 39.9 mpg, approx. 70-percent city driving with a light foot

Options (U.S.): Lighting Package, Driver Assistance Package.
Options (Canada): Multimedia Package (includes bi-xenon headlights with AFS, 5.8-inch touchscreen audio with navigation, 8-speaker Fender premium audio, forward collision warning system, LED daytime running lights).

As Tested (U.S.): $33,995 (sheet)
As Tested (Canada): $38,120 (sheet)


But, before we get to that, let’s talk about the car in a vacuum.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (8 of 14)

Exterior
The Golf SportWagen (U.S., in Canada it’s called Golf Sportwagon … like the actual word … in English) replaces the Jetta wagon in Volkswagen’s American lineup. The wagonified compact earns its new name by being more closely related to the Golf than the Jetta this time around. Underneath its sheet metal is Volkswagen’s modular MQB platform shared with the current 3- and 5-door Mk7 Golf and Audi A3.

Thanks to a more modern platform, the Golf SportWagen is roughly 134 pounds lighter than the outgoing Jetta Wagon — and that’s with a longer, wider body. The long-roof Golf is 1.1 inches longer and 0.7 inches wider than the Jetta it replaces, though Volkswagen does make a point to mention the new wagon’s roof is 1.1 inches lower than its predecessor, possibly reducing the car’s frontal area.

The execution of the Golf SportWagon is at odds to the Charger I drove the week before. The Dodge looks completely different from its predecessor despite using the same platform, while the Volkswagen somehow looks more similar to its predecessor even while riding on a whole new platform.

Up front, the SportWagen is all Golf. Put the two side by side and there isn’t much difference. The headlights in our tester were fitted with LED daytime running lights that show up much better in person than they do in pictures on a rainy day. Below the bumper skin is a tiny square, hidden away, that houses the radar gear needed for the adaptive cruise control and other semi-autonomous and safety features. I must say that Volkswagen does a hell of a lot better job at hiding their new-fangled techno gear than most others (FCA and Hyundai, I’m looking at you two).

Around back, the SportWagen receives its own sheet metal and taillights that are tenfold more appealing than the old Jetta wagon. The taillamps festooned to the rear of the Jetta were quite rounded off and lacked even a modicum of personality. The new SportWagen says, “Yes, I’m practical, but I’m oh-so sharp at the same time.”

From the side, the SportWagen does the long-roof body style justice by keeping the D-pillar fairly upright and the lines as simple and cohesive as possible. This is no Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon and it shouldn’t pretend to be. The bright, deep shade of Silk Blue Metallic paint is enough to call attention to this long-wheelbase Golf. Other than the color, the Golf makes no sporting boasts, though the wheels are a tad much.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (11 of 14)

Interior
Inside is the same as any other Golf — good materials, well-planned design, simple dials, decent controls, all wrapped around a cheap infotainment display with crummy navigation and limited media input options — but more on that later.

When you run through a new car every week and have to wash each one, you notice some cars are much, much easier to keep tidy than others. The SportWagen only asked for a simple microfiber cloth to bring luster to the shiny plastic bits and dusting the remaining dash was a breeze.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (12 of 14)The instrument panel is clear and easy to read — thank you, Volkswagen, for getting rid of the stupid, retina-searing blue lighting accents that left ghosts in our vision — and the driving position was perfect for my 6-foot-1-inch frame. The seats are comfortable but nothing to write home about.

But, if there’s one gold star to be given to the SportWagen — and this applies to the Jetta and Golf as well — it’s for visibility. Volkswagen has figured out how to keep passengers safe without lifting belt lines to a driver’s pupils, and that’s doubly important when driving a low vehicle with a large interior volume and a rear window that’s seemingly eleventy billion feet away from your rear-view mirror. This enhanced visibility also contributes to a very open, airy feeling in the cabin.

Infotainment
Remember when I said there are two reasons that make justifying a Golf SportWagen difficult? This is one of them.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (14 of 14)I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you have a modern phone that doesn’t use the old-style iPod/iPhone connector and you don’t need a Volkswagen right freakin’ now, wait until next year. There is supposed to be a better infotainment system and actual, honest-to-goodness USB ports.

Let me be clear: If you buy a Jetta, Golf, or any Volkswagen with this red-headed stepchild combination of haphazard technology and later complain about how much it sucks in the comments, I will link to this review each and every time screaming, “I told you so!” before throwing you to the rest of the B&B. The combination of no USB ports and a sub-par infotainment system in a modern car, especially one in the $30,000 range, is inexcusable in 2015.

Another niggle is the process you’re forced to go through to pair a phone or media device via Bluetooth. You, the driver, must use the steering wheel controls and instrument panel display to pair phone and audio devices instead of the center touchscreen used by every other automaker. Before you say, “Mark, I only ever paired my phone to the car once … when I first bought it,” this design introduces a problem for those of us who have passengers who want to connect their own devices as the driver is then forced to perform pairing process. Expect to see this functionality move to MIB II’s center touchscreen for MY2016 — though, by then, you won’t need it because Volkswagen will finally provide USB ports along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Drivetrain
Just like the diesel Jetta from weeks ago, diesel hesitation from a standing start is evident in the Golf SportWagen as well. Thanks to almost no initial torque from Volkswagen’s turbocharged compression-ignition four cylinder, the Golf is slow off the line until the snail starts to spin. It’s unnerving in the beginning, but you can compensate for it after a couple of days.

The six-speed DSG automatic is the same as the Jetta TDI, too. Crisp shifts are the norm and there’s no driveability issues outside of those detailed above.

The fuel economy surprised me. Even with all the additional weight of the wagon metal, the Golf still nearly crested 40 mpg with minimal effort.

However — and this is a big however — I’d still have the turbocharged, gas-fed 1.8 TSI instead. Unless you are clocking massive mileage or have an unrestrained desire to burn fryer fat on Oregon, the 1.8 TSI is more fun, delivers improved driveability and costs less initially. Also, I’d have the manual, just because.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (7 of 14)

Drive
You know what? As much as journalists admonish the Jetta and heap praise upon the Golf, Volkswagen has taken strides in making the refreshed Jetta a much more compelling proposition. So much so that — and I expect to get a bit of flack for this — the Golf isn’t really that much better than the Jetta, or at least not enough to justify the higher price.

If you were led to each car, the Golf SportWagen TDI and Jetta TDI, blindfolded, and asked to rate which one is better, 95 percent of the buying public would simply shrug and say, “They’re both good to me.”

The Golf SportWagen TDI suffers from the same off-the-line latency as its diesel sedan counterpart. They both have competent suspensions, but both feel a bit heavy, probably due to the big diesel lump at the front. Both testers had brakes you needed to lean on before they’d really grab those discs.

And this is a great segue into the second reason to not get a SportWagen.

Unless you really, really want a wagon, get a Jetta. Now, you probably noticed I didn’t say Golf, and there’s a reason for that, too.

The Golf SportWagen is, like DR Period says, “money”. One cannot simply ignore the massive bargain for which a Jetta can be had. If you are looking to get a car today, go out and lease a cheap Jetta for next to nothing, wait out the term, and go back to the Volkswagen dealer to see what improvements have been made in three years. This is a good solution for the aforementioned infotainment/USB problem above, as well. It gives you the car you need now — even though it might not necessarily be the one you want — and you bridge the gap to newer, better product at a cost that amounts to lint-covered pocket change.

So, there you have it: the best Golf SportWagen TDI is a diesel Jetta. You’re welcome.

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2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-beetle-1-8t-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-beetle-1-8t-review-video/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1103201 Once upon a time, Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle sold primarily on its low sticker price, durability reputation and ease of maintenance. VW’s new Bug, however, sells on retro style and a healthy dollop of nostalgia. The Bug before us today is the second generation “New Beetle” first resurrected in Europe as a 1998 model based on VW’s […]

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2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-003

Once upon a time, Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle sold primarily on its low sticker price, durability reputation and ease of maintenance. VW’s new Bug, however, sells on retro style and a healthy dollop of nostalgia.

The Bug before us today is the second generation “New Beetle” first resurrected in Europe as a 1998 model based on VW’s Golf and A3 platform. It was then redesigned for 2012, sharing its bones with the MK5 Golf and Jetta.

Redesigning retro is always tricky. This explains why the original Bug barely changed over the years and why the other retro-flashbacks like the PT Cruiser and Chevy HHR turned into one-hit wonders. If you don’t change enough, shoppers won’t see a reason to trade Herbie in for a new time capsule. Change it too much and you’re left with a caricature. Either way you slice it, retro comes at a cost.

Exterior
The original “New Beetle” rocked cutesy-bubbly good looks, headlamps that screamed for aftermarket eye-lashes, tail lamps that begged to be flower-powered and a bud vase built into the dash. VW’s second take on the retro-bug is deliberately more masculine, or so I’m told. The classic fender bulges and retro-inspired wheels are still here, but this bug is longer, wider, and lower than ever before. Making this profile semi-circular like the last gen model would have been tricky since it’s nearly half a foot longer, so they didn’t even try. Instead the engineers penned a kink where the windshield meets the roof for a more traditional roofline up front. The changes make Herbie look like a bug that’s been stepped on slightly or stretched in the middle — take your pick.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-006

The 2015 model is still instantly recognizable as a Bug, but I think I actually miss the “cutsey” new bug’s overall style. The new front bumper seems especially out-of-place as it exaggerates the front overhang and the crisp creases don’t jibe with the oval lamps and bubbly fenders. The design struck me as a paradox: It is as conservative as we expect from Volkswagen, but slightly discordant with the rest of their product line. For a manufacturer known for elegant, restrained and monolithic styling, the Beetle strikes me as almost cartoonish. Almost. VW offers a fix, however: the Beetle drop-top. By removing the lid, the Beetle loses the “squashed” look and somehow gains rear headroom as well.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-007

Interior
The interior borrows parts from the corporate bin and wraps them in retro styling. We get plenty of painted plastic trim and two glove boxes as a nod to the past. If you’ve recently taken VW’s new Golf out for a spin, you should know that this Beetle is related to the 2015 Jetta, not the 2015 Golf and Audi A3. This means you find plenty of hard plastics inside, and the cabin doesn’t have the “discount Audi” feel you find in VW’s hot hatch. Is that a problem? Not necessarily. The Golf has an unusually nice interior for its base price tag and the Beetle is merely class average. Of course, the Beetle is also an odd product to classify as its only real retro competition comes from the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper.

Even on our loaded 1.8T tester ($27,805), VW decided not to borrow the Jetta’s power seats or automatic climate control. Although I found the front seats comfortable for my body shape, the range of motion is limited compared to other compacts. The Bug’s rear seats have become a tad more spacious in this generation, but should still be considered “emergency” seats due to limited leg room. Headroom is tight in the rear, but suitable for folks under 6-feet tall. Compared to the internal competition, you’ll find about 4-inches more rear legroom in the 3-door Golf and nearly 8 inches more in the Jetta sedan. If that surprises you, then you may also be surprised to hear that the Fiat 500 actually gives you more rear legroom than the VW, although cargo room is unquestionably more limited.

Once upon a time, you couldn’t get leather in your Beetle and we’ve come full circle to your choice of cloth or V-Tex leatherette — VW-speak for pleather. Of course, the Beetle is all about retro styling and that’s most apparent in the Classic trim, which is well equipped, bargain priced, and comes upholstered in checkered cloth and brown pleather.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Infotainment

Infotainment
No, our tester didn’t come with a CB radio, but there is something retro about VW’s long-serving infotainment systems. Base models get an AM/FM radio, single CD player, Bluetooth and VW’s MDI interface for iDevice/USB integration. In an odd twist, the new Beetle Classic trim and the top-end trim get VW’s touchscreen navigation head unit while the middle two models do not.

