The Truth About Cars » Golf The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Golf Rigged Voting May Lead ADAC To Scrap Annual Award Fri, 24 Jan 2014 11:00:44 +0000 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.

]]> 9
Fore! Volkswagen Makes 30 Millionth Golf Fri, 14 Jun 2013 16:06:54 +0000 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.

]]> 17
Inside The Industry: TTAC Finds The Missing Etymology Of Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo Fri, 24 May 2013 11:01:52 +0000 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.


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.


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.


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 ]]> 19
TDI Troubles In The Land Of The Rising Sun Wed, 06 Mar 2013 13:11:13 +0000

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.

]]> 78
From XL-1 to Veneno, Volkswagen Shows Cars For Everyman Tue, 05 Mar 2013 11:05:35 +0000

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.”


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.

]]> 18
Light On Top: VW Golf Carbon GTI Wed, 20 Feb 2013 16:04:12 +0000

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 ]]> 13
Volkswagen Replaces Aluminum With Steel To Save Weight And Money Thu, 24 Jan 2013 20:20:43 +0000 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.”

]]> 49
Vellum Venom Vignette: More Cluster Commotions? Sun, 13 Jan 2013 18:09:42 +0000

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.

]]> 55
Piston Slap: Modifying the 80-year old with the clap? Wed, 14 Nov 2012 18:14:32 +0000 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 Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

]]> 13
QOTD: Klaus Bischoff On Maturity Fri, 19 Oct 2012 14:16:41 +0000

“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.

]]> 20
Golf Mk VII To Be Made In Mexico, China Wed, 03 Oct 2012 14:31:18 +0000


The seventh generation of Volkswagen’s venerable and best-selling hatch, the Golf, has barely been launched in Europe, and Volkswagen is already looking into producing it abroad. Volkswagen aims at two regions that usually prefer cars with trunks: China and America.

For North American production, there are two options: The modern plant in Chattanooga, or Volkswagen’s Mexican base, Puebla. According to Germany’s Automobilwoche [sub], the car will most likely be made in Mexico.

“The capacities in Chattanooga are currently exhausted,” Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn told the paper. “If we expand there, then probably for a new SUV that is a little larger than the Tiguan.”

Production of the Golf Mk VII will likely start in Mexico in late 2014, or early 2015.

China will get a domesticated Golf earlier, probably in late 2013, says Automobilwoche. Production will move to Volkswagen’s new plant in Foshan in southern China.

]]> 15
Pictures Of Golf 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Tue, 04 Sep 2012 21:43:55 +0000

Today, the seventh generation of the Volkswagen Golf was presented in Berlin. 38 years after the launch of the first Golf in 1974, and 29.13 million cars later, Volkswagen shows a new Golf that is 100 kg lighter and up to 23 per cent more fuel efficient that the predecessor. If a new Golf ever was “all new” then this one: Built with the new MQB architecture, everything in the new Golf had to be redesigned. And here is a picture count-up, from first to newest.

Golf 1

Golf 2

Golf 3

Golf 4

Golf 5

Golf 6

Golf 7

Golf 1 Golf 2 Golf 3 Golf 4 Golf 5 Golf 6 Golf 7 Golf 7 back 2. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Golf 7. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Golf 7 dash. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Golf 7 dash. Picture courtesy Volkswagen.jpg Golf 7 front 2. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Golf 7. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Golf 7 side 2. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Golf 7. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Golf 7 studio. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 63
Volkswagen Wants To Overtake GM. In A Golf Tue, 04 Sep 2012 11:17:52 +0000

“Volkswagen is on course to bump General Motors into the world no.3 ranking this year,” writes Reuters. That’s not all. Volkswagen “aims to sell a world-leading 10 million vehicles by 2018, up from the 8.36 million recorded last year, and push past Toyota.”

The car that is supposed to lead Volkswagen to world domination is an also-ran in the U.S., but it is one of the world’s most sold cars. It is the Golf, and its seventh generation will be revealed tonight in Berlin at the Neue Nationalgalerie, the Mies van der Rohe designed temple of modern art.

“Success of the new Golf is absolutely critical to VW’s expansion targets but the new version will be battling in a tough environment,” said Stefan Bratzel, head of the Center of Automotive Management think-tank near Cologne, told Reuters.

