New VW Golf Goes Big On Tech

What will be the hook that will keep the Volkswagen Golf in the game? In a word: Connectivity.

This why the next generation car, just revealed ahead of a stepped global launch that aims to deliver it locally next September is packed with every latest technical must-have.

Save, that is, a fully electric edition.

There are hybrids, including plug-ins, yet the purely electric e-Golf that is quietly gathering NZ volume is rendered defunct by the ID line of pure electrics – a strategy with a speedbump, insofar that the like-sized pathfinder ID.3 mightn't arrive until 2021.

Meantime, new Golf will trade more now from being treated to advanced connectivity – including ability for car-to-car 'chat' with predictive hazard warning - and semi-autonomous features that will represent as class-first and are intended to ultimately proliferate all VW cars, but will have particular relevance with the pure electrics: the factory suggests they'll only be available with those services.

Because the Mark 8 Golf has only just been revealed to the world Volkswagen NZ has its hands full understanding what functionality will be released beyond Europe and whether this country can cope.

 

The new Golf is definitely headed to New Zealand, but how much of its clever new tech will make it too?

"There's still a little bit of guesswork I suppose," says managing director Greg Leet. "We've got a bit of work to do. The connected features are absolutely amazing and will bring it well into the future and that's really exciting."

Aside from availability aside, the need to keep the Golf's cost span contained also figures in his thinking. Opening the door to every one of the extra enhancements risks pushing it into a premium position that he, and customers, might not be comfortable with.

"We haven't had any indication of pricing. Golf is an iconic model but it has always been a mainstay, good value car. The Golf moving forward is becoming a slightly more premium car (but) we cannot, as a trade-off, ask for massive premiums for new technologies as some of our premium friends can.

"It has to make commercial sense as well."

The new Golf offers plenty to think about. It is the first Volkswagen to offer car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure (Car2X) communication as standard to predictively warn of hazards. It can either be notified of upcoming traffic hazards by other Car2X-enabled vehicles or alert other participants within a radius of 800 metres.

The car's digital cockpit is another technological leap – better than anything else offered in the class and comparable to the debut of the first touch-based smartphones, VW contends. It also has a factory-embedded modem that links to the automaker's We Connect and We Connect Plus and allows that the car to be always connected.

Regardless of the trim level ordered, customers will be able update the vehicle over the air and in many cases even upgrade it retrospectively, Telsa-style. Drivers also will be able to remotely access certain information such as the status of doors and lights or its parking position via their personal smart devices.

Owners of certain Samsung phones will be able to use their device to unlock the vehicle regardless of a mobile network connection and can share the virtual key with their family and friends thanks to an embedded modem from the factory. Amazon's Alexa is also directly integrated.

An optional semi-autonomous travel assist function can actively steer, accelerate and brake the car on highways at up to speeds of 210kmh. Drivers must keep at least one hand on the steering wheel when using the feature.

Even as standard equipment, the Golf has a 10.25-inch dash display with an 8.25-inch touchscreen on the middle console, and a multifunction steering wheel. Keyless starting is also standard, while a head-up display is an option.

An 8.25-inch touchscreen is standard in the Golf, as is the massive 10.25 digital display behind the steering wheel.

Drivetrain options are much broader than now. It is the first VW car to offer five hybrid versions - two plug-in hybrids and three 48-volt mild hybrids (the first VWs with this), all using a 13 kilowatt hour lithium ion battery to drive on electric power with zero-emissions driving.

The GTE plug-ins, in 150kW and 180kW 2.0-litre formats, can achieve 70km of pure EV range while the mild hybrids - in 81kW, 96kW or 110kW tune - can coast with the engine completely switched off.

It's inevitable NZ will cherry pick from these, bearing in mind it has already decided to continue with orthodox petrol variants as well, centring on the same 1.4-litre turbo petrol in the current car, which presently makes 110kW/250Nm.

Also in the wings, though potentially arriving after the mainstream cars land, are the GTI – which is being touted as having up to 221kW, against 180kW presently – and a Golf R, of which details are yet to emerge.

Diesel is such a dirty word it is possible it will slip off the roster, even though the newest engine now has a twin-dosing exhaust aftertreatment system that minimises on road nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 80 per cent.

Golf's local status has already changed significantly over the past few years. It's not quite in the rough, but the diminished interest in hatchbacks reflects in it having slipped six years ago from being the top-selling VW model (that's now Tiguan) and accounting for 700 of the 3600 passenger models the brand sold new here last year.

However, Leet says there's no question about giving up this game.

"Yes, from a volume perspective, SUVs are where it is at. But Golf has a massive role in relating what VW stands for as a brand. It is still performing well for us and I believe Golf 8 will lift the opportunity for us."

Words by Richard Bosselman

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