Audi charges up for electric car

October 10th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Audi electric fq

Audi has long been rumoured to be developing an electric car and many thought that it would be based on the A1 concept that Audi recently showed off at the Paris Motor Show. Audi board member Peter Schwarzenbauer has said that the electric car is coming, but it will be based on the Volkswagen up! platform that’s destined to carry the Lupo badge when it goes into production.

Audi will need to work quickly if it’s going to catch BMW, its natural rival, which has already begun production of an electric version of the MINI Cooper. For the Audi/VW vehicle, a battery pack will be mounted at the rear of the Lupo’s platform, though there is still no indication of what type of battery will be used. Further details should be revealed soon.

The new Mk VI Golf – best of all time?

September 24th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volkswagen MkVI fq

Volkswagen is sending a new Golf out into the world and it is touting it as the ‘best of all time’. Bigger than its predecessors the new Golf will take subtle styling cues from the Scirocco and Touareg, and offer new technologies within its class.

Economy is a strong feature with an average fuel consumption of 4.5 litres per 100 kilometers for a 110 PS TDI. Upon request, the Golf can park itself nearly automatically in the city thanks to “Park Assist”, it can maintain an ideal gap on the freeway by distance control (ACC), and at the push of a button it can transform itself from a cruiser to a sports car when the new “DCC Adaptive Chassis Control” system is on board. A new ESP system, with finer response over its control range, further optimized crash properties, seven airbags including knee airbag, the special head restraints (WOKS) that work to counteract whiplash trauma, a “seatbelt detection” feature debuting on the Golf in the rear seating area and daytime running lights — also standard equipment — provide for a maximum level of safety.

The roof section now rests — similar to the new Scirocco — on a prominently contoured shoulder section. The rear too is characterised by a predominance of horizontal lines. The taillights — now very wide — are marked among other things by an unmistakably unique night design. Overall, the new Golf — in the interplay of all of its design characteristics — gives the appearance of a significantly wider, flatter and higher end car. The car’s high value also applies to the newly designed interior. The appearance and layout of materials — as well as details such as brushed chrome accents and round in­struments and steering wheels derived directly from those of the Passat CC.

Making a significant contribution to the pioneering acoustic properties of the Golf are the exceptionally quiet common rail TDI engines being implemented on the Golf for the first time. Two balancer shafts (from 103 kW / 140 PS) also eliminate undesirable vibrations. Plans call for a TDI power range from 66 kW / 90 PS to 125 kW / 170 PS. Right at its market launch Volkswagen will be offering two 2.0 litre TDI engines on the Golf; they deliver 81 kW / 110 PS and 103 kW / 140 PS. Always there: a diesel particulate filter (DPF).
The new TDIs are exceptionally fuel efficient. The 110 PS strong diesel is satisfied with just 4.5 litres of fuel per 100 kilometers (119 g/km CO2). Even the 140-PS version only requires 4.9 litres of diesel (129 g/km CO2). In the launch phase, four variants will define the range of gasoline engines with 59 kW / 80 PS, 75 kW / 102 PS, 90 kW / 122 PS and 118 kW / 160 PS. Starting at 90 kW / 122 PS, TSI engines with supercharging and/or turbocharging are used.

With the exception of the entry-level versions, all gasoline and diesel engines may be paired with Volkswagen’s dual clutch transmission (DSG). Either a 6-speed or 7-speed DSG is used, depending on engine torque. This means that on the Golf the extremely efficient and agile DSG has replaced the classic torque converter automatic.

A New Zealand release date hasn’t been confirmed for the Golf yet, but we’ll bring you news as soon as we know!

VW shows Golf BlueMotion concept

September 9th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion concept fq

Volkswagen has today unveiled the remarkable Golf BlueMotion concept vehicle, a car capable of achieving a combined 3.17l/100km while emitting just 99 g/km of CO2.  This matches the economy of the Polo BlueMotion, itself among the most efficient vehicles currently on sale.

The BlueMotion label was first attributed to the Polo in 2006 (read a road test of the Polo BlueMotion by clicking here) and represents the most efficient model in each of Volkswagen’s passenger car ranges.  Since the Polo made its debut, BlueMotion versions of the Golf Mk V, Golf Estate, Golf Plus, Jetta, Touran, Passat, Passat Estate and Sharan have been launched in various markets worldwide.

The new Golf BlueMotion concept is powered by a highly-efficient and refined 1.6-litre TDI common rail diesel engine developing 105 PS and 249Nm of torque at 2,000 rpm.  Despite the focus on economy the Golf BlueMotion concept can reach 100kph from rest in a respectable 11.3 seconds.