It is also the first full scale roll-out of the new MQB architecture. This architecture makes the word “platform” obsolete. Instead, is a system of standardized building blocks. Says VW R&D Boss Ulrich Hackenberg:

“It gives us the possibility to produce models from different segments and in varying sizes using the same basic front-end architecture. We can go from a typical hatchback to a saloon, cabriolet and SUV with only detailed changes to the size of the wheel carriers.”

The new technology aims to make production of 3.5 million small- and mid-sized cars 20 percent cheaper, and shorten assembly time by 30 percent. It also can significantly shorten time to market.

Top 3 World, July Production and Full Year Forecast
7M ’12 7M ’11 YoY Proj ’12
Toyota 6,126,101 4,054,608 51.1% 10,502,000
GM 5,619,000 5,515,000 1.9% 9,633,000
Volkswagen 5,190,000 4,750,000 9.3% 8,897,000
Black: Company data. Blue: Projection, based on last available
Toyota, GM: Production. VW: Deliveries. Forecast by TTAC

Whether Volkswagen will bump GM to third place this year is very doubtful. As the results of the seventh lap of the race of the world’s largest automakers show, Volkswagen is far behind leading Toyota and second-placed GM. To bump GM, Volkswagen would have to rev up production a lot, and GM would have to fail big-time in the second half of the year. Also, Volkswagen needs to aim much higher than 10 million by 2018. Toyota is set to reach 10 million this year.

]]> 37
Love Me Render, Love Me True, All My Dreams Fulfilled Sat, 01 Sep 2012 13:00:23 +0000

As a moderator on a Golf/GTI forum, the past weeks have been overrun with posts like ”THE REAL GOLF MKVII!!” with information inside saying it will have 600 horsepower, 12 transmission options, and the ECU will call the FBI if you attempt to tune it. They are always accompanied by an image that is as authentic to reality as a photo of Sadam’s secret WMD garage.

Lastly, they always link back to a few usual suspects. These are blogs that drive clicks by praying on that very instinct we have to try and find our hidden present. They have goofy names, intrusive advertising, and (until recently) it seemed they all had white or red text on a black background. They are the ones that ran the picture of the Focus RS in Detroit as proof it IS coming here. These are the dregs of automotive ”journalism.”

One of the best things in life is anticipation. From wondering what your parents got you for your birthday; to seeing what girls are in a college class on the first day of the semester; to the moment before your wife walks down the aisle when you are getting married, anticipation is simultaneously one of the most pleasurable and most frustrating emotions we experience. Yet it truly makes the experience so much more exciting.

Some of my strongest memories are when my parents rolling out a Gulf Liveried Pedal Car on an early birthday; or the feeling of excitement realizing a beautiful woman is in one of your classes (only to figure out that you walked into the wrong one, even though you were a senior); to the overwhelming joy of seeing that same woman turn the corner to walk down the aisle to you. All of these events are memorable in their own right, but the addition of that anticipation increase the emotional response tenfold.

Anyone in sales knows this. Float a product as an idea, follow up a short time later with a potential feature set, accidentally show an outline, release the real thing to an anxious public. Automakers are particularly adept at this.

Yet we are impatient. How many times did you try and find your birthday present? Or ask a friend that works in the registrar ”who’s in my class?” Or ask your new sister-in-law ”how does she look?” Enter the automotive render and the speculative blog/forum post.

Now, I love speculation as much as the next (car) guy. Give me some data to work with, I am happy to discuss (at length) what strategic moves company X should take to ensure their survival past a date of Y. Or why company Z would be nuts to not bring (or to bring) a certain vehicle to North America. Often I am wrong, but the conversations can be interesting, engaging, and fun. Yet when I am speculating, I am not presenting this exercise as anything but speculation. It’s not ”I have it on good authority” or ”sources say.” It’s simply speculation,  and it should always be presented as such.

Their speculation and images are driven by a desire to increase page views rather than to provide a service. They, frankly, contribute nothing to the community. We can combat their dreck; refute it, ignore it, ridicule it.

Let’s enjoy the anticipation. Let’s wait until our birthday to unwrap that present.

