The long-awaited Volkswagen e-Golf has made its official North American debut at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, and when it arrives in dealerships about a year from now, it will be the first pure electric VW ever to be sold in U.S. dealerships. As the name suggests, the e-Golf is based on the VW Golf, the seventh-generation of which is due to hit U.S showrooms next spring.
When the e-Golf finally does arrive, it will look for all the world like any other Mark VII Golf hatchback. Whereas many new EVs are full of eco-weirdness (we’re looking you, BMW i3), VW only made minimal changes to the standard Golf’s styling: a paneled-over grille area, unique wheels, a subtle rear spoiler, blue outlines for the “VW’ badges, and C-shaped LED lights in the bumper that VW says will become the common light signature of all pure electric VWs henceforth. Other, less noticeable changes include underbody aero trays, full-LED headlamps and air vanes on the C-pillar to manage airflow around the back of the car. No crazy “I’m electric!” decals or aero whoopee-joops.
Changes to the interior are limited to a gauge cluster featuring a power/regenerative braking display in place of a tachometer, and unique screens for the multifunction display. Beneath the skin, you’ll find a 115-horsepower synchronous permanent-magnet AC motor that serves up an impressive 199 ft.-lb. of torque immediately from a stop. VW claims that the 3,090-lb e-Golf can reach 25 mph in 4.2 seconds on its way to 62 mph in 10.4 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 87 mph. VW claims that the e-Golf’s average range will be between 70 and 90 miles, which is about average for the class these days. All the while, VW says, it should drive with the same planted feel as other Golfs.
Now, considering all the love (and money) that environmentally sensitive people have given Volkswagen over time, it’s been somewhat surprising to see VW in a follower—as opposed to leader—role in the EV realm. Why did it wait so long? Because it wanted to wait until the new Golf arrived, since it uses a flexible new chassis called “MQB” that can accommodate a variety of powertrains without significant modifications. But VW does not plan to be following for long, pledging to be “the world leader in e-mobility among automakers by 2018.”
Alongside the e-Golf on VW’s L.A. Auto Show stand was the Crossblue Coupe plug-in hybrid concept, which the company debuted in Shanghai last spring and which could preview a possible future derivative of the husky Crossblue three-row SUV that VW has already approved for an introduction in about two years’ time. While its clean styling and squat, athletic proportions might win friends with Los Angeles stylisti, we’re not sure it’s got the chops to make it as a proper mid-sized ute, primarily due to its low headroom.
The Crossblue Coupe is powered by a turbocharged V-6/electric powertrain that VW claims produces “as much as 415 hp” and can hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds with a top speed of 147 mph. It can also travel for up to 13 miles on electrons alone at speeds up to 75 mph, with a maximum range of 570 miles once the gas engine kicks in to help.
While we are unlikely to see the Crossblue Coupe produced in anything remotely as extreme as seen here, it is an interesting example of the flexibility of VW’s modular MQB architecture, from which VW plans to spin off many variants, from EVs to high-performance V-6-powered SUVs, from coupes to three-row crossovers, with front or all-wheel drive.