What’s it like?
You’re going to hear this more and more when it comes to electric vehicles, but here goes: extremely normal.
Stick the single-speed transmission in D, apply a modest amount of throttle and the Golf eases away with just a little whine from the electric motor. That instant torque is never far away, mind; the front wheels will happily light up if you apply full throttle in the hottest mode - and it doesn’t feel 205kg heavier than a regular Golf.
The car has three power profiles that control the output of the electric motor. ‘Comfort+’ offers the full 85kW, ‘Normal’ reduces this to 65kW, and ‘Range+’ limits power to 50kW and turns off the air conditioning system. The selected mode is visible in the Golf’s multifunction display between the instrument dials.
In normal cruising there’s little to choose between the three settings; I’d be tempted on a typical morning trundle into town to select Range+ and get an extra few miles on one charge. A kickdown function does provide the full power if called upon, incidentally; it’s a safety feature.
Beyond D on the gearshift there’s B; this setting increases the amount of energy that’s harnessed when the car is coasting. Use the gearstick and it goes into its most aggressive setting; if you’re aiming for a smooth cruise you’ll barely need to use the brake pedal at all, such is the effect of the kinetic energy recuperation. Two paddles behind the steering wheel also allow you to select two more modest settings.
VW has worked hard to integrate the electric systems into a normal fascia. Apart from the multifunction display, the sat-nav screen also shows battery levels - and in future versions it will even warn you if plotted routes are beyond the car’s range.
Should I buy one?
Easy answer to this one: no, because you can’t. But VW is ramping up electric car development and it plans to start selling the technology in serious numbers in 2013, via this car, a Jetta and an electric version of the forthcoming Up microcar.
Pricing will be important, of course. Speed of charging and infrastructure still need a lot of work. And even VW sources admit that electric vehicles like this will probably be bought as second cars; their range, though fine for many commutes, is still too limited for them to be the only set of wheels on your driveway.
But as an exercise in how to make electric tech feel like something you could use every day, the Golf is a success.