]]> 10
Junkyard Find: 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit 3-Door Mon, 27 Aug 2012 13:00:33 +0000 The non-convertible Mk1 VW Golf was sold in the United States through the 1984 model year and the Cabriolet version well into the 1990s, which means that most of the examples you see in high-turnover wrecking yards nowadays are the soft-top variety. I have a friend who is trying to get a long-idle GTI project into streetworthy condition, and so I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a 3-door hatch Mk1 Rabbit with black interior for him. After six months of spotting Cabrios and the occasional hooptied-out 5-door, I found this ’79 in a Denver self-serve yard.
Not many econoboxes came with factory fuel injection in 1979. The (gasoline-powered) Rabbit was more fun to drive than most of its Malaise Era Japanese and Detroit competition, but still intolerably slow by present-day standards. Fuel economy was great, though.
The round headlights indicate that we’re looking at a car built in Germany, not Pennsylvania.

“I owned my last Volkswagen for seven years!”

12 - 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 64
More Car, Less Filling: Volkswagen Launches New Golf Generation Wed, 22 Aug 2012 14:06:32 +0000

It’s a little less than 40 years ago that a newly minted copywriter called Bertel Schmitt wrote his first ads for a newly minted car called Volkswagen Golf. As chronicled in the Autobiography of BS, the car became an involuntary star. At its launch, everybody at Volkswagen was convinced it would be a dud.

29 million cars later, the Golf is one of the world’s most sold cars, and by large Volkswagen’s most important.  In a few weeks, Volkswagen will launch its all—new seventh generation of the Golf,  the emm-kay seven in blogger parlance. This is a make-or-break launch. If something would go wrong with this launch, it would be doubly bad for Volkswagen. The new Golf also is the first Volkswagen that is based on VW’s new modular MQB architecture.

The Golf VII is already being produced in Wolfsburg under a cloak of secrecy. A few journalists were allowed to touch, but not to see. They could sit in a new Golf that was still covered by a big tarp. And they had to surrender their camera-equipped cell phones. Today, the embargo on Volkswagen-supplied pictures lifted.  Pictures of the car will be supplied later.

Wait, auto motor und sport has pictures – of a Golf dressed in fetish gear.

The most important innovation: Despite growing a bit in length and girth, the seventh generation Golf is 100 kg  (220 lb) lighter than its predecessor.  The Golf is now at the lightweight level of the 4th generation Golf. The car will get an up to 23 percent better mileage, and will not cost more than the current model, says Volkswagen.

This weight reduction was not achieved “with expensive materials such as aluminum, magnesium or carbon fiber,” writes Der Spiegel. Volkswagen engineers systematically hunted for weight savings.

Electrical parts did shed 3 kilos, the engines lost 22 kgs. 26 kilos were saved in the chassis, 37 in the Golf’s body. Seats could become lighter and less bulky through the use of high tensile steel.

Using “tailored blanks,” metal is only used where needed.

In the past, Volkswagen engineers were proud of the straight line weld achieved through the use of a laser. Now, they brag of “wobble welds.” Those are laser welds that look like a sine curve, allowing firm weld with a minimum of overlap.

The new Golf is “equipped with all imaginable infotainment and electronic assistance gadgets,” writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. It even has a new “multi collision brake” that tries to avoid a second impact after initial collision.

The new Golf will meet formidable opposition in Daimler’s new Mercedes A-Class and Toyota’s new hatched Corolla, the Auris.  This time, nobody at Volkswagen doubts that the car will be a success.

Note to GM: Despite a once in a generation model change, and a once in a lifetime changeover to a completely new car architecture that requires completely new production methods, Volkswagen did not pile up inventories of the Golf 6, and does not shut down factories for months.  It is a smooth and fluid changeover. During the three week vacation time from July 30 through August 17, one line was kept running to fill demand, while elsewhere, the lines were re-rigged for the new Golf VII.