The 5-inch touchscreen is shared with the Jetta and, at this point, is far from a spring chicken. Compared to the latest offerings from the competition, VW’s nav system is slow, less polished, less intuitive and the screen is small. Although the 2015 Golf uses a newer system, the one you really need to wait for is the 2016 “MIB II” system with its larger screen and thoroughly modern software package — but it is expected to feature on other VW models before the Beetle. On the bright side, the optional 9-speaker Fender audio system is totally groovy.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8L Turbo Engine-001

Drivetrain
I never really minded the odd-ball 2.5L five-cylinder VW used to put under the Beetle’s hood, but there is no denying the new 1.8L turbo is a huge improvement. Also found under the hood of the Golf, Jetta and Passat, the 1.8L engine cranks out a respectable 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. Making the 1.8T even more attractive, all 184 lb-ft happen at just 1,500 RPM. Classic models come only with an Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic transaxle while other trims start with a five-speed manual. Opting for the slushbox will give you the best gasoline fuel economy at an EPA rated 25 MPG city and 33 highway.

Also shared with the Jetta is the Beetle’s refreshed 2.0L turbo diesel, good for 160 horsepower and 238 lb-ft of torque. Although it’s a little slower than the 1.8L gasoline turbo, acceleration is aided by a standard six-speed manual and an optional six-speed dual-clutch automated manual (DSG) transmission.

If neither of those drivetrains float your boat, you can still get the Beetle R-Line with the last generation GTI’s 2.0L turbo engine with 210 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of twist. All those ponies are routed to the front wheels via the same six-speed DSG as the TDI model or a slightly tweaked six-speed manual.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Backup Camera

Drive
Out on the road, the differences between the Jetta, Golf and Beetle are readily apparent. The Beetle is noisier, more softly sprung and slightly slower than the all-new Golf hatchback. Comparisons to the more closely related Jetta are again a little more appropriate than with the Golf. When driven hard, the Beetle exhibits predictable dynamics with plenty of body roll and protest from the tires. At just under 3,000 pounds, the Beetle isn’t a heavy car for the 21st century, but neither is it overly light. A similarly equipped Jetta is a hair lighter despite being longer and the new VW Golf weighs about 100 lbs less. To put that in perspective, the Fiat 500, which could be seen as the only real competitor in this price bracket, is nearly 500 pounds lighter. (The Fiat is, of course, much smaller.) Handling improves on the top-end 1.8T model thanks to wider 235/45R18 tires all the way around, but you’ll need to step up to the R-Line before suspension changes address the soft springs our tester wore.

Acceleration in the 1.8T model is excellent for any car in the $20-26K range with 60 happening in 7.5 seconds, notably faster than the old 2.5L five-cylinder model. Although I wish VW had paired this engine to their six-speed manual, the base five speed is well matched to the engine. Shifter feel is excellent, shifter travel is moderate and the clutch pedal had a linear engagement we’ve come to expect from the Germans. The turbo engine’s low-end torque makes hill climbing a breeze and if you get the manual there’s less gear shifting than a comparable naturally-aspirated engine. Steering feel is average for the compact segment with moderate steering effort.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Instrument Cluster

The 2.0L R-Line model I sampled briefly from a local dealer seemed underpowered compared to the modern crop of direct-injection 2.0L turbos on the market, but it is notably faster than the Fiat 500 Abarth. Additionally, the six-speed DSG is a dynamic partner on your favorite winding road. The downside to the R-Line is that it isn’t the same engine you get in the current GTI. The new GTI 2.0L turbo has considerably more torque, a bit more horsepower and it all comes to the boil a little sooner than the old engine. That means the R-Line is not the Beetle-GTI hybrid you may be hoping for. It’s also a little rough around the edges thanks to less sound deadening material in the Beetle.

After a week with the Beetle, which happened to be shortly after my spin in a 2015 GTI and 2015 e-Golf, there’s just no way to sugar coat it: The Jetta and Golf are better options unless you value style over practicality, efficiency and performance. The Beetle is unquestionably more car for your dollar then you’ll find at the Fiat dealer, with more luggage room and a snazzier stereo. The problem is the new Golf is sitting right next to the Beetle on the lot. The Golf is more efficient, roomier, has a bigger trunk, handles better, it’s slightly faster and has a much more premium interior. For about the same price.

Now there is a twist here, and that is the VW Beetle Convertible. At $25,595, the Beetle convertible is better looking than the hard top beetle and it’s one of the best drop-top deals in the USA. VW also offers a 2.0L R-Line convertible and a diesel convertible with a six-speed manual. If you’re contemplating a Beetle and want style, there’s nothing wrong with the hardtop — go right ahead. If you’re on the fence, take my advice and either get the Golf or drop a few more bills and get the Beetle convertible.

Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review. 

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.6 Seconds

0-60: 7.5 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.6 Seconds @ 92 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 28.2 MPG

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Volkswagen Builds Race Golf for Touring Car Customer Teams http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-builds-race-golf-touring-car-customer-teams/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-builds-race-golf-touring-car-customer-teams/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 18:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1112929 Chances are you probably won’t see this Golf in the Volkswagen showroom anytime soon. Volkswagen Motorsport rolled out its race-tuned Golf on Thursday, built to compete in the Touringcar Racer International Series. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four, which has been tuned to 330 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque, is mated to a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission […]

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Volkswagen TCR-Golf

Chances are you probably won’t see this Golf in the Volkswagen showroom anytime soon. Volkswagen Motorsport rolled out its race-tuned Golf on Thursday, built to compete in the Touringcar Racer International Series.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged four, which has been tuned to 330 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque, is mated to a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission and is front-wheel drive.

The huge rear wing, front air dam and side skirts obviously add 15 percent more go-fast.

The Golf sits on a track widened by 40cm (16 inches) and 18-inch tires.

The car was developed for the TCR series, which is already underway. Volkswagen said Liqui Moly Team Engstler will race the Golf at the Red Bull Ring in Austria before heading off to Singapore and the car would likely be available for other teams in 2016.

Volkswagen TCR-Golf

Volkswagen has been successful with its WRC Polo so far this year, and is second place in Global Rallycross behind Ford.

No word on how much the customer car will cost interested teams.

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Golf TDI Makes Lap of US on $300 of Diesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/golf-tdi-makes-lap-us-300-diesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/golf-tdi-makes-lap-us-300-diesel/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 17:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1110385 Volkswagen’s Golf TDI traveled more than 8,200 miles around the lower 48 states on less than $300 of diesel in 16 days, the automaker said today. The 16-day trip around the U.S. set a narrowly-defined world record for “lowest fuel consumption — 48 U.S. contiguous States non-hybrid car” by averaging 81.17 mpg in the Golf TDI. […]

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Volkswagen’s Golf TDI traveled more than 8,200 miles around the lower 48 states on less than $300 of diesel in 16 days, the automaker said today.

The 16-day trip around the U.S. set a narrowly-defined world record for “lowest fuel consumption — 48 U.S. contiguous States non-hybrid car” by averaging 81.17 mpg in the Golf TDI. The car was driven by automotive journalist Wayne Gerdes and electronics engineer Bob Winger.

Quick math: If the duo averaged 15 hours of driving per day, the pair managed an average speed of 34.306 mph throughout the entire journey.

The record attempt improved on the 2013 mark set by a Volkswagen Passat TDI, also driven by Gerdes, which managed 77.99 mpg in a round-trip run of the U.S.

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“Volkswagen’s TDI Clean Diesel engines are just amazing,” Wayne Gerdes said in a statement. “I don’t think people realize the potential mileage you can get from them. In our experience, it is possible to get truly impressive mileage results by using just a few simple fuel-saving techniques.”

Although the latest record run set the mark for a run around the U.S., it still fell short of a 2013 mpg record set by an Australian couple driving from Texas to Virginia. John and Helen Taylor managed 84.1 mpg in their 1,626-mile drive in a Volkswagen Passat TDI.

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2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SEL Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-tdi-sel-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-tdi-sel-review/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1101225 Why yes, it has been only three weeks since our last Volkswagen Golf feature story. Why do you ask? Maybe it’s because the little VW is on fire. The car is nearly single-handedly bringing back hatchback sales with the introduction last year of its 7th generation model. Winner of numerous national and international auto journo awards, MkVII Golf […]

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Why yes, it has been only three weeks since our last Volkswagen Golf feature story. Why do you ask?

Maybe it’s because the little VW is on fire. The car is nearly single-handedly bringing back hatchback sales with the introduction last year of its 7th generation model. Winner of numerous national and international auto journo awards, MkVII Golf sales in the U.S. are up 230% through June over the same period last year, and are tracking towards a record-setting 84,000 sales for 2015.

There are two 2015 Golfs in my driveway this week: my own two-door GTI 6-speed and today’s tester, the above four-door TDI SEL with the DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. This is not a comparison test but the variation between the two cars’ equipment levels makes for some interesting perspectives.

The wide range of 2015 Golf models and drivetrain options available is one reason for all the hype and sales growth. From the base Golf to the sporty GTI, the all-electric e-Golf to the 292 hp all-wheel drive Golf R, and even this TDI Clean Diesel, Volkswagen has all hatchback prospects covered.

The Golf TDI’s turbocharged and intercooled 4-cylinder diesel motor produces 150 horsepower at 3,500 rpm and 236 lb-ft of torque at only 1,750 rpm. Our tester came with Volkswagen’s slick dual-clutch six-speed DSG transmission. A handful of diesel TDIs are produced with a 6-speed manual transmission, but are actually slightly slower in acceleration than DSG-equipped cars. (A friend at a West Coast Volkswagen/Audi store thinks that VW only builds stick-shift diesels to satisfy the TDI “evangelist” — owners who are on their third diesel and sit around his showroom while their cars are in for service, telling everyone how their 200,000-mile TDI is still on its original clutch. He says they are the same folks who ask about “that European diesel that gets 70 mpg that Volkswagen won’t sell in the US.”)

The car comes in three versions, all available as a four-door model only. The base S model starts at $22,345 and comes well equipped with heated outside mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, side curtain airbags, a hill holder (!), split folding rear seats, rear wiper and washer, and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel.

Step up to the $25,895 SE model and you add 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a power glass sunroof, heated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, front fog lights, a rearview camera and a 400-watt Fender audio system.

Our tester is the top of the line SEL model wearing an MSRP of $28,329. It adds 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a navigation system, automatic climate control, keyless entry, push-button start and a 12-way power driver’s seat. Our tester had pleasant grey and black “pleather” seats. (In the strange world of Volkswagen option packages, leather seating is only available on the sporty GTI and R models.)

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Our car also came with the $995 Lighting Package, which features bi-xenon headlights and an adaptive front-lighting system I found far superior to the standard lighting on my GTI. The $695 Driver Assistance Package, which includes front and rear parking distance control and a forward collision warning alarm, was a bit sensitive. I also think the package needs to add blind spot warnings in the mirrors to make it a worthwhile value.

The total MSRP of our TDI was a heart-stopping $32,005. According to auto broker TrueCar, the average discount available nationwide on this model is around $1,050. Volkswagen is currently offering 1.9% APR financing for up to 60 months on all TDIs, as well as a $249/month lease special for 36 months on the base model TDI.

A full 76% of the TDIs available for sale within 200 miles of me are the base S model. My Volkswagen dealer friend says the SEL variant sells well but availability is scarce so, like I learned with my GTI, getting the exact options and color you want will be near-impossible unless you are willing to order one and wait 6 months.

The TDI’s 18-inch wheels and Night Blue Metallic paint actually makes the hatchback look downright luxurious. (I wanted to use the phrase “screams luxurious” but then I would have to determine what my two-door GTI “screams” and all I could think of was “USC exchange student.”)

I have previously lamented how I should have purchased the 4-door variant of the GTI and the TDI drives the point home: while interior volume is identical on two- and four-door Golfs, ingress and egress to the roomy back seat can be a pain. Fold down the rear seats and you have the cargo room of a small CUV.

I have also learned why I’m apparently the only Golf owner who likes the 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment center: my GTI does not have navigation. This TDI has this option and, between the too-small screen and its too-low location (not to mention its silly graphics), the system is awful. Word is that an 8-inch touchscreen is coming next year on all VWs. As I said about my GTI, the dash and controls are near Audi-worthy.

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The TDI’s keyless start/stop button is located on the console next to the shift lever — exactly where it belongs — rather than on the dash. You can push the button and grab the shift lever in one simple move. Why do most other carmakers put it on the dashboard?

