By: Dave Abrahams
Wolfsburg, Germany - Volkswagen is calling this the digitalising of the Golf, as it presents a major update of its core model, with revised styling front and rear, one new and two updated engines and a new DSG transmission. But what the 2017 Golf is really all about, is its completely new generation of infotainment systems.
Get ready for a steep learning curve when the millennial-friendly Golf 7.5 gets here in the second quarter of 2017, with a range of touchscreens ranging from the basic 165mm set-up to a giant 234mm command centre, with voice, swipe and gesture control, set in a seamless glass console with not a switch or a button in sight.
The base model’s 130mm display has been replaced by a 165mm touchscreen with an 800 x 480 pixel resolution, while the current 165mm display is replaced by a 200mm touchscreen, also with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, and the 200mm display of the range-topping ‘Discover Pro’ display gives way to a 234mm touchscreen with resolution increased from 800 x 480 to 1280 x 640 pixels.
It’s also the first infotainment system from Volkswagen with touch, voice and gesture control (and will also be introduced in other models during 2017), as well as the first to feature a seamless glass surface across the entire width of the centre stack. The five most important functions - Menu, Home, On/Off, Volume Up and Volume Down - are operated by a row of backlit panels down the left side of the screen, just like on a tablet.
All it takes is a swipe
More than that, the Home screen is also individually configurable; it shows the navigation function to the left, with two smaller touch-sensitive displays of your choice, one above the other, on the right – for instance the radio or media library on top and phone contacts below.
And all it takes is a swipe to move the menus left and right, scroll through the main menu, change radio stations, flip through the playlist or browse through the picture viewer and albums in the media library.
The ‘Discover Pro’ system also includes a 4 x 20 watt amp, a DVD drive, two Apple-compatible USB ports, two SD card slots, an auxiliary socket and a 10GB SSD drive, loaded with music and video playback software, a proximity sensor and voice control as well as navigation.
Options include Volkswagen's App Connect, one or two extra USB ports, a rear-view camera and two wireless cellphone interfaces - which can connect the phones to the car’s aerial and charge them inductively, by simply putting them in a redesigned optional storage compartment.
A customisable ‘glass cockpit’ virtual instrument panel will be available as an option across the range for the first time on a Golf, with a number of interactive features, displayed on a 310mm screen with a resolution of 1440 x 540 pixels.
Navigation can be displayed in 2D or 3D, with the speedometer and rev-counter moved to the sides to make room – or you can choose from the Classic, Consumption & Range, Efficiency or Performance & Driver Assistance profiles, each with or without additional data such as telephone contact images or CD covers.
To the usual spectrum of driver aids, the 2017 Golf adds traffic jam assist, pedestrian monitoring with emergency braking, trailer assist, emergency assist and an updated version of the PreCrash proactive passenger protection system.
Traffic Jam Assist is capable of partially automated driving in heavy traffic by combining a lane departure warning system and automatic distance control for all Golf models with a DSG gearbox. The car steers, accelerates and brakes automatically within the system's boundaries - but only with the driver's hands on the steering wheel and helping with steering.
But if the car notices that you’re not making not making any steering, braking or acceleration movements, emergency assist comes into play – first with a series of warning and then, if you don’t react, it will switch on the hazard lights, weave gently to warn the driver (or car!) behind that all is not well, and brake gradually to a stop.
The latest version of Front Assist is also capable of spotting pedestrians and will warn you if a jaywalker is on a collision course with your car; if you don’t react it will brake autonomously.
To reverse a trailer into a parking bay or an entrance off the street, all you do is drive past, put the cart into reverse, push the Trailer Assist button, and take care of acceleration and braking while the car’s computer reads the image displayed by the rear-view camera and does all the complicated back-to-front steering for you.
The new Golf’s third-generation Park Assist function will not only reverse parallel-park the car for you, it’ll steer you, forwards or backwards, into any perpendicular parking bay, and even extract you from a parallel-parking bay.
The udgraded PreCrash passenger protection system will now tighten the seatbelts automatically if it senses detects a potential crash situation - and if the electronic stability programme detects severe over or understeer it’ll also close the window and sunroof, except for a small gap, to allow the head and side airbags to do their job properly.
The updates are less dramatic from the outside - with new bumpers front and rear, new front wings, new halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights, full LED headlights instead of xenon headlights - and full LED tail lights that will be standard across the range.
The lower chrome strip on the grille extends to the left and right as a chrome element and then as daytime running lights, so the combination runs right across the front of the car – and it’s colour-coded, red instead of chrome on the GTI and blue on GTE models.
Wider lower intakes also accentuate the width of the car, while the radar sensor for the driver aids is now hidden behind the VW logo in the middle.
Nut and bolts
The 2017 Golf introduces an entirely new engine – the 110kW 1.5-litre TSI Evo turbopetrol four with common-rail direct fuel-injection and active cylinder management, which will be followed later in the year by a ‘lean and clean’ 96kW Blue-Motion version.
Each uses a combustion cycle derived from the Miller cycle and a variable-geometry turbocharger. The full-cream 110kW TSI is rated for 250Nm at just 1500rpm, while burning a nominal 4.9 litres per 100km.
The low-fat 96kW BlueMotion version is good for 200Nm at an even lower 1400 revs and slurps just 4.6 litres per 100km on the admittedly unrealistic NEDC laboratory cycle.
The BluMotion TSI also has the facility to shut down completely while coasting, which has only been seen in hybrids up till now because systems such as the power steering and brake booster still need power on the overrun. On 2017 Golfs, however, all these systems are electromechanical, and can run off the battery while the car is coasting.
The GTI has also been updated, with the standard version now as powerful as the previous Performance version at 169kW (up 7kW) and the Performance version now rated at 180kW.
The current six-speed dual-clutch gearbox will be replaced right across the Golf range by a new seven-speed transmission; the VW media release, however, says ‘gradually’, so the seven-speeder may not be available in all Golf variants at launch.
What will be available at launch in South Africa, and what they will cost, will be announced closer to the time.