]]> 48
Because Not Every Old VW Deserves To Live: Fetching Crusher Food! Fri, 13 Jul 2012 14:00:01 +0000 You don’t need a good reason to visit the Mecca of Colorado wrecking yards on the Fourth of July, but we had one: I was tagging along on a mission to grab a couple of dead Rabbits that could be turned into cash at Denver’s ever-ravenous Crusher/shredder. Here’s how the scrap-metal food chain that (mostly) ends in a Chinese foundry gets its roughage.
Andy, LeMons racer, automotive entrepreneur, and owner of a righteous yard-o-cars himself, had bought a couple of Malaise Era Volkswagen Rabbits at the Junkyard of Melted Brains a decade or so back, and he decided to celebrate our nation’s 236th birthday by driving 100 miles each way to pick them up. The key to this journey was his recent obtainment of a 1975 Chevrolet Scottsdale flatbed truck with a vintage flame job and a sufficiently low bed to allow Rabbit stacking.
It was 100 degrees out and the air conditioning was broken, but the bigger worry was the 454′s problem with fuel starvation due to bad-gas-induced clogging. Andy had flushed the tank and cleaned out the lines, but bad gas is sort of like nuclear waste; it tends to keep on contaminating for years.
The truck had problems climbing grades in hot weather, and you get plenty of grades and heat on I-25 on the Fourth of July. A stop to replace the fuel filter seemed to help.
Finally, we reached the dirt road that led to the JOMB.
Located way in the back of the yard were the VWs: a light blue Rabbit C Diesel and a gray Rabbit LS.
I was so mesmerized by the acres of vintage machinery that I didn’t offer much help loading the Rabbits. Just as well, because Andy mashed a middle finger right off the bat, and I probably would have found a way to smash the other one.
Rich has a GTI project that could use a radiator, and the Diesel Rabbit had a good one. Out it came!
These guys have a lot of experience hauling cars to The Crusher, so they knew they had to shorten the bottom car of the stack. Rabbits aren’t exactly substantial, particularly when built in Pennsylvania, so the Sawzall didn’t meet with much resistance.
After cutting the pillars and bending the roof back, the second car was ready for its parking space.
The LS got tipped up on its side, so that Andy could harvest the catalytic converter. It turns out that this was a very rare LS with factory air conditioning but not power steering. Is it worth anything? Yes, about $200/ton.
Next, the LS is eased into its position atop the Diesel.
Plenty of space for low bridges!
After the attachment of endless hooks, tie-downs, and cables, we were ready to go.
The truck ran much better in the cool evening air. Here’s my view out the rear cab window.
We stopped for a nice meal during our journey north to Denver.
Meanwhile, property values for the entire neighborhood plummeted. Multiply this trip to The Crusher by several thousand, every day, and you’ll get an idea of how the global steel industry gets much of its raw material.

20 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 01 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 02 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 03 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 04 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 05 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 06 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 07 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 08 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 09 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 10 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 11 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 12 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 13 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 14 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 15 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 16 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 17 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 18 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 19 - Junkyard Volkswagen Rabbit Crushing Journey 2012-07-04_21-48-59_420 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 12
Junkyard Find: 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup Tue, 13 Mar 2012 13:00:21 +0000 Americans have never had many choices for front-wheel-drive pickup trucks; you could make your own by dropping a random pickup bed on a Sawzall-ized Sentra, or you could go with an Omnirizon-based Dodge Rampage or a Golf-based VW Caddy. Not many Rampages or Rabbit pickups left, though I did find this ’80 VW in a Denver junkyard last year. Now here’s another one, apparently quite unrusted, getting ready to be eaten by The Crusher.
Small pickups have no place in 21st-century America, because small pickups are glass-half-empty reminders of life’s limitations. Still, these things sipped gas (or, if you were very patient on freeway onramps, diesel) and could haul a surprising amount of cargo.
One can only imagine what happened to this truck’s 62 horses when the AC compressor went into action. Perhaps it was best to limit use of the air conditioning to roads with steep downhill grades.
These trucks have a small but fanatically devoted following, so it’s safe to assume that most of the good parts on this truck will get rescued by members of the Denver chapter of the Caddy Jihad.