At idle, the torquey diesel is barely louder than a direct injection Mercedes. Hit the accelerator from a standing start and you discover what may be the TDI’s biggest glitch: a hesitation followed by a too-sudden drivetrain engagement, enough to squeal the tires at three-fourth’s throttle. Our esteemed Managing Editor noticed the same thing in his test of a TDI Jetta. After a week in the saddle, I barely noticed it.

The TDI has been clocked at around 8 seconds for the 0 to 60 sprint. For most traffic situations, the car responds instantly to your right foot. It could use a little more highway passing power, but that is the price you pay for great fuel economy. The DSG shifter lived up to its hype: shifts are crisp and quick whether in automatic or manual mode.

While not quite a GTI, the TDI is also a lot of fun in the curves. It remains stable and firmly planted, though does share the slightly-sloppy steering of other Golf models. I did miss the World’s Largest Dead Pedal from my GTI in the turns.

The TDI eats up the miles on the open road with little tire or wind noise. My only complaint was a bit of monkey butt after a few hours from the seats being a bit too hard, but I will take that as the seats are super-supportive.

The TDI is EPA rated at 31 mpg city and 43 mpg highway. This car’s fuel consumption indicator showed 41.0 mpg after a spirited mixed-use 350 mile run. I was skeptical of this number and sure enough, upon fill-up I hand-calculated the drive at 38.6 mpg. It turns out that other media outlets have also spotted this over-optimism of the fuel economy calculator. Let us hope that at least the Golf’s speedometer is accurate. (Perhaps we should add the feature from 1970s buff book tests that measured “Actual” vs. “Indicated” speedometer numbers. I seem to recall “Indicated” speed was usually 3 to 10% higher than “Actual” speed before Japanese brands came along and started hitting the mph number on the head.)

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Two- and four-door Golfs have the same exterior dimensions and interior volume.

What kept running through my mind as I was testing the TDI was that this automobile is two steps away — leather seats and better navigation — from being an Audi A3. Apparently Audi agrees as they are bringing back the A3 Sportback this year and among its engine options will be the TDI motor.

My friend at the VW/Audi dealership notes that the A3 hatch may hurt the TDI as Audi’s superior residual values means that lease payments on a higher-priced Audi may actually be lower than those on a VW TDI, as is currently the case on the A3 TDI Sedan. Although few diesel customers lease their cars, this payment disparity is one of the challenges created by Audi and Volkswagen sharing platforms.

The Golf TDI is a sophisticated high-mileage hatch that does a lot of things well. It is the most fun you can have at 40 mpg.

Picks:

  • Another variation of the all-around goodness of the Golf
  • Smooth and quiet TDI diesel motor
  • An Audi in disguise

Nit Pics:

  • Out-of-date navigation system and display
  • Loaded SEL model is pricey at $32,000
  • Off-the-line acceleration hesitation

Wife Sez: So tell me again why we did not get a moonroof in our GTI?

Volkswagen provided vehicle for one week along with insurance and one tank of gas.

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2015 Volkswagen GTI Long-Term Tester Update http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/long-term-tester-update-2015-volkswagen-gti/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/long-term-tester-update-2015-volkswagen-gti/#comments Sat, 13 Jun 2015 13:49:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1084753 The media is all abuzz about former Olympic decathlon gold-medalist Bruce Jenner transforming himself into a woman. The 2015 Volkswagen GTI could be considered the sporty car equivalent of a decathlete, excelling in a wide variety of automotive virtues. I see a marketing opportunity here for VW: the decathlon champion meets the decathlon champion of cars. After all, Jenner is a GTI himself: […]

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The media is all abuzz about former Olympic decathlon gold-medalist Bruce Jenner transforming himself into a woman. The 2015 Volkswagen GTI could be considered the sporty car equivalent of a decathlete, excelling in a wide variety of automotive virtues.

I see a marketing opportunity here for VW: the decathlon champion meets the decathlon champion of cars. After all, Jenner is a GTI himself: a Gender Transformed Imbecile…Heyooo, I’ll be here all week! Tip your writers by clicking on the jump!

The 2015 Golf GTI represents the 7th generation of the venerable Volkswagen hot hatchback. The car is larger and lighter than the previous incarnation but the bigger news is the jump in power for the 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection 4-cylinder engine. Now with 210 hp (220 hp with the Performance Package) and 258 pound-feet of torque, up 10 hp and 51 pound-feet over the previous model, the GTI sports the ultimate Millennial Motor.

My GTI is the base S model 2-door with the 6-speed manual transmission, priced at $25,605 with freight. I was torn about springing an additional $600 for the 4-door version for its easier access to the back seat and to lose the massive doors. I also wanted the Performance Package with its increased horsepower, bigger brakes and torque-sensing limited-slip differential. The problem is I couldn’t find one: I previously wrote about how difficult it is to find specific models and option packages on VW dealers’ lots and our friends at Jalopnik piled on, agreeing that getting the exact GTI that you desire is nearly impossible. I wasn’t willing to order a car and wait 6 months, travel hundreds of miles or sacrifice color to find a match.

The GTI’s best-in-class interior with its cloth tartan plaid seats and Audi-worthy dash is a delight. The intuitive controls fall right to hand. My wife and I covered 770 miles in a single day with nary a backache thanks to the supportive seats. Nice interior touches abound: two sunglass cubbies, two power outlets, an adjustable-height center armrest, red illuminated door sills and massive door pockets for storage. The 5.8″ touch screen for entertainment and navigation functions is a bit small but an 8″ version is said to be in the works for 2016 models. The base model has no sunroof so it is quite dark inside the cabin, though I like the extra headroom.

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Fold down the rear seats and you have 53 cubic feet of cargo area, close to that of many small CUVs. Two adults will fit comfortably in the back seat though ingress and egress is tricky in the 2-door model. I love how you flip the giant VW emblem on the hatch to open it.

My favorite attribute of the GTI is its balance between power and economy. Alex clocked the hatch at 5.75 seconds for the 0 to 60 mph sprint. The nearly turbo-lag free motor does a nice job of propelling the GTI through its tall gearing – you bounce off the rev limiter in 3rd gear at an eye-popping 106 mph. The 6-speed GTI is rated at 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. We saw 36.1 mpg on a 2,500 mile jaunt to Wyoming on its fresh motor and 24 to 27 mpg around town for an overall average of 31.9 mpg in the car’s first 3,950 miles.

Coming out of a S2000, I expected to have to adjust to some lack of feel in the steering but the GTI’s variable-ratio electronic steering is more change than I expected. I will note it is nicely weighted and does improve when in “Sport” driving mode. Hitting some curves at 8/10th, the GTI remained neutral and nicely planted, easily the best handling front-wheel car I have ever driven. I plan to hit a track day before my next report to test the car’s limits and see if I can lift a wheel or two.

I keep forgetting this is a front-wheel drive car, as torque steer is near non-existent (shift the VW’s slick tranny from 2nd to 3rd at the redline and the car pulls to the right ever so slightly.)

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Living in Tucson means I have the pleasure of navigating the fifth worst roads in the United States. Our potholes would be called sinkholes in your town. The GTI’s firm suspension did not take too kindly to our craters but I rate its overall ride as average for a sports car.

The GTI comes standard with VW’s Soundakoter, which pipes artificial engine sounds into the interior. The system is not mentioned in any marketing materials as carmakers do not want you to know about it so as to enhance the test drive experience and sell more cars. I will admit I loved the GTI’s smooth sound during my demo drive and still do. I am such a mullet.

Much has been written about Volkswagen’s suspect reliability and my GTI is already having issues. The shift from 5th to 6th gear is sometimes not as smooth as it should be and I am also suspicious of the 2/3 synchro. The proprietary iPod connecting cord was dead from day one though Bluetooth connectivity works fine. The driver’s seat belt is also a bit balky.

Despite these problems I am happy with my fun and versatile GTI. I am not quite ready to deem it the best $25,000 to $30,000 sporty car available today until we see its bugaboos go away.

At which point I will officially name my car Caitlyn.

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2015 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-volkswagen-gti-2-door-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-volkswagen-gti-2-door-review-video/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 12:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1061210 Although GTI sales are on an upward trend, the American hot hatch is a rare breed as there are just three options. We have the aging Ford Focus ST, and a new pair of hatches from Germany: the Volkswagen GTI and the MINI Cooper S. (Yes MINI fans, I’m calling the MINI German.) The last […]

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2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front

Although GTI sales are on an upward trend, the American hot hatch is a rare breed as there are just three options. We have the aging Ford Focus ST, and a new pair of hatches from Germany: the Volkswagen GTI and the MINI Cooper S. (Yes MINI fans, I’m calling the MINI German.) The last time I reviewed the GTI and Focus ST, the Focus came out on top despite the greater refinement Volkswagen offered. This time we have an all new GTI while Subaru has kicked the 5-door WRX to the curb, BMW has redesigned the MINI Cooper JCW and Ford has “gone Euro” by jamming a 2.3L turbo in the Mustang. Where does that leave the GTI?

Exterior

Although the MK7 GTI looks nearly identical to the outgoing MK6 GTI, park them next to each other and you’ll start to see the differences. This GTI is longer, lower and wider with a significant stretch to the passenger compartment. VW pushed the front wheels 2-inches farther forward and gave the Golf a longer hood for better proportion. The headlamps get an angrier look and the tail lamps ditch the cute round theme for a more aggressive motif.

Sounds like a moderate refresh, right? Wrong. What VW did with the Golf is akin to swapping clothes with a stranger. It may look the same at first glance, but this stranger is different underneath and the clothes fit a little better as well. That’s all possible because this GTI rides on Volkswagen’s new MQB platform which also underpins the 2015 Audi A3. The promise of MQB is to deliver faster product development cycles, lower costs, improve parts sharing and achieve better fuel economy. Indeed, the GTI is lighter than before; however, the weight difference isn’t as dramatic as I was lead to believe at just under 100 pounds. Of course the GTI did get bigger and lighter at the same time, but the top-end 3,086 pound curb weight is about the same as a 2005 GTI.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior-004

Interior

VW was once known as the “discount Audi” in America. But as part of their mission to increase sales on our shores, VW divorced the Passat and Jetta from their Euro twins and started cutting back on their other models. Thankfully, a few models escaped this fate and are still pair-bonded to the model sold in the EU. The Golf is one of them and, as a result, feels a notch above the American Passat in interior quality. From the fabric-covered A-pillars to the soft-touch door panels and dashboard bits, the feel upon entering the Golf in any form is in some ways “more Audi” than the A3. Without a doubt, the Golf has the best interior in this category, which oddly enough applies as much to the $17,995 base Golf as to the $25,095 GTI or $36,595 Golf R. MINI’s recent redesign has seriously improved its interior, but the VW is arguably on par with the JCW model in terms of parts quality despite being $10,000 less in some configurations.

Perhaps the “price” for the interior refinement is a distinct lack of power seating in most models. If you want more adjustability up front, you have to step up to the Autobahn model, which means you also receive leather instead of the attractive GTI tartan fabric. A little known fact about the GTI (and the Golf in general): the three-door and five-door versions are the same length and deliver identical interior dimensions. This means that our seemingly small three-door GTI was able to swallow two 6-foot tall passengers and a skinny third in a pinch. More surprising was the ability to squeeze a rearward facing child seat behind a 6-foot tall passenger up front. That’s different than the MINI which has a cramped back seat and even more cramped cargo hold.

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Infotainment

The redesign of the GTI includes a refresh of VW’s infotainment system. Sadly, this is the one area where revolution would have been preferable to evolution. The VW software lags behind the competition and if you want navigation it is only available in the most expensive trim. All units feature expanded voice commands, finger gestures (like scrolling), and a proximity sensor to clean up the interface when your digits aren’t near the screen. Most of the system’s graphics have been improved and the media interface is more attractive than before (including the elusive navigation software). But, the system still lacks the ability to voice command your media library, and still uses a proprietary VW connector for media devices.