As with all BlueMotion models the Golf BlueMotion adopts a series of changes to drivetrain and aerodynamics in order to maximise the vehicle’s efficiency.  A set of low rolling resistance tyres are joined by optimised aerodynamics and revised ratios in the five speed gearbox.  The resulting combination of changes works to reduce loading on the engine to drive up economy and reduce emissions.

In common with every diesel model in the forthcoming new Golf range the BlueMotion concept is fitted with a diesel particulate filter.

The UK gets the new BlueMotion Golf in mid-2009; New Zealand and Australian dates have not been announced yet.

Will VW resurrect the Microbus concept?

September 8th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

VW Microbus concept fq

Back in 2001 VW showed a Microbus concept. People liked it, and it was rumoured to be going into production in 2005, but that didn’t happen. The project got expensive, the US dollar wasn’t doing well, and then-boss Bernd Pischesrieder killed it off.

But aging hippies everywhere have danced around campfires, played djembes and offered gifts of lentils and mung beans to the tree fairies in the hope that VW would bring back their favourite form of transport: the Kombi. Now, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported that VW may produce a Microbus at the Chattanooga, Tennessee facility. An unnamed Volkswagen suit told the SMH that the Microbus won’t make it to Europe; another spokesperson hinted that the vehicle may be able to be produced.

What does that mean for NZ? Well, should it be produced and gain enough traction over in the US, right-hand drive markets are sure to want a piece of it. So, within the next 3-4 years we could see the new Microbus touring around our fair country with a new generation of hippies.

Volkswagen Tiguan TDI 2008 Review

June 5th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volkswagen Tiguan fq

The Tiguan is Volkswagen’s foray into the burgeoning CUV (Compact Utility Vehicle) market which is rapidly attracting other European makers to the small ‘soft-roader’ party.

It is not a big SUV and it won’t carry half the soccer team to practice, but if you think of it as a combination of the interior from a reasonably equipped, luxurious sedan, like a Passat or an Audi A4, in the body of a Golf on stilts, you will get it.

First visual impressions of the Tiguan are that it is smaller than you think. It looks a little slab-sided in profile, but the front and rear ends are cohesive if a little Euro-chic bland. The wheelbase is quite short but the interior packaging is good with ample room in the back seat for tall people. The seats are quite comfortable on long trips despite initially feeling firm. Up front it takes time to get used to what all the buttons do and the functions available. The instrumentation is clear but there is a lot of information displayed on the mini-screen between the speedo and tacho which a bit distracting when driving.

The ‘Wild Cherry Red’ colour on our test car set the curves of the Tiguan off very well.

Sporty driving is not the Tiguan’s forte. It can handle tight roads at a moderate pace with  not too much body-roll. The 4-Motion four-wheel drive system provides decent grip as do the 235/55/R17 tyres, but push it hard and the weight and high centre of gravity start to show. The Tiguan has this covered though with ESP and other electronic aides that help to keep the car on the black-top. In everyday driving though, the car feels well-planted and soaks up bumps well.

The Tiguan’s 103kw diesel engine provides decent acceleration from 2000rpm, but below that the 2-litre struggles with turbo-lag. Cruising at 100kph it can be tricky to modulate the throttle for smooth progress when changing lanes on the highway due to the on/off power delivery caused by 320nm of torque being lumped between 1750-2500rpm.

The engine is not an aural gem and sounds more like a synthesized reproduction of an engine than a real mass of reciprocating steel, but it did return a decent city/highway fuel consumption average of 8.1 l/100km on our test which is close to Volkswagen’s official 7.5 l/100km.

The 6-speed transmission is very smooth and performs well in normal, sport, or semi-auto modes shifting seamlessly.

The steering feels jerky at parking speed like the power-assistance is not sure whether it should be on or off. At speed however, the steering feels linear and gives adequate feedback.

The Tiguan’s party-piece is something pretty cool but also slightly disturbing;

it can parallel-park itself. You can’t jump out and watch it manoeuvre into a parking space – that would be silly – but to watch the steering-wheel spin quickly around unaided is a spooky experience, made even more intimidating because with its sensors, the Tiguan parks faster and better than you can.

Now, as a trick, the parking assist is cool, you can freak your friends out with it. But if you were a driver so bereft of parking ability that you routinely needed this function, I would have to come and confiscate your licence myself.