15 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 01 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 02 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 03 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 04 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 05 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 06 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 07 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 08 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 09 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 10 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 11 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 12 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 14 - 1982 Volkswagen Caddy Down on the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden rabbit Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 63
Pre-Production Review: Volkswagen Golf blue-e-motion Tue, 19 Jul 2011 21:09:56 +0000

As I noted in an earlier piece on the macro-level issues with EVs, it’s dangerously misleading to assume that electric cars can simply replace internal combustion-engine vehicles without a basic re-think of nearly every way in which we relate to our cars. That’s true in terms of consumer-end issues like refueling grid impacts and “range anxiety” but it’s also true in terms of manufacturer-end issues like development and differentiation. It’s even true for the auto media.

One of the giant re-thinks spawned by EV development is in how manufacturers make their vehicles reflect their brand values and stand out in the marketplace, as the electric motor in (say) a Ferrari EV wouldn’t be as fundamentally different as an electric motor in (say) a Kia. This, in turn, makes reviewing EVs extremely difficult, as they all display similar power attributes, weight challenges, single-speed transmissions and battery ranges. So when you are asked to drive a pre-production EV from a major manufacturer, the major question in the mind of the conscientious reporter is the same as the question that drove the vehicle’s development: how is this vehicle different than any other EV? In the case of the Golf blue-e-motion, the answer to that question reflects the challenges of developing a major-market electric vehicle.

But before we dive into what makes the Golf blue-e-motion unique, we have some background to get through. Having spent the last decade joining its German brethren in poo-poo-ing EVs and hybrids, Volkswagen has finally decided that it makes sense to develop a pure EV for eventual mass-market sales. And rather than buying into a company like Tesla, as VW’s arch-rival Toyota did, VW set up its own battery research team around Tesla founder and former CEO Martin Eberhard. When I toured VW’s Palo Alto Electronics Research Lab last year, Eberhard’s contribution was already visible in the form of renderings of battery arrays for this Golf blue-e-motion and the Audi e-tron electric sportscars. Just like the battery packs that Eberhard developed at Tesla, the VW systems eschew the expensive prismatic cells used by Nissan’s Leaf and Chevy’s Volt in favor of 18650 cells, the cheapest, most-produced format for lithium-ion cells. Using these cells, argues VW, will make its packs more energy-dense, safer and cheaper than the competition. And to think, they got so much of the 18650 array know-how without even buying into the strategic nightmare that is Tesla!

In the Golf blue-e-motion, 180 of these AA battery-sized 18650 cells are packed into modules, 30 of which are assembled into a pack that occupies the bottom and rear of the car, including the cargo area underfloor, under the rear seats, and in the central tunnel of the Golf’s underbody. With active air/water thermal management, the battery pack weighs nearly 700 lbs, but thanks to a lightweight electric motor and other weight-saving measures, it ends up weighing about 3,400 lbs, just 50 lbs more than Nissan’s Leaf (which does not have active thermal management) and 450 lbs more than a Golf TDI with DSG. And because that weight is all concentrated low and to the center of the car, it carries its weight through the corners with the grace of a much lighter car (as do most EVs).

Volkswagen estimates that the 26.5 kWh battery array can power the Golf to a maximum range of 93 miles, for functionally similar usability as a Nissan Leaf (provided these numbers hold up in testing, we weren’t allowed to test range on our drive).

But, also like most EVs, the Golf blue-e-motion only feels remotely sprightly from a stop, when its zero-RPM max torque twists it from a stop with adequate brio (VW estimates 11.8 seconds for 0-60). Though it offers a lower peak output of 85 kW than the Chevy Volt (with 111 kW) and a slower 06-60 time (by nearly three seconds), it feels remarkably similar in terms of seat-of-the-pants performance in the moderately-trafficked street conditions I saw in our test drive in Wolfsburg. Fun for the first few seconds followed by some building frustration at the single-geared drivetrain (which the Volt mitigates slightly better) is the major impression. All told, the Volt is quicker and possibly a bit more fun to toss in the corners, but the distinction is basically academic as neither car is performance oriented in any meaningful sense.

One strange feature that took some getting used to: the lack of “creep” when you take your foot off the brake. Whereas the Volt eases forward when you let off the brake, just like an automatic-equipped ICE car, the Golf blue-emotion just sits there like it’s in neutral (or using a stop-start-equipped ICE) until you give the throttle a hesitant stab. It doesn’t actively interfere with driving, but with 100 percent of your torque available at 0 RPM, the lack of ease-in might make some American drivers uneasy. Use a steady right foot and you’ll have no problems, and it seems like the kind of issue that one would stop noticing after even a few hours with the car.