As much heat as MyFord Touch has received over the years, the system in the Focus ST is light-years ahead of this. Since MINI gets BMW’s iDrive on a MINI scale, it takes the top slot in this segment. However, you will have to pay some serious coin as MINI’s options list is long, confusing, and expensive. Volkswagen tells us to expect significant changes “soon” to address the deficiencies, including the VW/Audi proprietary cable.

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Drivetrain

As you’d expect from a hot hatch, a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine sits under the GTI’s hood. For 2015, the 2.0L engine has been reworked to deliver 210 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s a slight power bump but a fairly healthy torque increase over the last gen GTI. Thanks to the turbocharger and direct-injection, we get the expected “power plateau” rather than a curve with all 210 ponies pulling from 4,500-6,200 RPM and all the torque available from a low 1,500 RPM to 4,400. If you opt for the $1,495 performance package, peak power rises slightly to 220 hp from 4,700-6,200 while torque remains unchanged at 258 lb-ft but hangs out for 200 more RPM at the top end.

All GTIs start with a standard 6-speed manual transmission including the top end Autobahn trim. Shoppers can add a 6-speed DSG to any trim. In a nod to enthusiasts, the DSG and performance package are neither forcibly bundled nor mutually exclusive. Standard on all models is VW’s XDS system which has caused some confusion among potential shoppers so allow me to explain. XDS is not a true limited slip differential. Instead, it is an advanced software package added to the car’s ABS and Stability Control systems. The software reads yaw, steering angle, wheel slip, etc and uses the vehicle’s brakes to act as both a limited slip differential and a torque vectoring differential depending on the situation. The system will gently brake the inside wheel in a corner to help “vector” torque to the outside wheel and give a more balanced feel to the car. The system also responds to potential torque steer making all GTI models more civilized.

The performance package adds an electronically controlled limited slip differential; although the design is very different than the eLSDs you see in RWD applications, the function is similar. The VAQ system (Vorderachsquersperre in German) uses a multi-plate clutch pack to deliver limited slip, full locking and torque vectoring across the front axle. VAQ does not replace XDS, instead you get both systems working for you at the same time.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Manual Shifter-001

Drive

The GTI we got our hands on for a week was a four-door model without the performance package. I’m glad I was able to test a GTI in this configuration because it allows me to say: get the performance package. Not for the additional ponies, or even the trick eLSD, but for the upgraded brakes and the ability to get the $800 dynamic damper package (DDC). The previous generation GTI was so eager to please, it was easy to overwhelm the standard brakes. Although the new model appears to have improved this on base trims, the upgraded stoppers are worth every penny. The standard suspension can feel a little too firm over broken pavement and at times this causes the rear to get unsettled on a poorly paved corner. The DDC package allows the suspension to deliver a more compliant highway ride and a firmer autocross ride. It also helps settle the GTI’s rear end on rough pavement.

Our best 0-60 run rang in at a 5.75 seconds which is an improvement of nearly a half second over the last generation GTI, 2/10ths faster than the last Focus ST we tested and 4/10ths faster than a dealer provided MINI Cooper JCW. If you opt for the DSG, your 0-60 runs will be a hair slower but much more consistent. Interestingly enough, this is only a hair slower than the EcoBoost Mustang.

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The mission of the hot hatch could not be more different from the pony car. The Mustang is a large coupé with rear wheel drive, sexy lines and V6 and V8 engines that are shared with the F-150 pickup. The hot hatch formula starts with a practical compact hatchback, then you add stiff springs and bolt a turbo charger to a small displacement engine. For 2015, Ford added independent suspension and a 2.3L turbo to the Stang making comparisons more rational.

Obviously, driving dynamics are what separate the GTI from the Mustang, but it’s more about feel than speed around a track. As our friends over at MotorTrend recently discovered, the better balanced rear wheel drive Mustang was actually slower around a figure-eight than the GTI. Although that proclamation surprised some, it didn’t surprise me at all, given the VW weighs nearly 500lbs less. You’ll notice I haven’t said anything about steering feel. That’s because there isn’t any. A wise man once told me to never confuse steering weight with steering feel. The GTI’s tiller is well weighted but the FWD layout and the electric power steering suck all the life out of it.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear1

Part of the reason the GTI did so well is the standard XDS system which nearly eliminates torque steer. In concept it is quite similar to what Ford uses to control the Focus ST’s front end but in the real world the VW system is more effective. Trouble is, half the fun of having a hot hatch is “riding a bull” – where your foot is on the floor and your hands and mind are fully engaged trying to keep the car going in a straight line. (The old Mazdaspeed3 acted like its steering rack was possessed by demons from hell.) MINIs Cooper JCW slots between the GTI and the Focus ST in civility. Add the VAQ eLSD to the GTI and things go to the next level with very little drama when accelerating around sharp corners. While I found the feeling a little artificial at times, I can’t deny it is faster.

Pricing for 2015 starts at $25,095 for the 3-door GTI and tops out at $35,950 for the 5-door Autobahn edition with all the options. Although VW limits navigation to the top-trim, you can add the DSG to any trim for $1,100, Performance Package for $1,495, steering HID headlamps for $995 and for $695 they will tack on front/rear parking sensors and a radar based collision warning system. If you want the $800 DDC (dynamic dampers), you have to start with the SE trim with the Performance Package ($29,280 3-door, $29,880 5-door). In a nice change from the industry norm, the transmission selection doesn’t alter the availability of the other options and the top-end Autobahn doesn’t force you to get the DSG.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear-002

Ford’s Ecoboost Mustang starts $300 higher than the GTI while the Focus ST starts nearly $2,000 lower. The MINI is in a universe all to its own with the JCW starting over $8,000 higher. The ‘Stang gets standard HID lamps in the turbo trim making both Ford models less expensive than the VW when comparably equipped. Unlike VW, Ford also allows you to add navigation to their less expensive trims and the ST gets some seriously comfortable Recaro seats in most trims.

At the end of the week, the GTI’s charms were clear: this is a hot hatch with few compromises. The MINI is cute but slower and much more expensive. The GTI has a more comfortable back seat than the Mustang and, although it’s less fun, it is faster in some situations. The WRX isn’t a hatch anymore and if you want an automatic your only option is a soul-sucking CVT. The Focus gives a more raw and direct experience, but the added weight means it’s no faster than the GTI in just about any situation. The final nail in the coffin for the competition is the GTI SE with the limited slip differential, dynamic suspension and the DSG. For $32,000, a GTI equipped in that way won’t be as much fun as others, but with all that and 28 MPG combined, it may be the best daily driver on sale. Sacrilege you say? Perhaps, but that configuration is the truest to the hot hatch concept: make a daily driver as much fun as possible.

Mission accomplished.

Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.5 Seconds

0-60:5.75 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.31 @ 98 MPH

Average Economy: 29.8 MPG over 675 miles

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Engine 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Engine-001 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Engine-002 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front.CR2 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front.CR2-001 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front.CR2-002 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front-001 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front1 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front-002 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front-003 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front-0011 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear.CR2 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear.CR2-001 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear-001 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear1 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear-002 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear-003 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear-004 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear-005 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear-0011 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Side 2 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Side 3 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Side 4 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Side 5 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Side 6 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Side 7 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior sIDE 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Wheel.CR2 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Gauges 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Gauges-001 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Gauges-002 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior.CR2 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior.CR2-001 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior-001 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior-002 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior-003 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior-004 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior-005 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior-006 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior-007 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior-008 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Manual Shifter 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Manual Shifter-001 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Steering Wheel.CR2 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Steering Wheel.CR2-001 2015 VW GTI 2-Door Steering Wheel

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QOTD: Are Car Enthusiasts Ahead of or Behind the Market? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-car-enthusiasts-behind-ahead-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-car-enthusiasts-behind-ahead-market/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 11:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1062618 The latest sales numbers from April are a tale of two cars: one with a bodystyle we praise and another sporting a shape we denounce without impunity – the VW Golf SportWagen and Porsche Macan. The long-roof Golf took nine days on average to find a buyer. The Macan is at 11 days. Brown manual diesel all-wheel […]

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2015-Volkswagen-Golf-Sportwagen

The latest sales numbers from April are a tale of two cars: one with a bodystyle we praise and another sporting a shape we denounce without impunity – the VW Golf SportWagen and Porsche Macan.

The long-roof Golf took nine days on average to find a buyer. The Macan is at 11 days.

Brown manual diesel all-wheel drive wagon it is not, yet the SportWagen does check most of the boxes typically associated with the practical car enthusiast set. You get space without having to pay the drag penalty associated with SUVs and their large frontal area. Also, for those looking for some performance, nothing delivers torque like diesel (unless you go electric, which is a discussion for another day).

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Which brings us to the Macan. Granted, the smaller Porsche-UV is exceptionally good, even if you do lose out on a considerable amount of cargo space compared to its platform mate, the Audi Q5. But, the Macan is still the antithesis of typical car enthusiast thinking: a high-riding utility vehicle that can’t go off-road sporting a badge from a “sportscar” company when, in fact, it has virtually nothing in common with the rest of the range. It’s also expensive, equipped horribly on the lower end of the price scale, and about as ‘aspirational’ as one can get.

So, that begs the question: are car enthusiasts ahead of the curve or behind it? Is the Golf SportWagen a case of the rest of the market finally “getting it” or just an odd blip in a typically silver SUV-filled market?

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Review: 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-volkswagen-e-golf-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-volkswagen-e-golf-video/#comments Sat, 11 Apr 2015 19:24:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1037841 Because I live in California, it seemed only fitting that my first taste of the new Golf arrived in electric form: the 2015 VW e-Golf. (Why e-Golf? Because “Golfe” just sounded silly.) The Golf isn’t just the first Volkswagen EV in the US, it’s also the first VW built on the new MQB platform which […]

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2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-001

Because I live in California, it seemed only fitting that my first taste of the new Golf arrived in electric form: the 2015 VW e-Golf. (Why e-Golf? Because “Golfe” just sounded silly.) The Golf isn’t just the first Volkswagen EV in the US, it’s also the first VW built on the new MQB platform which promises reduced weight and lower development costs. While MQB isn’t a dedicated EV platform like Nissan’s LEAF, it was designed to support electrification from the start rather than being converted like the Fiat 500e. While that may sound like a quibble, the difference is noticeable as the e-Golf feels like a regular VW that happens to be electric. The e-Golf also demonstrates just how rapidly EVs have evolved since the LEAF launched in 2010.

Exterior

Volkswagen has always been a company that prefers restrained elegance when it comes to design and the new Golf is no different. While some described the look as boring, I generally appreciate design evolution more than design revolution because the latter leads to products like the Aztek. The downside to VW’s design evolution is that the Golf doesn’t look all that different from the last Golf, but VW owners tell me that’s how they like it. Park it next to the last VW hatch and you will notice a difference. The 2015 model is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor with a longer hood and a shorter front overhang. The result is a more grown-up hatch than ever before that also schleps more stuff than ever before.

For EV duty, VW swaps in their first US-bound LED headlamps, and (according to a product announcement released when we had the e-Golf) will swap them back out if you opt for the new starting trim of the e-Golf which is coming soon. We also get a revised DRL strip of LEDs curving around the front bumper that gives the electric version a distinctive look in your rear-view mirror. Finishing off the transformation are blue accents here and there, EV specific wheels and unique badging. From a functional standpoint, the electrically heated windshield (ala Volvo and Land Rover) helps reduce energy consumption by heating the glass directly instead of heating the air and blowing it on the glass.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior.CR2

Interior

Changes to the new interior are as subtle as the exterior. It was only after sitting in a 2012 Golf that I realized that parts sharing appears to be somewhere near zero. Although the shapes are similar, everything has been tweaked to look more cohesive and more up-scale. The console flows better from the climate controls, infotainment screen and knick-knack storage all the way to the armrest. The dashboard design is smoother and more Audiesque and the door panels have improved fit and finish with slightly nicer plastics. Keeping in mind that the Golf competes with the Hyundai Elantra GT, Ford Focus, Mazda3, Chevy Sonic, and Fiat 500L, this is easily the best interior in this class.

