The VW group never fails to impress us with their state-of-the art technology. Faithful readers already know that we have commented in these columns about VW's cylinder shut off techniques on their latest generation of gasoline engines. And now we have come to drive it, not only the new engine, but also the remarkable new Golf, which has not only reached a high level of technology, but also an uncanny smoothness and mechanical refinement which is among the very best in its class.
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Indeed, the new Golf not only inspired us during the test, but also moved spirits amongst the jury members of the Car of the Year 2013. The panel of judges, consisting of 58 automotive journalists from 22 countries, had nominated eight candidates beforehand that would enter the final run. They were tested and compared and evaluated during the last few months under a broad range of criteria, such as fuel efficiency, comfort, safety, driving properties, functionality, design and technological progress. In the 50th round of the traditional competition, the new Golf came out on top before its seven competitors, garnering a total score of 414 in the final vote. By the way, two Volkswagen models have received the coveted prize before: the Golf in 1992 and the Polo in 2010.
The “Car of the Year” is not the only prize. What to think of the “Best cars of 2013,” “Auto Trophy 2012,” “Auto der Vernunft (Car of Reason)” and the British “Top Gear – All the car you’ll ever need” Awards…
But now back to the car, and let’s have a look at its styling. Indeed, it has a timeless aura about it.
Only a handful of cars have a design that, like the Golf’s, has been constantly refined, tweaked and enhanced down the decades and has thus become timeless.
In developing the new Golf, the teams led by head designers Walter de Silva (Group) and Klaus Bischoff (Brand) based their work on a great deal of creative freedom, while also focusing on the principles of the Volkswagen “design DNA.”
This DNA includes the typical C-pillars, the long roofline and the characteristic front and rear sections. See the photo above...
At the world press presentation of the car at Porto Cervo, Marc Lichte, lead exterior designer, explained: “The proportions have changed, as we have taken advantage of the Modular Transverse Matrix here. The front wheels, for example, have moved 43 millimetres further forward. The front overhang is therefore shorter, while the bonnet looks longer.” Klaus Bischoff confirms this: “Visually, the passenger compartment has been shifted towards the rear, creating what is called a ‘cab backward’ impression.
That’s what we call the proportions of premium-class vehicles, where the bonnet is long and the passenger compartment a long way towards the back. On the new Golf, we thus have proportions that you otherwise only get in higher-class segments of the market.”
We can only confirm all this, and the car looks indeed pleasing from any angle.
We found also this pleasing timeless familiarity back in the interior. The shape and forms of dials, needles, knobs and handles all are so familiar, but then also thoroughly businesslike and modern, and at the same time have a quality aura about it, which is typical of… Volkswagen.
In choosing the reflection and tactile properties of the different interior materials, VW as succeeded in giving the Golf pilot a “Phaeton” feeling, an impression one I behind the wheel of a (very) upmarket car.
Needless to say, the finish of the car as a whole is impeccable.
But now let’s have a look at this interesting engine…
State of the art engine technology…
Active cylinder management is now making its debut in the 1.4 TSI with 103 kW/140 PS.
This shut off feature is active over an engine speed range between 1,400 and 4,000 rpm and torques of up to 85 Nm.
This is a broad characteristic map, which covers 70 per cent of all driving states in the EU driving cycle. If the driver presses the accelerator pedal rather aggressively, cylinders 2 and 3 begin to work again, without a noticeable transition.
VW boasts that the high efficiency of the system does not have any negative effects on smooth running: even with two cylinders the excellently balanced 1.4 TSI runs just as quietly and with low vibration as with four active combustion chambers. All mechanical switchover processes take place within one camshaft rotation; depending on engine speed this takes just 13 to 36 milliseconds.
Accompanying interventions in ignition and throttle valve processes smooth the transitions.
Driving at constant speeds on snowy (winter) roads, we had ample occasions to test out this “shut off” management, and indeed, when its running on two cylinders, it is noticeable, but only to the very keen driver. Certainly in high gear when slowly accelerating, one can hear and feel just slightly the engine throb and slight roughness of a 2 cylinder engine, but, as said, only just. The passenger will indeed not notice anything at all.
Light and efficient
Altogether, the components of active cylinder management weigh just 3 kg. Their actuators, the camshafts and their bearing frames are integrated in the cylinder head; two low-friction bearings reduce shaft friction.
Important to know: only with the TSI concept – petrol direct injection plus turbocharging – is cylinder deactivation even conceivable in the form being implemented today.
In naturally aspirated direct-injection systems there would be complications in fuel induction, combustion and emissions control… as the VW engineers point out.
Does it have any effect on fuel consumption? It certainly does. According to the manufacturer, the Golf 1.4 TSI attains a combined fuel consumption of just 4.7 l/100 km (equivalent to 109 g/km CO2). The car also attains this value with the optional 7-speed DSG.
In the miserable winter conditions with enormous traffic jams we were able to appreciate the smoothness and docility of the engine, combined on our test car with the excellent 7-speed DSG, and under these conditions of only crawling speed averages we measured 7,6 litres on 100 kms, which is very creditable indeed. Under more “normal” driving conditions, averages of well below 6 litres were easy to reach. Note also that the 7-speed DSG has two dry clutches, enhancing efficiency even more.
The TSI offers a maximum torque of 250 Nm in the lower engine speed range
from 1,500 rpm to 3,500 rpm and accelerates the Golf to 100 km/h in just 8.4 seconds. Top speed is an impressive 212 km… need we say more?
… and refinement
What was particularly impressive for us, was the way the new Golf performed. The gearbox is ideally mated to the engine’s characteristics, its changes fast and ultra smooth, and we had the feeling that we were driving a “mini” Phaeton, which is no small feat in this car class.
It is maybe the biggest compliment we can give this car, which as still so much more technical features that one test report cannot tell all. We will come back on the excellent and very comfortable chassis and suspension when we test other engine variations, and we will also make a special report on the new family of EA211 engine series, describing the new engine generation in technical detail.
Indeed, excellence was expected from the new Golf, and yes, the new 7th generation completely lives up to its promises. It will continue to set standards in its class, and we certainly look forward on driving further (Diesel) engine versions, whereby we will have the opportunity to tell you more about this world-class car.
Hans Knol ten Bensel