Thus far, the Golf’s lack of off-throttle creep is its most distinctive characteristic among EVs. And VW could have simply left the development there, fighting the Leaf on a relatively level field (100 mile range with adequate performance and space) while adding a Volt-style thermal management system (only without the complex ICE component). If the price point were right, that would be a relatively marketable car. But instead, VW felt it had to bring something to the table in hopes of justifying its less-than-entirely-groundbreaking project. The holy grail of EV development is a multi-speed transmission (which nobody has been able to build tough enough to reliably handle an EVs torque output), but that would have been far too complex for VW to include on a production bound vehicle (more on that in a bit). So instead of giving its EV a transmission, VW did the next best thing: allowing  drivers to “shift” the regenerative braking system. Row, row, row your… brakes?

In addition to three “driving profiles” which vary power mapping and AC power use for improved range or power, VW has included no fewer than four regenerative braking modes. Like the Volt, the shift column has both “drive” and “low” settings, the latter of which provides the most extreme engine braking for heavy traffic or slow hill descents. In this mode the off-throttle regeneration is almost neck-snappingly extreme, slowing the car strongly and progressively as soon as you get off the “gas.” In “drive” the Golf blue-e-motion offers three separate modes which are selected not with the shifter, but with DSG-style paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel. Two modes offer varying degrees of regeneration, ranging from a gentle slowing to a stronger regeneration but both are less extreme than the “low” setting. Accompanying these two modes is the “sail” mode which allows the Golf to coast in light traffic with no off-throttle regeneration at all.

This is an innovation I’ve been waiting for since I first drove an EV… although in my mind I imagined a separate lever for infinitely-variable regeneration. In practice, however, it does take a little getting used to. Flipping between coast mode for empty roads and light throttle openings and progressively stronger regen modes as traffic built up was a genuine challenge at first. And even as comfort with the “anti-shifting” builds you do get the sneaking suspicion that you’re working awfully hard for relatively small range savings. But then I realized just how similar this Golf was to the other EVs on the market, and that this variable-regen system is one of the more meaningful differentiations available to pure electric driving (and one that Tesla should be listening to customers about). And then something else occurred to me: it’s also fun to be driving an EV that actually engages the driver. Sure, it’s more like the video-game trance you get from a hybrid than the man-machine melding you’d get piloting a manual-transmission sports car on a winding road, but it’s engagement nonetheless. In the era of electric vehicles you take what you can get.

Speaking of taking what you can get, you won’t ever be able to buy this specific car, which will spend the next two years testing in various car-sharing and corporate fleets around Europe. VW’s first EV will be an electric version of the Up! city car which goes on sale in Europe in 2013, but likely won’t be headed to the US. This Golf blue-e-motion will continue to be tested and refined until 2014, when a production version will debut, sporting the next-gen Golf VII looks and underpinnings. So, by mid-to-late 2014, this seemingly competent and ever-so-slightly innovative Golf blue-e-motion could well become the first pure electric Volkswagen sold in the US. Which raises an interesting question: will its incremental innovations still be news by then? With new chemistries in its 18650 cells, the Golf blue-e-motion could well move the game on from the Leaf’s opening position, but in its current form it seems more of an evolutionary half-step. And as far as Volkswagen or I know, EVs could be rocking multi-speed transmissions by the time this comes to market in 2014.

Volkswagen flew the author to Wolfsburg, Germany to drive the vehicle for this review. Over the course of the trip, the author was treated to multiple meals, free lodging, a factory tour, an Autostadt tour and a women’s World Cup soccer game.

IMG_0378 IMG_0380 Golf blue-e-motion pack above, e-tron below Row, row, row your... brakes? DSC_0480 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

]]> 11
Junkyard Find: Two Etienne Aigner Golfs Down, 1,459 To Go Wed, 13 Apr 2011 19:00:38 +0000
According to VWVortex, 1,461 Etienne Aigner Edition 1991 Golf Cabrios were sold in North America. I found one in a Northern California junkyard last year, and now here’s another. You’d think such an exclusive, one-year-only Golf would have legions of collectors driving the values well above scrap price, but the junkyard evidence shows otherwise.