When it comes to the e-Golf things get murky. Since most auto companies have just one EV model, the electric Golf competes with a more varied competitive set spanning from the Spark EV and 500e to the BMW i3 and Mercedes B-Class Electric. In this competitive set, the VW still shines with an interior that isn’t that far off the B-Class or the i3 in real terms. The only oddity here is that the e-Golf does not offer leather in any configuration. The new base model gets cloth seats which are comfortable and attractive but the top end trim we tested uses leatherette which is attractive but doesn’t breathe as well as leather or cloth. Breathability is a problem the Spark’s leatherette seats also suffer from and is especially important in an EV where you frequently limit AC usage to improve range. Kia’s Soul EV is a stand-out in this area by offering real leather and ventilated seats which consume less power than running the AC.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-0031

Infotainment

The redesign of the Golf includes a refresh of VW’s infotainment lineup. Sadly however, this is the one area where revolution would have been preferable to evolution. The VW infotainment software, even in our up-level unit with nav, still lags behind the competition. The unit features expanded voice commands, finger gestures (like scrolling), snappier navigation software and a proximity sensor to clean up the interface when your digits aren’t near the screen. Most of the system’s graphics have been improved and the media interface is more attractive than before. Sadly however the system still lacks the ability to voice command your media library and the screen is notably smaller than the huge 8-inch screen in the Kia Soul.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior Gauges

Instead of giving EV models a funky disco-dash like most EVs, VW keeps the four-dial analog cluster  and monochromatic multi-information display with a few changes. Instead of a tachometer we get a sensible power meter showing how much oomph you are commanding. Instead of an engine temperature gauge VW drops in an “available power” gauge that tells you how much power you can draw from the battery pack. In cold weather, or when the battery is too hot or too cold the discharge rate will slow.

I appreciate the simplistic gauge cluster, it’s classier than disco-dash in the LEAF while displaying essentially the same information. On the downside, the rest of the e-Golf’s systems lack the EV-specific features we have come to expect in EVs and hybrids. The extent of the EV information in the infotainment system is a single screen that shows your range. Most of the competition provides insight into how much energy your vehicle’s systems are consuming, how much additional range you’d get by turning your AC off or how long your battery would take to charge on various power sources. In fact the only way you’d know how long the e-Golf would take to charge is by plugging it in and reading the display that flashes the time to charge briefly. For more information VW directs you to their smartphone app, but those looking for a more integrated solution should look elsewhere.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Motor-001

Drivetrain

Powering the e-Golf is a 115 HP synchronous AC motor capable of delivering 199 lb-ft of torque at low RPMs. That’s 55 fewer ponies, but the same amount of torque as the regular Golf’s 1.8L turbo engine. Logically the performance is lazy when compared to the turbo Golf thanks as much to the single-speed transmission as to the added weight of the e-Golf’s battery pack. 60MPH happens in a Prius-like 10.03 seconds, about 2-seconds slower than the TSI. Because the MQB platform was designed with EVs and hybrids in mind, the large 24.2 kWh (estimated 21.1 kWh usable) battery fits entirely under the vehicle with no intrusion in the passenger compartment and little overall compromise in terms of cargo capacity.

Early reports indicated that VW was going to liquid cool the battery pack like GM does in their EVs but the production e-Golf uses a passive battery cooling system instead. VW engineers tell us that the lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) cells from Panasonic lend themselves well to packs of this nature and it ultimately helps them reduce weight and complexity. Like most manufacturers VW will warrant the pack for 8 years and 100,000 miles against capacity drop larger than 30%. This means that your EPA range starts at 83 miles and would have to drop to around 53 miles in that window to get it repaired or replaced.

Charging is always a concern with EV shoppers so VW dropped in one of the faster chargers available (7.2kW) which can charge the battery in three hours if you have an appropriate 240V EVSE. Should you have access to one of the new SAE DC Fast Charge stations (also known as CCS), you can zip from 0-80% in under 30 minutes. On the downside, finding a CCS station proved a little tricky in the SF Bay Area where the older competing CHAdeMO standard is more common by at least 5:1. On the up-side if you can find a station it’s unlikely to be occupied since there are few vehicles on the road that support the new connector.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior Gauges-001Drive

According to VW, our e-Golf tips the scales at a svelte 3,391 lbs with 701 of that coming from the battery pack. For those that are counting, that’s only 300lbs heavier than the carbon fiber and aluminum BMW i3 REx which is significantly more expensive and actually has a smaller battery and 359lbs heavier than the Golf TSI. I should also mention that the Golf also scores better in crash tests than BMW’s light weight EV. In addition to being light for an EV, the weight is more evenly distributed than in the gasoline Golf. VW has not released exact details, but the pre-production Golf EV had a perfect 50:50 weight balance and that’s likely true for the 2015 e-Golf as well.

Although VW puts 205-width low rolling resistance tires on the e-Golf, it actually handles better than the base Golf TSI. Some of that is because the TSI gets 195s in base form, but the lower center of gravity and the improved weight balance play a large role as well. This means that unlike other EV conversions, the electric Golf isn’t the least fun trim, it actually ends up middle of the pack between the base Golf and top end TSI and TDI trims. The improved balance is obvious in neutral handling where the EV plows less than the base Golf. The added weight has a positive impact on the ride which seemed a hair more refined than the TSI a dealer lent for comparison. Steering is typical modern VW: moderately firm and accurate but lacking any real feedback.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Charging Connector

Pricing on the e-Golf initially started and ended at $35,445 due to VW’s one-trim strategy. If you qualify for the highest tax incentives available (state and local) the price drops to an effective $25,445. That’s only a hair more than a comparable gasoline model (the e-Golf SEL Premium’s feature set slots between the TSI S and TSI SE model) but higher than many of the recent mass market EVs. To solve this VW announced the arrival of the “Limited Edition” which cuts $1,995 from the price tag by de-contenting. Cloth seats replace the leatherette (I actually think that’s an upgrade), the LED headlamps are dropped and steel wheels replace the 16-inch alloys. None of those changes are a deal-breaker for me, unfortunately however the last thing on the chopping block is the heat pump. Heat pumps are much more efficient than resistive heating elements so this will mean reduced range in colder climates.

The e-Golf is less of a compromise than the 4-seat Spark and a better deal than the 4-seat i3. Nissan’s LEAF provides a little more passenger and cargo room for less, but the trade-offs include lackluster handling, fewer features and a much slower charger. When cross-shopping Fiat’s 500e you realize just how large the Golf has grown over the years. As you’d expect in a segment that is evolving this rapidly, the toughest competition is found in the other new model: the 2015 Kia Soul EV. Priced from $33,700-35,700 (before incentives) the Soul is slightly more expensive than the VW but you get considerably more for your money. The delta is most pronounced in the Soul EV + which gets real leather, cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, power folding mirrors, an 8-inch touchscreen, and about 20% more battery capacity for $225. Highlighting Kia’s deft hand at cutting the right corners, you will notice that the Soul forgoes LED headlamps, the heated windscreen and has a slightly slower charger. As impressive as the e-Golf’s curb weight is, the Soul EV manages to be a hair lighter at 3,289lbs despite the bigger battery, this weight reduction and deeper gearing allow the Soul EV to scoot to 60 one second faster. This leaves me with a split decision, the e-Golf is the better car but the Soul is the better EV with a longer range, EV focused infotainment software and niceties like the cooled seats and heated steering wheel that extend range by reducing your HVAC consumption. If VW adds a third model sporting cooled seats, real leather and drops back in the gas-Golf’s power seats, they’d have a solid alternative to the Soul EV and even the Mercedes B-Class. Just be sure to check with your tax professional before depending on those EV credits and rebates.

Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance and a charged battery for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 3.44 Seconds

0-60: 10.03 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.2 Seconds @ 82 MPH

Average Economy: 4.3 Mi/kWh

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Volkswagen: Golf-Based CUV May Slot Under Next-Gen Tiguan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/volkswagen-golf-based-cuv-may-slot-next-gen-tiguan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/volkswagen-golf-based-cuv-may-slot-next-gen-tiguan/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 15:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=984321 With the Volkswagen Tiguan going bigger for the United States market in 2017, senior execs believe a smaller entry-level crossover could soon take its place. Ward’s Auto reports the new crossover would be Golf-based, and would become the fourth crossover in VW’s U.S. lineup alongside the aforementioned Tiguan, the upcoming midsize CrossBlue, and the larger […]

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Volkswagen-T-ROC-Concept-02

With the Volkswagen Tiguan going bigger for the United States market in 2017, senior execs believe a smaller entry-level crossover could soon take its place.

Ward’s Auto reports the new crossover would be Golf-based, and would become the fourth crossover in VW’s U.S. lineup alongside the aforementioned Tiguan, the upcoming midsize CrossBlue, and the larger Touareg. The smaller crossover could take its cue from the T-ROC two-door crossover that bowed in Geneva last year, and may likely be built at the automaker’s facility in Puebla, Mexico, where the Golf, Jetta and Beetle are assembled.

Speaking of the CrossBlue, that seven-seater will likely add more models to the lineup, such as one similar to the Cross Coupe GTE PHEV from this year’s Detroit Auto Show. Both of those models would be produced in Chattanooga, Tenn.

As for the next-gen Tiguan, production is expected to begin in North America in 2017, possibly joining the Golf-based crossover in Puebla, as well. The Tiguan will also grow to over 185 inches in overall length, gain a third-row seat, and be able to hold seven passengers, all to better market the crossover to consumers in the U.S.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-golf-1-8-tsi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-golf-1-8-tsi/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:30:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949281 For all its foibles, I loved the 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine in the Volkswagen parts bin. It provided an audible grunt you couldn’t get anywhere else for the same amount of money and, in its early days, was the best way to buy cheap torque without going diesel or turbo. Thanks to a finer focus on […]

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2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI (4 of 30)

For all its foibles, I loved the 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine in the Volkswagen parts bin. It provided an audible grunt you couldn’t get anywhere else for the same amount of money and, in its early days, was the best way to buy cheap torque without going diesel or turbo.

Thanks to a finer focus on fuel efficiency — a strength the five-pot did not possess — the base 2.5-litre is now gone. Instead, we have a new 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, dubbed 1.8T or 1.8 TSI, delivering the same amount of horsepower, more torque, and better fuel economy than the outgoing 2.5 five-cylinder.

Our tester for the week, a 2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI Comfortline (Canada), is the mid-trim option in the Golf lineup and equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. Ticking off the optional Convenience Package adds automatic headlights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Climatronic dual-zone electronic climate control, light assist, Panorama tilt and slide power sunroof, and rain sensing wipers. The whole package before taxes and freight rings in at $24,590 CAD.

(For you folks living in Canada’s pants bemoaning my Canadian pricing, it’s hard to find an equivalent in the US Golf trim matrix that matches up, so you’ll have to do a little digging on your own.)

2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI (28 of 30)

The new 1.8 TSI is a fantastic little motor but does miss some of the charm of the old 2.5 inline-5. Thanks to the wizardry of turbocharging, the four-cylinder produces a very healthy 170 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. It also does duty in other Volkswagen lineup models, such as the Beetle and Jetta.

It won’t leave your wallet empty at the pumps either, returning 7.6L/100km (31 MPG) and running on regular gas instead of premium.

The rush of torque comes on fairly early and the most fun is had when shifting at least 1,000 rpm before redline so you can feel the torque through each gear change. This is a car that will actually reward you for shifting slowly and letting the revs drop a bit.

2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI (17 of 30)

The five-speed manual is crisp, notchy, and great for people who actually enjoy rowing their way through the gears. With solid feedback and tight gating, the gearbox might be a little too much for the novice driver though. I’d suggest the Fiesta with its long throws and lighter feedback for that crowd. But, for those who’ve already mastered the third pedal, this is as good a choice as any, except for the fact it is down a gear versus a few of its competitors.

Being the first Golf to ride on the new MQB Volkswagen platform also brings with it new characteristics in ride and handling. The Golf now rides like a much bigger car, smoothing out the bumps in the road while the body stays relatively stable. The softer ride does mean the Golf suffers slightly when chucking it around corners. But, unless you are trying to recreate the car chase scene from Ronin, you should be just fine.

