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First Drive: VW e-Golf, the everyday electric.

First Drive: VW e-Golf, the everyday electric.

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Post by Chad Kirchner exclusively for Pursuitist.

When you think of electric cars, the Tesla Model S probably comes to mind first. It is after all the undisputed king of the electric car universe. The new Volkswagen e-Golf won’t challenge the Tesla for that title. But, of all the electric cars on the market not manufactured by Elon Musk, VW’s battery-powered econobox is definitely one of the better options, especially if you’re looking for a second car for the kids, running errands, or a smaller car that’s easy to maneuver and park in the city.

I recently traveled to the Salamander Resort and Spa, the Washington D.C. area’s newest luxury property, where in addition to experiencing its excellent food and hospitality, I was able to spend a some quality time driving the new e-Golf and a few other 2015 VW models through the beautiful foothills of northern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. With the state’s draconian speed laws, the e-Golf was right at home. Don’t get me wrong, I had no problems keeping up with, and overtaking, traffic of all kinds. But at 10 seconds 0-60, the acceleration is a full 1.5 seconds slower than the Golf diesel so it won’t have you thinking of replacing your Tesla anytime soon.

The first thing you notice getting into the e-Golf is how normal it is. Instead of decking it out with a futuristic cabin and digital gauges that remind you of the starship Enterprise, the e-Golf looks like a normal Golf. For me, that’s a good thing. The speedometer and tachometer have been modified slightly for electric use, but the car still retains the fuel gauge from the gasoline version. Instead of representing fuel in the tank, it represents the charge in the battery.

When you climb in, push the start button and go on your way, you’ll really have no idea you’re in an electric car (except for the lack of engine noise). It drives remarkably like the gas-powered Golf when in normal mode. If you want to eek out every extra mile of range, there are Eco and Eco+ options that cut the power output of the motor, limit the top speed and adjust the air conditioning to make the car more efficient. You can even select “B” instead of “D” from the transmission, which activates aggressive regenerative braking when you let off the throttle, increasing your range. Those are things you can play around with to suit your driving style and range expectations, but in all honestly leaving everything alone still gets you a highly efficient, normal driving car.

VW claims that the e-Golf will get anywhere between 70 and 90 miles of range under normal driving conditions. Some people have seen over 100, but a myriad of factors go in to determining real-world range. When plugged into a standard 110-volt outlet, expect the car to be fully charged in 20 hours. VW has worked with Bosch to offer a 240-volt home charging unit that comes with full-service installation and will be offered at competitive prices to e-Golf customers. It can provide a full charge in a little under four hours. The e-Golf will also have access to more than 18,000 ChargePoint stations which has a slick mobile app that will guide you to the nearest charging station, let you see real-time status updates and start charging sessions. In addition many of their chargers can re-energize your Golf to 80% in about 30 minutes.

The best thing about the e-Golf is that you don’t lose much, if any, interior space due to the batteries. There’s plenty of legroom for front and rear passengers, and the rear storage space is still ample. When the rear seats are folded down, it’s damn near cavernous so you’ll have plenty of room for antiques, golf clubs, show dogs or anything else you might want to carry back there.

While not a luxury car, the e-Golf comes with many premium features you’d expect from a car costing $35,445. These include smartly designed 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a touchscreen navigation and infotainment system. Sirius XM Satellite Radio, a media interface with iPod integration; Bluetooth connectivity, very comfortable faux-leather seating surfaces, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel and shifter knob, heated front seats, dual zone automatic climate control, rearview camera and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Volkswagen will be offering a leasing program for the e-Golf at $299/month. For those looking to buy, a $7,500 federal tax credit is available and your state might have additional incentives. You should always talk to your financial advisor before purchasing a vehicle like this to make sure you get the maximum tax incentives.

While Volkswagen points to the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus EV and Chevy Volt as competition, we feel the e-Golf and the BMW i3 will be battling for supremacy among affordable small electric cars. If you’re looking for an unassuming city car that runs entirely on electricity, has great practicality, drives confidently and offers a little bit of luxury as well, the Volkswagen e-Golf is worth a test drive.

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