I found only one Etienne Aigner Golf for sale on Craigslist, and the seller wants a maybe-not-so-realistic $2,900 for it.

Once again, we learn that partnerships between fashion houses and automobile makers, whether we’re talking about Oleg Cassini and AMC or Cartier and Ford, don’t translate into long-term— or even immediate— value for the automobile makers. How about other branding partnerships? Forget Apple or Google— I mean, of course, a Lemmy Kilmister Edition Aston Martin Vantage!
DOTJ-EtienneAgnierVW2-11 DOTJ-EtienneAgnierVW2-01 DOTJ-EtienneAgnierVW2-02 DOTJ-EtienneAgnierVW2-03 DOTJ-EtienneAgnierVW2-04 DOTJ-EtienneAgnierVW2-05 DOTJ-EtienneAgnierVW2-06 DOTJ-EtienneAgnierVW2-07 DOTJ-EtienneAgnierVW2-08 DOTJ-EtienneAgnierVW2-09 DOTJ-EtienneAgnierVW2-10 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

]]> 13
Don’t Like The Bill Blass Continental Mark VII? Etienne Aigner Golf For You! Thu, 03 Feb 2011 14:00:57 +0000
Ah, designer-edition cars! The Malaise Era Cartier and Givenchy Lincolns! The Oleg Cassini AMC Matador! The Mark Cross New Yorker! By the early 1990s, you couldn’t get quite the variety of designer-edition cars that we saw in decades past, but Volkswagen wasn’t done yet!

I’d never heard of the Etienne Agner Golf before I spotted this one in an Oakland self-service wrecking yard, but a quick visit to VWVortex filled in the blanks. Only 1,461 Etienne Agner Golfs were sold in North America during their one model year (1991), and it appears that this one wears the no-doubt-much-coveted Mangrove Green Metallic paint. Sadly, this VW has been crushed and reborn as Chinese bridge parts by now.

]]> 10
Volvo To Build VW Golf Competitor, Take 2 Wed, 20 Oct 2010 18:30:07 +0000

New Volvo (and former VWoA) CEO Stefan Jacoby is (once again) targeting his former employer’s best selling Golf with an upcoming entry-level Volvo due in 2012. reports that Jacoby has initiated a major reshuffling of Volvo’s future product line and brand positioning, which will now be (once again) based on the theme “functionality and Scandinavian elegance” and further away from sportiness. It appears this direction will also de-emphasize large CUVs, since developing a replacement for the elderly XC90 will give way (for now, at least) to the priority of a compact hatchback, which Volvo has not built since the (non-US) 1990 340 (above).

The upcoming Golf-competitor will presumably be based on the current C30, and not a new platform. But it will debut a new “face” for Volvo. Once again.

]]> 25
VW Approves US-Market Golf EV For 2013 Tue, 04 May 2010 16:23:58 +0000

Automotive News [sub] reports that Volkswagen has approved a plug-in electric version of its Golf hatchback for sale in the US by 2013. According to AN [sub]:

Called the Golf Blue-E-Motion, the car forms part of a broad-based electric-vehicle offensive by VW that will see similar versions of the Mexico-built Jetta and the Chinese-market Lavida also going on sale in 2013.

Powered by a 115-hp electric motor, the front-drive Golf will be VW’s higher-end EV, fitting above the Up! Blue-E-Motion subcompact “city specialist.”

At 3,406 lbs, the EV Golf won’t be an especially light car, weighing over 600 lbs more than the current Golf 1.6 TDI BlueMotion. Power comes from a 26.5 kWh capacity lithium-ion battery pack located in the floorpan’s middle tunnel. That gives the car a claimed range of 93 miles, although charging times are not being revealed. The Golf Blue-E-Motion has a claimed 0-60 time of 11.8 seconds, and will be limited for range purposes to 87 MPH. Volkswagen has not detailed differences in performance between the forthcoming EV Golf and Jetta.