The options we had were the panoramic sunroof ($2500) which made the car feel more spacious and had multiple adjustments, and the upgraded stereo ($750) which a colleague liked but I though was just middling.

The Tiguan is not all things to all men. The boot space isn’t as large as a full-size SUV and the parking assist may eventually evolve into a cyber-tronic robot and steal your soul (or just your driving ability) but it does work very well for its intended market.

The fact that the Tiguan comes into a market place full of Japanese CUV competitors but few German or American rivals also makes it unique, for the time being.

Being a luxurious, smallish car packed with technology and some off-roading ability, the Tiguan looks like a good choice as a family wagon to take to the snow, but all this comes at a price.

At a base price of $53,990 it is at the sharp end of the CUV market and makes the less flashy Japanese alternatives look like good value, but then again the Tiguan has features that the competition doesn’t.

So for now the Tiguan is the top of the CUV heap for all the tech and luxury it packs into a small space, but it will face more serious competition when Audi (?), BMW (X1), Volvo (XC60) and Mercedes-Benz (GLK) release their forthcoming CUVs. Can’t wait.

Price: from $53,990. As tested: $57,240

What we like

  • 6-speed transmission
  • Parking assist
  • Sunroof
  • Interior ambience

What we don’t like

  • Jerky low-speed steering
  • Parking assist
  • Air vents have small range of motion

Engine

103kW TDI

1968cc 4-cyl

103kW @ 4200 rpm

320Nm @ 1750-2500 rpm

Diesel Particulate Filter

6-spd Tiptronic Retail Price (including GST) – 103kW TDI $53,990

Performance & Fuel Consumption

¢ 0 — 100 km/h 10.7

¢ Top speed km/h 182

¢ Combined l/100km 7.5

¢ CO2 g/km 199

Safety equipment

¢ 3-point automatic seat belts, height adjustment and seat-belt tensioners for front seats

¢ ESP (electronic stability program) with ABS, EDL (electronic diff lock), ASR and Brake Assist

¢ Driver and front passenger airbags, with front side and curtain airbags

¢ Electromechanical steering with safety steering column (steering wheel height & reach adjustable)

¢ Flat tyre indicator

¢ Front passenger airbag deactivation

¢ ISOFIX mountings on rear seat

¢ Outer rear view mirrors, electrically adjustable and heated

¢ Rear fog light

¢ Three rear headrests

Functional equipment

¢ Automatically dimming interior mirror

¢ Automatic headlight control with coming home/leaving home function

¢ Backrest release for fold-flat front passenger seat

¢ Climatronic dual-zone air-conditioning

¢ Comfort sports front seats with height adjustment

¢ Cruise control

¢ Drawers under front seats

¢ Electric park brake

¢ Folding tables on front seat backrests

¢ Front centre armrest with storage box

¢ Illuminated vanity mirrors

¢ Interior lights in front footwells

¢ Leather multifunction steering wheel

¢ Luggage compartment cover

¢ Multifunction Indicator Plus

¢ ParkScan Parallel Parking Assistant

¢ Privacy glass (65% tint), B-pillar aft

¢ Rain sensor for front windscreen wipers

¢ RCD 300 audio system with 8 loudspeakers, MP3 CD compatible

¢ Remote central locking with immobilizer, tilt sensor and interior monitoring alarm

¢ Silver anodised roof rails

¢ Storage pockets on front seat backrests

¢ “Visible” cloth upholstery

Technical

¢ 17″ Boston alloy wheels, 235/55 tyres with space-saver spare wheel

¢ 4Motion all-wheel drive

¢ 4-link independent rear suspension

¢ Towing weights (unbraked / braked / tongue weight): 750kg / 2200kg / 100kg

Warranty and Assistance

¢ 3 year / unlimited km mechanical warranty, 12 year anti-corrosion

¢ 3 year Volkswagen Roadside Assistance

Words Ben Dillon, photos Darren Cottingham

Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion 2007 Review

January 23rd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion 2007 fq

As I’ve said before, hugely coincidental occurrences happen to me when testing cars. Today was the International Day of Action on Climate Change, a day to draw awareness to the things that we do that might be negatively influencing the climate. I turned up in the most frugal car available in New Zealand. No, it’s not a hybrid, it’s a Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion which runs on the traditionally heavy polluting diesel. Whereas Toyota’s Prius boasts a combined cycle of 4.4 litres per 100km, the Polo 58kW, 1.4-litre BlueMotion slashes that to just 3.8l/100km, and just 99g/km of CO2. So I had reason to gloat (except to the beardy ones who turned up on bicycles).

