What Is The 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf Like In The Eyes Of A GTI Owner? Second Take Review

The good and the ugly on VW's entry in the EV landscape.

When TFL asked me to drive an e-Golf for a week and see if it could sway me to leave my GTI behind, I was skeptical. I love my Mark 6 GTI with DSG transmission. I’ve put 65 thousand miles on it since buying it off a lease with 24K on the odometer. And even after all those miles, I still find the 200-hp turbo-powered 4-door hatch to be the best value in a functional sporty car that’s fun to drive on canyon roads, across continents, to and from work, and still haul my bikes, snowboard and skis, kids, and anything else. I still enjoy getting into my GTI’s driver’s seat every time.

First impressions of the e-Golf SEL Premium with a sticker price of $39,790 including destination: The familiar seating and dash arrangement and flat-bottomed, leather wrapped steering wheel felt very similar to the one in my GTI. Except for the blue trim denoting its EV connection and distinctively non-sporty wheels there isn’t much to differentiate the e-Golf from any other Golf. After putting 260 miles on the EV over the course of a week, here’s what surprised and disappointed me about the electric Golf.

Take #1: Everyone Should Drive an e-Golf!

I have a 240V charger at home used for my wife’s Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, so the first thing I did was plug in the VW. By morning, the 38.5 kWh battery was at 100% and the car’s computer had calculated a total range of 131 miles, a six-mile improvement over VW’s listed range of 125. 

Throughout the next three days, the e-Golf blew my mind. I drove it around suburban Denver in pursuit of range. I had the car’s regenerative braking maxed out (which VW calls ‘recouping’) by setting the shift lever to ‘B’. I also put the car into Eco+ Mode, which cancels out certain heating and A/C functions, castrates the vehicle’s acceleration, and limits top speed to 56 mph. After roughly 100 miles of eco-minded driving, I’d raised the e-Golf’s range to 175 miles. Nice.

Best of all, the e-Golf’s chassis was still classic VW, firm and relatively tight. That’s even with a 701-lbs. battery under the seats that pushes the e-Golf’s curb weight to 3,459 pounds, which is 260 pounds more than my GTI with a full tank of gas. 

The caveats: Every EV I drive immediately turns me into a range gamer, doing whatever I can to milk the most mileage out the car. A desire to drive the hell out of the car — like I have for my GTI — was nonexistent. But another more critical problem as this: The morning temps never dropped below freezing and the daytime highs were in the 60s, optimum weather for EVs.

Then winter rolled in.

Take #2: No One Should Drive an e-Golf Anywhere It Snows

Even with more than 100 miles of range listed on the car’s dash, I went ahead and fully charged it for my long-range test. It’s a 45-mile slog to my kid’s volleyball practice that involves more than 2,000 feet of climbing up to 7,700 feet in elevation and plodding through 20 miles of freeway construction, during rush-hour. Complicating matters, the weather that night dropped to 28 degrees with freezing drizzle and rain.

When I left my driveway, the e-Golf computer had calculated 145 miles of range. By the time I got to practice an hour and 45 minutes later, the computer said I only had 60 miles of range left. The lost range was due to grinding stop-and-go traffic thanks to three accidents on the way, sporadic use of the heater and cabin defroster (turning it on incinerated 20 miles of range instantly), and I dunno, maybe running the windshield wipers nonstop. 

After my kid’s practice, the interstate was closed and Waze rerouted me home via an empty two-lane road back. The problem was this: The new route was 50 miles long, and I only had 60 miles of range. Plus, it was now dumping snow. In an attempt to save battery life, my kid bundled up in every article of clothing available, and we cranked the heated seats. I cracked the windows instead of using the defroster. My feet were freezing though, and it was a pretty miserable ride. The mostly downhill trip garnered us about 10 miles of extra range, though, and we arrived home with 20 miles of range left. 

Take #3: The e-Golf Is No GTI. Yet.

What the e-Golf has over the GTI

  • No turbo lag! Set the car to ‘Normal’ and enjoy instant torque relative to the GTI’s turbo engine. However, once the GTI’s turbo spools up, it leaves the e-Golf in the dust. I’ll admit, I became addicted to the 214-lb. ft of torque, which beats my GTI’s. After being miserable in the e-Golf, I charged it up again and just drove it in ‘Normal’ and cranked the heat whenever I wanted. Doing so dropped my calculated mileage range into the 130s, which is closer to VW’s range rating for it. 

What could make the e-Golf more fun to drive

  • Better wheels and tires. Performance rubber and wheels are a simple fix that will reduce the vehicle’s range noticeably (based on this Reddit poster who put his GTI’s wheels and tires on his e-Golf, range will drop around 10 percent) but will instantly improve steering feel and handling by a large margin.
  • GTI front seats. After spending so much time in the e-Golf, returning to my GTI made me realize how much of my GTI’s ‘feel’ is thanks to its aggressively bolstered seats. Swapping those into the e-Golf won’t improve performance, but it will improve feel, especially during hard cornering.
  • A battery with a minimum 200-mile range.
Loveland Trials - VW e-Golf
The Volkswagen e-Golf can make it through the Loveland Trials, our toughest EV test, but not without some help.

So, e-Golf or GTI?

When faced with adversity in climate, mountainous driving, or traffic on any trip over 90 miles or so, the e-Golf can be a nerve-wracking drive. It was for me. Otherwise this Volkswagen is a phenomenal everyday option as long as you don’t regularly drive outside of a 35-mile radius from your home.  Since I do regularly drive more than that, the e-Golf isn’t a practical option for me.

Thanks for the EV experience Volkswagen, but I’m keeping my GTI for now.