There are two trends Volkswagen has bucked with the new Golf — one for the better and the other for the worse.

The first one comes down to design, as the Golf eschews the sloped rear glass used by the Mazda3 Sport and other hatchbacks in favour of a more two-box silhouette. This gives the Golf decent cargo space in the rear. Also, and this is the big kicker, Volkswagen hasn’t brought the beltline up to such a level that makes it hard to see out of the rear of the car. While the Golf gets a nifty backup camera hidden behind the VW badge, you don’t need to rely on the camera to reverse from a parking space. That’s a very welcomed surprise.

2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI (6 of 30)

But, the one trend where Volkswagen really needs to play catch up is from an infotainment point of you. Specifically, the Golf has a serious lack of USB ports, and by that I mean it has exactly zero of them. Instead, Volkswagen still wants you to use the proprietary iPod connector and a car charger that pops into the plug that used to be a cigarette lighter. VW — you should really know better.

Also a point of pain is the beige-and-black two tone interior available on Comfortline models in Canada. While the materials are top drawer, the two-tone scheme cheapens it all just a bit. Again, VW — you should really know better.

2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI (14 of 30)

Even with these slight issues, the Golf is a solid contender (though, if I were at Motor Trend, I wouldn’t be giving the Golf a Car of the Year award). For those who enjoy driving but don’t necessarily enjoy the firm ride, compromised visibility, or stick-on infotainment screen of the Mazda3, this is your next choice. Also, turbocharging makes everything a bit more fun.

But, if you desire something with slightly sharper handling, USB ports, or an interior that doesn’t mutter how boring you are, there are other options.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1984-volkswagen-rabbit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1984-volkswagen-rabbit/#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=888417 I haven’t shot many Junkyard Finds involving water-cooled Volkswagens, mostly due to the fact that these cars tend to depreciate into the crush-worthy price range before age 15, which means that interesting VWs don’t appear too often in self-service wrecking yards. We saw this ’82 Scirocco and this ’80 Dasher Diesel recently, and I’ve found […]

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01 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI haven’t shot many Junkyard Finds involving water-cooled Volkswagens, mostly due to the fact that these cars tend to depreciate into the crush-worthy price range before age 15, which means that interesting VWs don’t appear too often in self-service wrecking yards. We saw this ’82 Scirocco and this ’80 Dasher Diesel recently, and I’ve found 2/1461ths of the North American Etienne Agnier Edition Golfs in junkyards, but nearly all the Golfs I find these days are Mk2s or later, or Mk1 Cabrios (or ones that I’m helping to load up for a trip to The Crusher). Here’s a genuine, numbers-matching (maybe), final-year-of-American-production, Westmoreland-built, Mk1 Rabbit two-door that I spotted in Denver a while back.
02 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNothing very special about this car, other than being uncommon in the junkyard.
03 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNo shortage of these engines in the world.
09 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Whorehouse Red Velour Interior craze peaked in the mid-1980s; Japan and Detroit did the most lurid red interiors, but VWoA made some good ones as well.

This car isn’t a GTI, but the ’84 GTI TV ad was so great that I’m including it anyway.

01 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Rigged Voting May Lead ADAC To Scrap Annual Award http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/rigged-voting-may-lead-adac-to-scrap-annual-award/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/rigged-voting-may-lead-adac-to-scrap-annual-award/#comments Fri, 24 Jan 2014 11:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=707058 German auto club Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club e.V., or ADAC, may no longer bestow their annual Yellow Angel Award after the club admitted to vote rigging. Automotive News reports that ADAC’s communications director, Michael Ramstetter, resigned from his post after confessing he manipulated the results of the Yellow Angel Award — given to what the auto […]

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ADAC Golden Angel

German auto club Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club e.V., or ADAC, may no longer bestow their annual Yellow Angel Award after the club admitted to vote rigging.

Automotive News reports that ADAC’s communications director, Michael Ramstetter, resigned from his post after confessing he manipulated the results of the Yellow Angel Award — given to what the auto club considers as Germany’s favorite car, providing a boost in sales to the winner — to favor the Volkswagen Golf. Through Ramstetter’s actions, the Golf received 34,299 votes to take the prize; the hatch actually received 3,409 votes from the club’s 18 million members.

Club president Peter Meyer said the Yellow Angel has no future, leading to speculation that the annual prize may be scrapped. The rigging also has critics calling into question the validity of ADAC’s car safety testing, and the club’s overall credibility.

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Fore! Volkswagen Makes 30 Millionth Golf http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/fore-volkswagen-makes-30-millionth-golf/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/fore-volkswagen-makes-30-millionth-golf/#comments Fri, 14 Jun 2013 16:06:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492159 In 1973, I had a little hand in launching the Volkswagen Golf. It hit the market in 1974. Today, it hit a new record. I wish I would have received a buck for every Golf sold. I would have $30 million by now. Today, the world’s 30 millionth Golf rolled past “Zählpunkt 8” and off […]

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PopUp600_400DB2013AL00009_smallIn 1973, I had a little hand in launching the Volkswagen Golf. It hit the market in 1974. Today, it hit a new record. I wish I would have received a buck for every Golf sold. I would have $30 million by now. Today, the world’s 30 millionth Golf rolled past “Zählpunkt 8” and off the assembly line in Wolfsburg.

In line with the green leanings, the 30 millionth car is a Golf TDI BlueMotion; a car that is said to use just 3.2 liters for 100 km, something we shall put to the test a little more than a week from now when I return to the scene of my former crimes in Wolfsburg.

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Inside The Industry: TTAC Finds The Missing Etymology Of Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/inside-the-industry-ttac-finds-the-missing-etymology-of-passat-golf-scirocco-polo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/inside-the-industry-ttac-finds-the-missing-etymology-of-passat-golf-scirocco-polo/#comments Fri, 24 May 2013 11:01:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489412 Where did the names of Volkswagen’s Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo come from? What is their meaning? For four decades, it was shrouded in mystery. Forty years later, a famous former Volkswagen CEO, Dr. Carl Hahn, and his illustrious former sales chief, “WP” Schmidt, help TTAC get to the bottom of an unsolved question, Some of […]

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Polo-cat

German launch catalog for the Polo

Where did the names of Volkswagen’s Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo come from? What is their meaning? For four decades, it was shrouded in mystery. Forty years later, a famous former Volkswagen CEO, Dr. Carl Hahn, and his illustrious former sales chief, “WP” Schmidt, help TTAC get to the bottom of an unsolved question,

Some of the worst performers in the truth department are the gossip press and the automotive media. A good deal there simply is fantasy. Knowing well that no-one will complain or check, bogus new product plans are being published.  The large-scale availability of cheap 3D rendering software (here is how it’s done) and of WordPress turns this disease into a pandemic.

Most of these lies come and go. Some stay and turn into history. A dark chapter of automotive history falsification is about the names of the new generation of cars that, in the early 1970s, rescued Volkswagen from the brink and that helped turn VW into the powerhouse it is today: Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo.

There is so munch nonsense written about those names, that we had to go to the very top, and ask the people who decided these names 40 years ago.

Passat-cat

German launch catalog for the Passat

Before the Volkswagen Passat came out in 1973, all Volkswagen were sold by the number: VW 1200, VW 1303, VW 1600 and so forth. Then came a car called “Passat.” Although nothing was ever officially published, everybody in Germany was convinced that the car was named after the same named trade wind. It had to be.

A year later came two new cars, the Golf, and the Scirocco. The latter is another famous wind. It is called Qibli in Africa, it changes to Scirocco in Italy, and after it crossed the Alps, it is called Föhn and becomes famous for causing headaches and distracted driving in Munich and surroundings.

In Germany, and especially at Volkswagen, everything supposedly goes according to plan and has a system. There was no system announced, so a system was fabricated. Passat, Scirocco: It had to be winds. But where did the Golf fit in?

Even before the Golf appeared, a German auto magazine wrote that the car, following the supposed wind logic, was originally named “Blizzard.” According to the report, an Austrian ski manufacturer with the same name objected, and instead, the car was named Golf.  Or so the apocryphal history says. That story has been written in many books and magazines, and it is wrong. If you believe the story, you have been snowed.

Golf-cat

German launch catalog for the Golf

A little research in the annals of the German Patent and Markenamt would have shown that, before the Golf arrived, the name “Blizzard” was trademarked for products like floor cleaners, perfume, even for socks. There was no entry for cars. In 1973, there wasn’t even one for skis.

The ski trademark was registered half a year after the introduction of the Golf, on October 31, 1974. Most likely by a now highly alarmed Blizzard ski maker, who had not bothered before, and who had read the stories about them allegedly blocking the name for the Golf.  What’s more, the Blizzard trademark for cars remained up for grabs until 1979, when a company called Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki Kaisha of Toyota, Aichi, Japan, took the Blizzard trademark in Germany. Yes, that Toyota. The mark was used for a luckless Toyota Blizzard, a small Daihatsu-built pocket Jeep. Toyota abandoned the mark in 2010, if you want Blizzard for a car, you most likely will get it.

After Passat, Golf, and Scirocco came the Polo. Its naming still causes great apprehension: Where is the wind? Future cars by Volkswagen had wind names (Jetta, Santana, Vento, Bora,) therefore, members of the media decided that all Volkswagen cars must have wind names, somehow. This leads to the fact that today, Wikipedia, while citing reliable sources, can claim that “the Golf name is derived from the German word for Gulf Stream and the period in its history when VW named vehicles after prominent winds.”

Never mind that a gulf stream is no wind, but an ocean current, the Internet is convinced that the Golf is named after the Gulf Stream. According to Wikipedia, the Polo is named “after Polar Winds.” The latter is said without sources, but by now, the story of Polo and Polar Wind has been copied so many times that it is very easy to find a polar wind source for Wikipedia, even if it is a circular reference – nobody will find out.

I know it differently. I did every launch campaign, I supervised the writing of the catalogs (all pictured here) of the four models, I wrote some myself. All, except those for the Passat. That car was already done when I arrived on my job as Volkswagen copywriter in 1973. No system for the name was ever announced, neither officially nor confidentially. The briefing documents said everything about engine, displacement, they espoused the “Negativer Lenkrollradius”-  but nothing was said about the etymology of the names. Each car had a name, that was it, we were not supposed to ask where it came from, we never knew who created the name, or why. Never ever did anyone think or even joke about the Golf being named after the Gulf Stream, or the Polo after the Polar Wind. Sure, at the agency we joked about “The new  popular sport, Golf.” Sure, the GTI had a golf ball as a shifter knob, and plaid seats. Those were puns, no proof of a meaning.

Scirocco-cat

German launch catalog for the Scirocco

However, who would believe a former copywriter? I decided to go straight to the source.  Volkswagen has a great new and well-funded department, Volkswagen Classic. It is responsible for Volkswagen’s history.  If anyone knows for sure how these names came about, then it’s the people in charge of Volkswagen’s history.

I asked Eberhard Kittler, spokesman of Volkswagen Classics, whether there was a system to this name madness, whether all Volkswagens of that time were named after winds, or the Golf after the Gulf Stream, or the Polo after the Polar Winds.

Kittler had no idea. That allegedly widely known part of history has no presence in Volkswagen’s history department.

Kittler went through the archives, he pulled old internal marketing plans. He found “no conclusive records.”

Herr Kittler continued digging. He reached former, long retired members of Volkswagen’s sales and Marketing departments. They had never heard of a system, or of any official etymology of these names.

Kittler contacted Dr. Carl Hahn, the famous Volkswagen of America Chief who approved the famous Volkswagen ads of the late 50s and early 60, and who was CEO of Volkswagen from 1982 to 1993. Hahn did not know either. “At that time, I was at Continental, doing tires,” Hahn told Kittler. “But if anyone knows, it’s WP Schmidt.”

WP Schmidt was sales chief at Volkswagen when Passat, Golf, Scirocco, and Polo came, and he was so for 27 years. Schmidt is a living legend at Volkswagen. Matters as important as the naming of a car had to cross his table, and had to be approved by “WP.”