Volkswagen will build a fleet of 500 Golf EVs for internal testing prior to its 2013 launch. In the meantime, the Touareg hybrid will be joined by a hybrid Jetta in 2012, and Golf and Passat hybrids in 2013. It is not clear if VW’s hybrid and EV offensives are the fruit of its cooperation with Chinese EV/battery firm BYD, or whether this heralds the death of VW’s TwinDrive concept. As Bertel has noted though, what this does confirm is that Volkswagen isn’t afraid of the odd hubris-laden gamble. We’ll wait on more technical and pricing details before we decide on the wisdom of this kind of EV bet.

]]> 5
Ford Beats Volkswagen At Its Favorite Game Tue, 20 Apr 2010 18:07:12 +0000

Should your travels bring you to Wolfsburg in the near future, do yourself a favor, don’t mention “Cologne.”  Don’t say anything about “Köln.” For goodness gracious, don’t mention Ford. Even colloquialisms such as “ich mach mich fort” (“I’m outta here”) should be avoided. Any of the above would get you an icy stare at a minimum. Or a uniformed Werkschutz escort to the factory gate at Wache Sandkamp.  The boys in Wolfsburg carry a deep grudge against Ford. Ford beat Volkswagen at Golf.

The Volkswagen Golf, Europe’s perennial top seller ( 5 times in 10 years,) has been kicked off the podium by the Ford Fiesta. The Fiesta is officially Europe’s best-selling car in March, even for the first quarter 2010. That according to the latest figures from JATO Dynamics, a provider of automotive data. Brought to you via a press release from, dare we say it, Cologne.

According to the figures compiled by JATO Dynamics, 68,630 Ford Fiestas were sold in March, a 25.8 percent increase from the same month last year, and almost 11,800 units ahead of its nearest rival, the Volkswagen Golf.

In the first quarter of 2010, JATO records that 140,496 Ford Fiestas were sold – over 5,400 units ahead of its nearest rival.

No fuzzy math this time. This time it’s serious.

David Di Girolamo, head of JATO Consult warns that things might change: “The last time Fiesta was ahead of Golf in European sales was March 2009, so it remains to be seen whether it can hold top position this time round.” Because, says Di Girolamo, “there remains the shade of scrappage in these figures, so we need to remain cautious.”

Scrappage? You better believe it. Germany, where the Golf rules the roost, slumped in sales in the first quarter, while Germany is weaning itself off the Abwrackprämien-addiction. All the while Italy and the UK, where the Fiesta is strong, celebrated the fiesta of the expiring scrappage incentives. Gobble, gobble: Their cold turkey is right around the corner.

Luca Ciferri, the Automotive News man in Europe, recommends to celebrate while the celebrating is good. “From April, Fiesta sales will slow down both in Italy and UK. Even though the German market will remain weak throughout 2010, the Golf will rebuild its lead comfortably.” Ciferri is a betting man:” My bet is that 2010 will again be the year of the Golf.” Ciferri didn’t say, how much he will bet.

The Top 10 of the best-selling cars and brands across Europe in March, according to JATO:

1 Ford Fiesta
2 Volkswagen Golf
3 Renault Clio
4 Vauxhall Corsa
5 Peugeot 207
6 Ford Focus
7 Vauxhall Astra
8 Volkswagen Polo
9 Fiat Punto
10 Fiat Panda

]]> 25
What’s Wrong With This Picture: The Great American Towing Conspiracy Lives Edition Thu, 21 Jan 2010 20:31:38 +0000

A recent test by Autobild sought to find the German-market vehicle that could tow the most kilos per euro. Third place (at€13.36 euros per kilo) went to the AWD 1.6 TDI Golf Variant, which is tow-rated at 1.8 tons on the German market (first and second went to the Tiguan and CR-V). Though the American-market Golf TDI has far more power than Autobild’s value-hauler podium finisher, Volkswagen continues to send tow-rating curious Americans messages like this one:

Thank you for visiting the Volkswagen website. We appreciate your
inquiry regarding the capability of using your Volkswagen for towing

Volkswagen does not recommend a passenger vehicle be used to tow.

Bastards! Incidentally, this image is from a post on the British Caravan Club’s voting the Golf 2.0 TDI as “Overall Towcar of 2009.”

]]> 67