The Volkswagen Golf eR1, which made its public debut at last weekend’s GP Ice Race event in Austria, is already a key part of the firm’s electric performance heritage - but it’s also a showcase for future possibilities.
From the outside, the machine looks like a lightly modified Golf TCR touring car. But under its surface lurks the electric powertrain technology that has allowed Volkswagen to set a string of records, and that's being honed for use in a planned line of hot ID variants from the firm’s R performance division. These will sit above the ID GTX range, the first of which will be seen later this year.
Autocar was among a select group of media invited for a short passenger ride in the eR1, on the airfield-based ice track used for the GP Ice Race festival in Zell am See.
What is the Volkswagen Golf eR1?
The eR1 started life as a test mule for the 671bhp twin motor, all-wheel-drive electric powertrain that propelled the Volkswagen ID R hillclimb car to course records at Pikes Peak, the Nurburgring, Goodwood and China’s Tianmen mountain. To test the powertrain while the ID R’s endurance prototype-based chassis was completed ahead of the car’s launch in 2018, Volkswagen Motorsport installed it into a modified Golf TCR touring car bedecked in a development camouflage livery.
Once the ID R was launched in the build-up to the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, the electric test mule might have been consigned to history – but it’s now been dusted off, updated and repurposed.
Volkswagen will use the machine to showcase its electric performance technology through a series of event appearances and videos, as well as to test and develop systems that could be used for future electric R car powertrains.
What’s the Volkswagen Golf eR1 like?
For what is effectively a motorsport test hack, the eR1 is remarkably well-resolved. That’s helped by its new designation (eR1 is more catchy than the test mule's moniker of 'e-technology test car') and fresh livery, but comes mostly down to the team's hard work at refining and upgrading the machine since its former role.
Volkswagen Motorsport hasn’t revealed too many details about the car’s technical systems, although it uses a twin motor layout that offers all-wheel-drive. While the twin motor powertrain eventually used in the ID R offers 671bhp, the one in the eR1 isn’t as powerful, with sources suggesting it’s somewhere close to 500bhp. The car is able to run in two-wheel-drive mode using the front motor only.
Having been fortunate enough to see the ID R in action setting a number of its records, I was prepared for the rapid acceleration the twin motor setup would offer – and it didn’t disappoint. While it didn’t have the full power of the hillclimb machine, it was still plenty powerful for a car of this size. With all four wheels driven and that electric torque instantly available, the eR1 offers predictably rapid acceleration, with the help of studded tyres to lessen wheel spin on the frozen ice circuit.