Doing research on behalf of TTAC, Hahn contacted Schmidt. “Prof. Hahn asked  Schmidt what was behind the names of Polo, Golf, Scirocco and Passat,” reported Kittler yesterday. “Schmidt did not know about anything behind the names.”

After a thorough review of the documentation, and interviews with prominent witnesses, no support for any of the naming theories was found.

Kittler confirmed that there are many “legends and speculations” about the names, for instance that “Polo could have been a riff on Marco Polo, to hint on Volkswagen’s global vision.” However, as far as the man in charge of Volkswagen’s history is concerned, these explanations came after the fact.

The quest for a meaning is as powerful as nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum. We may have to accept that some things in life are meaningless.

Passat-cat Scirocco-cat Golf-cat Polo-cat

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TDI Troubles In The Land Of The Rising Sun http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/tdi-troubles-in-the-land-of-the-rising-sun/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/tdi-troubles-in-the-land-of-the-rising-sun/#comments Wed, 06 Mar 2013 13:11:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479921 The engine quit with a sudden un-dramatic snap, and the little Golf TDI began to slough off speed. Reflexively, I bumped the gearshift lever into neutral, flicked on my signal and began moving towards the left edge of the expressway. My exit was less than a mile away and, rather than stop alongside the highway, […]

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My TDI in Japan

The engine quit with a sudden un-dramatic snap, and the little Golf TDI began to slough off speed. Reflexively, I bumped the gearshift lever into neutral, flicked on my signal and began moving towards the left edge of the expressway. My exit was less than a mile away and, rather than stop alongside the highway, I used my momentum to coast up the off-ramp and over the small knoll that stood between the expressway and the toll plaza. I stopped there, on the back side of the hill where the road widened on the approach to the toll booths, to avoid blocking traffic and dug out my cell phone to call for a tow truck. I didn’t know it then, but it was the last time that I would ever sit behind the wheel of the little car, never mind the fact that it would follow me again around half of the globe.

I had purchased the dark blue VW diesel new before heading to Jamaica and the car had carried me faithfully, but not entirely without drama, during the two years I lived there. The problems were always small, window regulators, the brake like switch, an air bag light, and a check engine light among other things. They were more of a nuisance than anything else. There was a VW dealership in Kingston and they were quite professional but since I had purchased the car in the States, and then imported it to the island, none of these issues were handled under warranty. It was OK though, I really liked the car and so long as nothing big happened, I reasoned, I could foot the bill.

I check the map at a rest stop near Mt. Rokko in Hyogo Prefecture (2004)

After two years in the Caribbean, I moved to Japan, and the Volkswagen, after a delay that stretched into several months, followed me. It arrived in sorry shape, covered in filth and spattered with baked-on dead bugs from a trip across the USA on a car carrier. After so long apart, I was glad to see it and after a thorough cleaning, an oil change and a new set of tires, the car was road worthy. It was, I was told, the only Golf TDI in the country, and I enjoyed running around the Kansai region trailing a cloud of smelly black exhaust wherever I went. Unremarkable as it may have been in the USA, the car was a hit in Japan. VW fans often worked up the courage to bridge the cultural gulf to ask about it.

Times were good, for the most part. I had another broken window regulator, three out of the four VW logos spun off the center caps and I soon found out that there were no correct replacement batteries to be had, but I let these things slide. The car was unusual and quirky, after all, and inconvenience is the price you sometimes pay for cars like that.

Later when I transferred to Yokohama, I used the car to its best advantage to make the 5 hour drive down the Tomei and Meishin expressways almost every weekend to visit my wife who was at her parents’ house in Kyoto awaiting the birth of our first child. My little VW was not especially fast, but it ran well on the smooth high speed expressways of Japan. For once, it finally seemed to be just where it belonged.

On the Japanese expressway.

The car followed me to Okinawa in 2006 and, once again, it was put to work on my daily commute, a 20 minute drive that included surface streets and a bit of expressway. For the first few months, it seemed to be fine, but then, on one of my regular forays under the hood, I noticed that the coolant was low. Okinawa is hot, so I thought nothing of it and added some more coolant. A week later I got a low water alarm and, sure enough, the coolant was low again. Thus it began.

I have had to replace head gaskets before so I know what the signs are. I looked in all the usual places. There was no leaking water under the car, no sudden increase in my oil level, no oil floating on top of the coolant and no white plume out the back, so the signs were not obvious. It could be a weeping gasket, I thought, a leak small enough to suck the coolant slowly from the radiator without leaving a tell-tale trail of white smoke, so I took it to my local VW of Japan dealership to have them perform a test to see if I had combustion gases in my coolant.

It is a testament to my Japanese ability that I was able to use the language to berate the local VW technician well enough that he actually helped me. When first I arrived, he took one wide eyed look at the car and started to wave his hands. “We won’t service this.” He announced. But I wasn’t having any excuses and, after an ass chewing for the ages, he finally he agreed to perform the simple test I wanted. From the way he sucked air through his teeth as he worked, I knew it was bad news before he spoke. “It’s a head gasket,” He said sadly, “and there is no way I can fix it. We never sold these cars and we don’t have any training on them. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.” This time I didn’t give him any static, his words had the ring of truth.

A look at my garage.

At home that night I got out the rebuild manual I habitually carried and looked at the job. It was nothing I wanted to tangle with, honestly, but I felt confident I could do the work if I had to. The first step was parts so I got on-line and ordered everything the manual said I would need. It took weeks for everything to arrive and, in the mean time, I made sure the coolant levels stayed high and limited my trips as much as I could. Still, unwilling to commit myself to a project of that magnitude, I continued to examine my options.

Most Japanese mechanics are excellent and I was confident that, if I could find one who was willing to work on the car, they could fix it. The problem was none of them wanted to touch it. It was an unknown, and no one was willing to take the risk. There were no Japanese rebuild manuals for the car, and since mine was written in English it was useless to them. Eventually, I learned that my local Marine Corps Base had an auto shop, so I went down to see if they had a mechanic who could work on the car. Fortunately, or so I thought at the time, there was someone.

Photo I put in Craigslist

The kid looked like a typical grease monkey. He told his boss he knew all about VW diesels and that he had worked on them when he was based in Germany. His boss seemed convinced they could handle the job and agreed to take it ,so I gave them the little car, the parts and went off confident that my worries were over.

A month later the car had not been completed and I found myself back down at the shop looking around. The kid was nowhere in sight but my car was over in the corner with its hood ajar so I went to look at it. I raised the hood and found myself looking at the shop floor – the engine was gone and my blood pressure jumped. Unhappily I tracked down the ship manager and asked what the hell was going on.

The kid, it turned out, didn’t have the experience he had claimed and there had been a problem. The manager told me that they had already ordered new parts and the work would be handed over to the lead tech who, with my rebuild manual, would put the car back together correctly. Until then I could use a small Mazda loaner and was assured that when the car was ready I would not have to pay a dime for the work. Free is good, but it wasn’t like I could do much anyhow, so I accepted their offer as graciously as I could and left them to it.

Two months later the Volkswagen came home. There were still a few issues with it, most notably a couple of the vacuum lines had been misrouted, but at least it ran. It did OK on the highway but seemed a little down on power. It didn’t matter, I told myself, I was slated to rotate home in another two months and when I got back stateside, I could get the car sorted and decide then whether or not I wanted to keep it. My plan worked for three weeks.

After an uncomfortably long wait, the tow truck arrived, carried the car home and dropped it in my driveway. The VW remained there for the rest of my time in Okinawa and, a day or two before I headed back to the States, another truck came to haul it to the port. While I completed my move and enjoyed a vacation back at home in Washington State before heading on to Buffalo, the little car was put into a container, sent across the Pacific, through the Panama Canal and up the east coast to a port in New Jersey. The first I heard of its arrival was when the shipper called to inform me that one of the world’s best traveled car had arrived with a major case of mold on the interior.

Nice and clean inside!

Although I offered to sell the car to the shipper for a reasonable cost, they elected to clean it prior to delivery and three weeks later the Golf rolled off a ramp truck at my apartment in Buffalo. It looked pretty good for all the trouble it had been through and, together, the tow truck driver and I pushed it into a parking spot. The next day, I took some photos and prepared a brief Craigslist ad explaining that the car had a blown engine and was being sold “as is.” I figured it was a long shot, but I asked $3,500.

Long shot or not, my phone rang off the hook all day long and a guy named Hank was waiting for me when I got home from work. He looked the car over quite thoroughly and offered me $2,500. We dickered for a while and then met in the middle at $3,000. The next day he came back, laid down the cash and put it on a trailer. As he rolled away, I realized that the car had become just another unhappy part of my personal history. I was happy to be rid of it.

Hank called again in mid-December. My exportation and subsequent re-importation of the little car and wreaked havoc on the title process but since I had given him the Certificate of Origin we could sort it out with just a couple of signatures. We met at a local bank and while we waited for the notary he told me the rest of the story.

My TDI back in the USA – One of the photos that went on Craigslist

The un-dramatic snapping sound I had heard had been the catastrophic destruction of the engine. One of the valves, which had probably been damaged when one of the Marine Corps’ mechanics had turned the engine over without ensuring the timing was perfect, had broken off and fallen into the cylinder bore. Once there, it had wreaked all kinds of havoc. It gouged the cylinder walls, ruined the head, broke the piston into pieces and sent metal shards out the exhaust port and into the turbo where they destroyed that part as well. According to Hank, the engine was in such poor shape he had purchased a replacement drive train for the car.

The process had been expensive, Hank told me, but the little car, with less than 30,000 miles on it, would bring good money when he went to resell it. Someone, he explained happily as we shook hands on parting, would pay good money for it. Too true, I thought, and if they have the same kind of luck I had with it, they will keep on paying for a long, long time. I hope they like lemonade.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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From XL-1 to Veneno, Volkswagen Shows Cars For Everyman http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/from-xl-1-to-veneno-volkswagen-shows-cars-for-everyman/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/from-xl-1-to-veneno-volkswagen-shows-cars-for-everyman/#comments Tue, 05 Mar 2013 11:05:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480133 The volks who worry about Volkswagen being incapable of directing its big band of brands should make a trip to Geneva. Today, the boys from Wolfsburg launch a barrage at all target groups. Aimed at the “blogger who drives mother’s old Celica and googles for super car pics” segment, Lamborghini delivers more bull: Lamborghini’s 750 […]

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The volks who worry about Volkswagen being incapable of directing its big band of brands should make a trip to Geneva. Today, the boys from Wolfsburg launch a barrage at all target groups.

Aimed at the “blogger who drives mother’s old Celica and googles for super car pics” segment, Lamborghini delivers more bull:

Lamborghini’s 750 hp Veneno fits that segment like a USB gaming glove, and it is priced right: At an MSRP of $4.65 million, the production run of three (yes, three) is probably just right. Five would be channel stuffing.

 

The design – clearly inspired by the package design of overclocked Taiwanese motherboards, with a riff on late night vegetable cutter infomercials – is perfect. The crowd loves it. The engine, well, the engine still needs some work. Despite finely honed product planning, the target audience is complaining. Not about the price of the car. About its lack of power: Just 750 hp? The covers were barely pulled off the latest bull by buxom product specialists, and the target audience is already moaning into its keyboards:

“My reaction wasn’t ‘750hp, Holy crap!’, but rather ‘Really? That’s it?’”

+1 , +1, +1

“Its like seriously WTF.”

XL-1

There will be some who complain that the three 750hp Lamborghinis will seriously enlarge the WTF ozone hole. For those, Volkswagen offers, on the other side of the spectrum, its 261 mpg XL-1 super green machine.

Prices are still a secret, the rumor machine cites six figure numbers. Like Lamborghini’s bull, the XL-1 is made from sheets of hand-laid unobtanium and provides similar cramped interior space. Volkswagen brought what looks like this year’s full production run to Geneva.

For the silent majority,.Volkswagen shows at least 6 Golfs, from a natural gas powered Golf TGI Bluemotion all the way to a hot station wagon, the Golf Estate R-Line.

The bull gets the Tweets, the Golf gets the volume.

