2018 Volkswagen Golf Family

Back in 1974, Volkswagen introduced, as its successor to the Beetle, the car we now know as the Golf. It then came to the United States one year later as the Volkswagen Rabbit.

Famed Italian auto designer Giorgetto Giugiaro (Jor Jetto Jew Jaro) penned the original version of the car. He also did the BMW M1, Lotus Esprit and DeLorean DMC-12 exotics. Despite this esteemed DNA, the Rabbit didn’t really catch on in the States until 1979, when high gas prices made the benefits of its small engine and spacious interior more readily apparent.

Currently in its seventh generation, the 2018 Volkswagen Golf is more properly referred to as a family of cars. Let’s take a look at the Golf, e-Golf, Golf GTI, Golf R, Golf Alltrack and Golf Sportwagen.

Golf

The one upon which all the others are based is an outstanding foundation. Its crisp styling descended directly from the original Giugiaro design, the Golf looks pricier than it actually is.  This carries over to the interior treatment as well. Soft touch materials, substantial controls for secondary functions and the tasteful design please the senses, even while going easy on the wallet.

A 6.5-inch touchscreen provides the focal point, as well as control over infotainment functions. The high ceiling provides an airy feel while there is more than adequate shoulder room, for practically every sized individual.

The engine is a 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder with 199 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed automatic is an option. If you go with the manual, torque output is reduced to 184 lb-ft. The powerplant is shared with the Alltrack and Sportwagen. Going down the road, the Golf is wonderfully stable, even at elevated speeds. The Golf hangs on admirably when roads twist and turn as well.

Pricing starts at $20,910.

Golf Sportwagen

Take everything positive about the Golf Hatchback, add 66.5 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity (which is more than a host of compact crossover SUVs) and you’ll have the 2018 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen. Building further upon the Golf’s offerings is the availability of all-wheel drive. If you choose VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, you can also elect to have a six-speed manual transmission rather than the five-speed offered with the front-drive powertrain.

Available driver assistance systems include forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, as well as adaptive cruise control and a blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert. Lane departure warning, front and rear park distance control with maneuver braking and a parking steering assistant are also available. Rounding out the safety suite are automatic high beam control and an overhead view camera system.

The longer wheelbase of the Sportwagen improves ride quality, while only slightly detracting from handling.  If you like all of the attributes of the Golf, but need more room for your family—or the toys for your active lifestyle—Golf Sportwagen neatly fills the bill.

Pricing starts at $21,685.

Golf Alltrack

With 6.9-inches of ground clearance, standard all-wheel drive and an off-road drive mode, the VW Golf Alltrack is capable of going anywhere a typical crossover SUV can be expected to travel. And yet, it boasts more agility in addition to a particularly Germanic feel at speed on the highway. 

With that said, yes, the Alltrack does give up some of its handling prowess when compared to its Golf and Sportwagen siblings. However it more than makes up for it with the ability to go deep into the forest without scraping its chin on every obstacle a two-track dirt road might present.

For 2018, VW endowed its soft-road wagon with automatic headlights as standard equipment. Other standard features include roof rails and a rearview camera, plus heat for the seats and side-view mirrors.

Pricing starts at $25,955.

Golf GTI

For GTI, VW ups engine displacement to a full 2.0-liters, which makes 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque possible. Transmission choices for the front-drive powertrain are a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic.  By the way, if you go with the automatic, you’ll get launch control too.

Introduced in 1983 as one of the first high performance hatchback models ever offered, the VW GTI holds a special place in the imaginations of driving enthusiasts everywhere. Ensuring it lives up to those expectations, the GTI’s engineering team fitted a more aggressive suspension system, a performance-oriented steering algorithm and bigger brakes. It also gets 18-inch wheels and low-profile performance tires. The suspension enhancements lower the GTI’s ride height by .6 of an inch compared to the standard Golf.

The engine is strong, winds freely and pulls the GTI easily. Handling is crisp, predictable and exceptionally entertaining. Steering is quicker and heavier than Golf’s, but just right when you’re cooking up the groove.  One of the most affordable of the true driver’s cars on the market, the GTI is also one of the best.

Pricing starts at $26,415.

e-Golf

Perhaps the most distinctive thing about the 2018 Volkswagen e-Golf is how indistinctive it is. Many manufacturers take great pains to ensure you’re aware their electric models are indeed electric. In stark contrast, the e-Golf has very subtle exterior cues. Blue trim, LED running lights in the lower front valance, a specific set of wheels, e-Golf badges and the lack of a tailpipe are among the only readily observable hints.

Inside, the most significant difference is the VW Digital Cockpit (VWDC), which replaces the analog gauge cluster you’ll find in every other Golf variant (save Golf R, as it also gets the VWDC, but with a tachometer, instead of the e-Golf’s power display). Straightforward in its presentation, you’ll find fuel economy, navigation and audio information. The Digital Cockpit also places the navigation system’s map between the two main dials. Another unique attribute, unlike other EVs on the market, electrifying he Golf left all its cargo capacity intact.

A battery upgrade for the 2018 model year expands driving range to 125 miles. The electric motor delivers 134 horsepower and 214 lb-ft of torque. With all of that torque available the moment you press the go-pedal, the e-Golf launches with the same urgency you’ll find in the standard gasoline-powered iterations. It also handles, steers and brakes with the same adeptness as the standard Golf models.

Pricing starts at $30,495.

Golf R

The ultimate Golf, the R gets a 292-horsepower version of the 2.0-liter turbocharged four. Maximum torque output is 280 lb-ft. and all-wheel drive is standard. Transmission choices are a six-speed manual or a (new for the 2018 model year) seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The Golf R’s all-wheel drive system decouples the rear wheels in steady-state operation to improve fuel economy.

Easily capable of challenging many of the best popularly priced sports cars, the Golf R goes like a true sport sedan.  Throttle, steering and braking responses are outstanding. Grip is fantastic and ride quality is commendable—even with the enhanced handling prowess on tap.

What’s more, living with a Golf R as your daily driver is laughably easy. Like all of the other Golf variants, you’ll find outstanding comfort and spaciousness blended with a decided lack of ostentation. Like its electrified sibling, the 2018 Volkswagen Golf R makes you look closely to determine its nature. Yes, it has a lower ride height like the GTI, along with low profile tires and larger wheels, but to the casual observer, those differences go largely undetected.

Pricing starts at $39,785.

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