Why Blue, though? Green-this, green-that sprouts up like a lush PR-friendly canopy, each marque trying to outdo the others in its espoused environmentalness. Even Ferrari is at it, which is just enviro-Mental.

VW’s corporate colour is blue, and their branding people implored them to draw parallels with the sky and sea — they obviously haven’t been to Blackpool on a bleak day. BlueMotion represents the model in each range that is the most environmentally friends, from its fuel consumption to its overall ability to be recycled (a minimum of 85%, and reusable to a minimum of 95% by mass). BlueMotion is VW’s philosophy that economic fuel consumption doesn’t come at the expense of driving fun.

The reductions in consumption and emissions have been achieved a number of ways. Taller gear ratios mean you don’t get out of third around town, and not into fifth until you’re cruising above 90kph. In fact, looking at the trip computer, it’s less economical to drive in fourth at around-town speeds than third. BlueMotion models come with a manual gearbox, which is more effective at transferring the power to the wheels. 165/70-sized low-rolling-resistance tyres surround 14-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension lowers the car by 10mm for better wind resistance, and a more aerodynamic grille ekes out further gains.

I expected the narrow tyres to squeal with protest at the slightly provocation, but it didn’t happen.

The first thing I noticed on the inside was how the seat covers reminded me of my school bus back in the mid-‘80s. It’s the only thing that detracts from an otherwise functional, if spartan, cabin. In the interests of saving weight, there is nothing unnecessary. Air conditioning, electric windows, heated electronically adjustable wing mirrors, remote central locking and immobiliser come as standard.

Sizeable storage trays under both front seats more than make up for the small glovebox and lack of central binnacle storage.

There are two ways to drive the Polo — economically, or without holding people up. I tried driving economically and achieved 4.4l/100km, worse than VW’s quoted combined cycle, but my run always includes the long uphill of the Harbour Bridge and the winding, traffic island-strewn back streets of Herne Bay and Grey Lynn. This way of driving often frustrates other drivers, though, because you pull away slowly. Then there’s what I would term my usual everyday ‘I’m quite busy driving’ — there’s no dawdling, but I’m still aware of economy, coasting up to lights, trying to carry speed through corners, and attempting to be in the right gear to have acceleration available. This yielded 4.9l/100km, which is still extremely impressive.

There has to be a compromise when you are paring a car down to its acceptable minimum, and in this case it’s engine noise. It pulls well for its size and power — 195Nm of torque helps the Polo to 100kph in a claimed 12.8s — but at idle it sounds agricultural. There’s also the $4,000 price premium over the incredibly frugal Polo TDi.

Research has shown that putting an instantaneous fuel usage gauge in a car tends to make people drive more economically. It worked with me. I was constantly trying to make the car more economical and I regularly achieved cruising fuel usages in the 2.8-3l/100km. I felt good (on a ‘green’ level) about driving the Polo BlueMotion. VW will bring out a BlueMotion version of every one of its cars in time. It’s an easy purchase for badge snobbery, and very justifiable on an environmental level, but will the premium over VW’s already frugal equivalent model range hamper sales? Only time will tell.

Click through to the next page to see specifications

Price: from $30,990; our test car was fitted with the optional curtain airbags ($800)

What we like

  • You can save the planet
  • It’s a long time between visits to the petrol station

What we don’t like

  • On a purely economic level it would take you lots of years to pay back the $4,000 price difference between the 1.4 TDi Polo and the BlueMotion if you take fuel savings alone
  • Seat covers are old fashioned
  • Intrusively noisy diesel clatter at idle

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion

Model Year 2008 Specification Summary

Specifications are subject to change without notice. Effective 08/11/2007. Retail price does not include on-road costs.

Fuel consumption tested in accordance with EC directive 80/1268/EC. Consumption measured on European specification cars.

