It’s certainly not often that we get to sample the European-spec version of a vehicle on this continent, but that’s what we got from Volkswagen just over a week ago in Seattle—months before the U.S. version of the new sixth-generation Golf goes on sale.
The current fifth-generation Golf saw a U.S. introduction that was staggered a couple of years after its European intro; and when it arrived it carried a bargain price, segment-leading safety equipment, and the Rabbit badge. For this new generation, the Golf name is back in the U.S., and we can expect a few more sophisticated features in the versions we get.
However, the Euro-spec Golf TDI that we tested over a quick drive was quite a tease—eliciting a number of oohs and ahs from some features that, most likely, we’ll never see on the U.S. versions. For instance, it had VW’s Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC), which in the U.S. will likely be offered on the pricier GTI but not the Golf. AAC has three modes—normal, Comfort, and Sport.
The new Golf VI, as it’s been called, carries over the platform of the current model, but with some obvious extensive changes to packaging. The driving position has improved, and the interior has been simplified in layout yet upgraded in terms of materials; most noteworthy was the plush, grippy fabric that stood out from the meshy, lint-attracting fabrics that so many U.S. products are now getting.
VW was one of the first automakers to really get electric power steering right in the current (Rabbit) Golf, but the steering ratio in our new Golf felt like it’s been quickened a bit, and the thick steering wheel felt just right (and a lot like the new one in the new Audi A4), and the car felt more tossable and responsive. Of course, we tried the suspension’s Sport mode and noted how the responses firmed up without ride quality becoming too harsh. The steering boost felt dialed back a slight bit as well.
Oh, and we saw an average of just over 50 miles per gallon in about 20 miles of city driving. Seeing that we’d just driven an ’09 Jetta TDI a few weeks before and was seeing instantaneous readouts far below that, it was surmised that the car was reading in Imperial gallons. Even adjusted, at around 42 mpg: very impressive.
The Golf TDI was also optioned up with a navigation system, xenon headlamps, and an excellent Dynaudio sound system—all of which will be optional only on the 2010 Golf TDI in the U.S. but not the gasoline model. This Euro model also had a parking-assist system integrated with the nav system and advanced cruise control.
So what will we see in our versions of the Golf? Equipment details of the U.S.-bound version were announced back at the New York show earlier this spring. While we’d expected a more modern, efficient base engine for the U.S. this time around, the Golf will still be saddled with the thirsty 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter iron-block in-line five, with a five-speed manual or conventional automatic transmission. A TDI diesel engine will again be optional, hooked up to manual or the much-preferred DSG automatic transmission. U.S. versions will get front-wheel drive initially, but it’s possible they’ll see 4Motion all-wheel drive available later.
We’ll bring you more information and driving impressions for the U.S. version as soon as we can get into it.