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Light On Top: VW Golf Carbon GTI http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/light-on-top-vw-golf-carbon-gti/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/light-on-top-vw-golf-carbon-gti/#comments Wed, 20 Feb 2013 16:04:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=478195 Shuffled off to the side of the Volkswagen display at the Canadian International Auto Show was this Golf, sporting a carbon fibre roof and side mirrors. Back in September, VW announced a planned Golf ‘Carbon’ GTI that intends to use these carbon fibre bits plus fashion its front bulkhead and floorpan out of lightweight aluminium. […]

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Shuffled off to the side of the Volkswagen display at the Canadian International Auto Show was this Golf, sporting a carbon fibre roof and side mirrors.

Back in September, VW announced a planned Golf ‘Carbon’ GTI that intends to use these carbon fibre bits plus fashion its front bulkhead and floorpan out of lightweight aluminium. While this car was devoid of GTI badges, it did have these same carbon fibre treatments. Sadly, VW would not allow TTAC to tear up the carpet and see if the floor was made of aluminium. These changes reportedly shave about 200kg off the weight of a normal GTI.

It may be one of a few special packages offered in 2014, commemorating the Golf’s 40th year. If equipped with the standard 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine, a Carbon GTI could fire off a 0-60 time of less than 6 seconds.

IMG_5282 IMG_5283 IMG_5284 IMG_5285 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Volkswagen Replaces Aluminum With Steel To Save Weight And Money http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/volkswagen-replaces-aluminum-with-steel-to-save-weight-and-money/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/volkswagen-replaces-aluminum-with-steel-to-save-weight-and-money/#comments Thu, 24 Jan 2013 20:20:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=475097 Here is today’s other baffling science story: In its quest to save weight, Volkswagen is ripping aluminum out of plans and bills-of–material, to replace it – with steel. Not good old steel. They replace it with much better new steel. According to Reuters, “Volkswagen AG is using new high-strength steel to make cars lighter and […]

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Here is today’s other baffling science story: In its quest to save weight, Volkswagen is ripping aluminum out of plans and bills-of–material, to replace it – with steel. Not good old steel. They replace it with much better new steel. According to Reuters, “Volkswagen AG is using new high-strength steel to make cars lighter and comply with strict emissions rules, confounding forecasts that aluminum would be the metal of choice for reducing weight.”

High tensile steel is up to six times stronger than conventional steel, and helped Volkswagen reduce the new Golf’s weight by about 100 kg, while also saving money. “Aluminum is about a third of the weight of conventional steel but costs three times as much,” says Reuters (let them answer the fuming mails by irate nerds who insist that such a statement is utter nonsense.)

“Volkswagen is using high-strength steels in increasing amounts. It is a very cost effective way of reducing weight,” Armin Plath, VW’s head of materials research and manufacturing, told Reuters in an interview. “Using new innovations in steel engineering… it is possible to reduce weight without the use for more costly materials such as aluminum and carbon fiber.”  Volkswagen uses hot formed advanced high strength and ultra-high-strength steel. Other companies also increasingly use these materials.

However, Volkswagen may have to change its mind after all. Said Plath:

“If you now want to go beyond what is currently achievable, then maybe it will be required to use other materials such as aluminum and fiber re-enforced plastics.”

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Vellum Venom Vignette: More Cluster Commotions? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/vellum-venom-vignette-more-cluster-commotions/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/vellum-venom-vignette-more-cluster-commotions/#comments Sun, 13 Jan 2013 18:09:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=473461 Question #1. TTAC commentator Seminole95 writes: Sajeev, I have another question for you. Why do auto manufacturers increasingly make cars with hard to read speedometers? I was thinking of buying a Mustang, but I could not tell easily how fast I was going. The new Accord speedometer is harder to read than previous models. My […]

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Question #1. TTAC commentator Seminole95 writes:

Sajeev, I have another question for you.

Why do auto manufacturers increasingly make cars with hard to read speedometers? I was thinking of buying a Mustang, but I could not tell easily how fast I was going. The new Accord speedometer is harder to read than previous models.

My commute speed limit is 45 mph. I set the cruise at 54, because I have been told that police don’t start ticketing until you get 10 mph over the limit. I can’t see the 54 mph tick easily when the speedometer is hard to read.

Sajeev Answers:

Why? For the same reason they give us no rearward visibility! They don’t care about style with substance. And cameras/TV screens are cheap to install, and a nice option package for you to buy. If you can’t see behind you or look at your gauges, don’t worry: THERE IS A TV SCREEN YOU CAN USE INSTEAD. Woot!

Agreed on the 2005-up Mustang gauge cluster’s horrible ergonomics. But then again, we love our retro Mustang-Clydesdale design (not me)…don’t we? The worst was definitely the first Bullitt Mustang (branded) of the SN-95 variety. It was the one that set the bad precedent. The one that told common sense to go pound sand.

OH NOES WTF IS GOING ON?!? Or conversely: I’m Steve McQueen biatch, I don’t care how fast I’m going!!!

Question #2. Anonymous writes:

In the vein of ATS cluster article, what gives with the speedo on my new-ish Golf?

Up to 80mph, it’s one metric and above 80 it’s another. Before I noticed the disparity, I thought I was cruising along at 85mph because I had the needle pegged on the unmarked tick above 80. Little did I realize I was going 90, because I normally have the display set to fuel economy, not the digital speedo. What was VW thinking?

Sajeev Answers:

Dude are you really trying to hold your phone, snap a photo while exceeding (probably) the speed limit?  I’ve seen worse, but still…COME ON SON! I gotta slap wrists, and make this one Anonymous.

I don’t have a big problem with this setup, as there is enough space between the letters and a seasoned owner learns the denomination change over.  I’m not saying that VW gave you the best cluster but it’s okay.  Even without the redundant digi-gauge in the center!

Okay, I’m lying, I do have a problem with the cluster: 160mph? Really?  In a Golf? This is a good speedo for a high-performance model, exclusively.  Case in point:

 

This is the cluster from my 1988 Mercury Cougar XR-7.  Sort of, because it’s a Fox body bastard like everything else in my ride.  I added two different Thunderbird Turbo Coupe tachometers (1985 for the face, 1987 for the guts) and the stupid-rare Ford Motorsport 140 MPH speedometer.

Two design beefs: Yes, I have a factory looking 24PSI boost gauge, but I don’t have a turbo on my 5.0L V8…yet. Yes, this speedo is better than the factory unit (85MPH) but the selection of big numbers to highlight isn’t logical (115MPH?). But they chose the highlights that make it flow nicely.

Is this Cougar a bad design too?  Not really.  The speedometer is odd, but awesome.  Considering Ford Motorsport actually made a proper speedo for a unique vehicle (Thunderbird/Cougar only) this is impressive.  It makes me wonder if the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe was actually used by certain government agencies with alphabet names and covert operations. 

You know, covert operations demand a 140MPH speedometer in your jet black Turbo Coupe. Maybe someone at Ford knows the truth, as we all love the myth(?) of the Buick Grand National Turbos supposedly bought by the CIA. And how that somehow inspired the insane Buick GNX. Fiction is fun!

But your Golf? Not really. Just give it a boring speedometer, and let some idiot like me upgrade it with the Golf R unit several decades from now.

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Piston Slap: Modifying the 80-year old with the clap? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/piston-slap-modifying-the-80-year-old-with-the-clap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/piston-slap-modifying-the-80-year-old-with-the-clap/#comments Wed, 14 Nov 2012 18:14:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466902 Stephen writes: I have a 1.8T GTI, owned since new and more or less problem-free. Its clutch went early, and it occasionally eats a sensor, but otherwise it’s been a contrast to the image of VWs as unreliable money-pits. Now, this is a MKIV, which if you listen to Jeremy Clarkson or any of the […]

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Stephen writes:

I have a 1.8T GTI, owned since new and more or less problem-free. Its clutch went early, and it occasionally eats a sensor, but otherwise it’s been a contrast to the image of VWs as unreliable money-pits. Now, this is a MKIV, which if you listen to Jeremy Clarkson or any of the VWvortex boffins, is about as desirable as an 80-year old Russian lady with the clap.

But it’s fine – enough get up and go to entertain me, and it handles fine. I’ve tried a new GTI – the DSG model gets to 160kph astonishingly fast with very little drama, but between the sound insulation and the (better) suspension the overall experience is a bit numb. In the MKIV you know you’re up to something.

My instinct is to do some performance upgrades and have some fun with it, as long as gas is cheap, then pick up a performance diesel in a few years if manufacturers can ever get around to importing them, 535d notwithstanding (errr, $50k).

Sajeev answers:

ZOMG SON, don’t you know that everyone on the Internet (and Jeremy Clarkson in particular) are never wrong? Never, never, ever.

I do consider the MKIV Golf to be a colossal turd, but with a caveat: everything is awesome when the original owner loves and cares for their machine.  Turbo SAABs, 3.8L Sables, 2.7L Chryslers, Diamond Star Triplets, etc…you see my point. But is it wise to start modifying such a troubleprone platform?

My beef with your plan is that modified GTIs are the usually the examples with serious problems, even if you aren’t the stereotypical GTI owner at this stage of the depreciation curve.  I would go super conservative: no turbo upgrades, no crazy electrics bound to wreak havoc on an already fragile German system.  My thoughts, in more detail but still generalized cuz I don’t know shit about Vee-Dubs:

  • Exhaust upgrades are great for Turbos: consider eliminating the stock muffler (straight pipe a la Dodge SRT-4, the turbo is already a muffler) and upgrading the catalytic convertor to a higher-flow unit.
  • Intake tube/air cleaner modifications or replacement with aftermarket part.  Just make sure you don’t replace your respectable cold-air setup for a ricey hot-air intake.  It must be isolated from engine heat.
  • Stock springs with your choice of premium shock: Koni, Bilstein, etc.
  • Swaybar upgrades? Not sure, but a matched set is always important in my world of Ford restomods.
  • ECU reflash: something mild, nothing insane.
  • Intercooler upgrade: if for no other reason other than to keep the system cooler and therefore healthier.
  • Sticky Summer tires to hold everything down to the road.

Good luck with your impending nightmare!

 

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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QOTD: Klaus Bischoff On Maturity http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/qotd-klaus-bischoff-on-maturity/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/qotd-klaus-bischoff-on-maturity/#comments Fri, 19 Oct 2012 14:16:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=464244 “When you are a young designer of course, you think everything is wrong and should be different… You want to conquer the world and with great ideas. But over the time you have to really understand what Golf is, what VW is, And to mature to a certain degree, I needed that time. It took […]

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“When you are a young designer of course, you think everything is wrong and should be different… You want to conquer the world and with great ideas. But over the time you have to really understand what Golf is, what VW is, And to mature to a certain degree, I needed that time. It took 15 years before I really knew what I was talking about.”

The quote above comes from an interview with Klaus Bischoff, Executive Director of Volkswagen Design, regarding the seventh-generation Golf. I found it hit home – when I arrived at TTAC, I thought that I was all-knowledgable, that verbosity, snark and humor thrown into a blender was the recipe for a world-class car review, that brown wagons were the solution to all the problems of the auto industry. What I didn’t know could fill volumes.

My birthday is tomorrow, and in the eyes of most of you, I will still be a mere neophyte. My one year anniversary at TTAC is closing in quicker and quicker, and it seems like forever ago that I wrote the now-infamous “game changer” post about the new Ford Fusion. I still think I’ll be vindicated.

I’ve been humbled by Bertel’s patient mentorship, Jack’s command of the English language, the real-world experience of Sajeev and Steve, Murilee’s ability to take his encyclopedic knowledge of the automobile and put out an article about it every single day, Alex and Michael’s painstakingly prepared reviews and Ronnie’s ability to pull diamonds from the rough on a weekly basis. And to you the readers, for catching mistakes, adding information and insights to my articles and making the site what it is. Without you all, I wouldn’t have any command of topics like manufacturing, finance, the economics of vehicle development, CAFE, marketing or sales analysis. That’s not to say I am all the way there yet, but your help has cut the time down from 15 years to significantly shorter.

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