Retail Price (including GST) – Polo BlueMotion $30,990 (9N30Z4)

Performance & Fuel Consumption:

0-100 km/h 12.8

Top speed km/h 176

Combined l/100km 3.8

CO2 g/km 99

Safety equipment

3-point automatic seat belts

ABS braking system with Brake Assist

Driver and front passenger airbags, with front/side airbags

Electromechanical steering with safety steering column (steering wheel height & reach adjustable)

Front seat belt height adjustment and belt tensioners

ISOFIX mountings on rear seat

Outer rear view mirrors, electrically adjustable and heated

Rear fog light

Three rear headrests

Functional equipment

Climatic air-conditioning

Cupholder in dash and centre console

Electric windows, front & rear

Floor mats, front & rear

Height adjustable front seats

Illuminated vanity mirrors

Multifunction Display

RCD200 single CD/tuner and four loudspeakers

Remote central locking with vehicle immobiliser, interior monitoring

Silver outer rear view mirrors

Standard front seating

Storage trays under front seats

Technical

Aerodynamic body enhancements

Front-wheel drive

Galvanised body

Sports suspension (10mm lower)

Warranty and Assistance

3 year / unlimited km mechanical warranty, 12 year anti-corrosion warranty

3 year Volkswagen Roadside Assistance

Metallic paint surcharge of $500 applies

Volkswagen Golf TSi Comfortline 2007 Review

October 15th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

Volkswagen Golf TSI 2007 fq

My Mum owns a near-new VW Golf GTI MkV. She told me it has eight airbags. “Nine with you in it,” I said. And I could because I live in Auckland and she lives in Napier — far too far to reach with a disciplinary wooden spoon.

The Mark V GTI was technically the first ‘TSi’ variant of the Golf with its two-litre turbo, even though it wasn’t badged as so, and it signifies Volkswagen’s efforts to give their cars smaller engines without compromising on power and performance. This 1.4-litre turbocharged Golf TSi MkV replaces the 2-litre naturally aspirated model, but with the smaller engine is now much more frugal. VW quotes 7.1l/100km — a figure that is ridiculously easy to beat. Take, for example, the FPV GT I reviewed a month or two ago. It has a quoted figure of around 15 litres per 100km from the 290kW V8. That would be about right if all roads sloped downhill. With the Golf, though, I regularly got better than 7.1. If you look carefully at the images below, you’ll see I managed a piffling 6.5k/100km travelling from Parkside HQ in Grey Lynn to the photo location in Kohimarama. Without even trying. With a turbo engine. Ye gods!

But you’re not going to buy a turbo Golf solely because of the fuel economy. If that really mattered to you, you’d buy the diesel Polo TDi which achieves 4.5l/100km. No, turbocharged vehicles should be about an engaging drive, comfortable seats, and conveniently placed receptacles to take my ever-present water bottle.

On a trip to Raglan over the weekend, the receptacles performed with aplomb, allowing me to remain optimally hydrated from the door-mounted bottle holder. The Golf was responsive and comfortingly competent on the sinuous backroads via Waingaro. An insidious power lurks within, ready to burst past slower traffic. While I didn’t test the 0-100kph time, I’m sure VW’s marketing people are liars. It cannot possibly be 8.8 seconds — it feels quicker. Perhaps it’s the slight turbo lag on take-off that challenges the traction control, or maybe it’s the 220Nm of torque from a lowly 1500rpm, or even the slick-shifting six-speed DSG ‘box that makes the acceleration relentless. This dual-clutch gearbox also has a sport mode that makes it more responsive, and keeps the Golf in gears more suited to caning it through the gorse-clad wilderness; or, you can choose to change gears yourself using the sequential option.

Receptacles aside, being in the Golf is pleasant with dual climate control, an automatically dimming rear-view mirror, air conditioned glovebox, heated wing mirrors and rain-sensing wipers. Safety features include ABS, ESP (electronic stability protection) and EDL (electronic diff lock).

It’s unusual to get a white car as a press car. They get dirty quickly, and quite often have a ‘fleet’ look about them. But the Golf pretty much pulls it off. The body colour is set off with black trim and half-colour-coded bumpers, and the indicators are fared into the wing mirrors with the useful ability for the driver to actually see them blinking (less chance of accidentally leaving them on). Sixteen-inch six-spoke Hockenheim alloys wrapped in 205/55 tyres conceal disc brakes.

The lined receptacles made me think about how certain cars ooze quality. This Golf by no means has the trappings of luxury — the seats aren’t leather or electric, and the steering wheel is lacking basic controls like audio functions — but it feels great. It’s a car that is balanced. It has the right amount of power, sharp handling and interior practicality. It may not have all the luxuries in the world, but everything it does do, it does with precision and competence. VW has under-promised and over-delivered with the Golf.

Price: from $42,990

What we like:

  • Quality feel
  • Handling
  • Performance
  • Frugal as someone who lived in World War I

What we don’t like

  • Some items that would be considered standard on a car this price are omitted – audio controls on steering column, reversing sensors, electric seats
  • A touch on the pricey side

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

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