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Volkswagen ID R claims electric Nurburgring lap record

Volkswagen ID R Nurburgring record

The all-electric Nurburgring lap record has been smashed by the Volkswagen ID R racer. The hillclimb champ, with Pikes Peak and Goodwood already under its belt, set its sights on the notorious Nordschleife, posting a time of 6min 5.3sec.

The new car is a very different beast to the one that dominated Pikes Peak and Goodwood. The Nurburgring circuit features many straights, with the main one longer than the entire Goodwood hillclimb, and these demand a high top speed. So VW had to reduce drag, which also resulted in a loss of downforce.

Enter an F1-style Drag Reduction System (DRS), good for making the car 20 percent slipperier when the going gets straight and fast(er)

Batteries are easily drained, however, so the ID R’s VMAX is ‘only’ around 155mph. It could be much more, but even with the 20 percent battery boost from KERS, the full 12.9-mile lap necessitates tactical power conservation.

Volswagen ID R: how quick is quick?

For the avoidance of doubt, the time is a full 40 seconds quicker than the previous electric record-holder, the NIO EP9. The EP9 is a road car, though, so a better benchmark ought to be the legendary Stefan Bellof lap in the Porsche 956, which the ID R beats by six seconds.

Until last year – when Porsche went record-hunting with the 919 Evo LMP1 car – Bellof held the lap record for 35 years.

The ID R team was aiming for a 6min 15sec lap, but given VW had two chassis to work with, and quick-charge times of 20 minutes, consistent lapping paid dividends. 

What’s next? Well, there’s the Festival of Speed at Goodwood coming up soon, at which the ID R came very close to the overall record last year. Maybe the ‘Ring spec car will be there to make it happen? We shall see…

What’s the point of all this?

Volkswagen ID R Nurburgring record

There’s no better arena to prove technology to be used in future road cars than the racetrack. The ID R is, in effect, the halo machine for VW’s new ID electric-only model line.

Advancements made in this car today will inform what we see in ID road cars tomorrow.

Volkswagen service plans cover ALL cars back to 1999

Volkswagen servicing

Volkswagen has introduced widespread changes to its service plans, which now cater for electric cars and models up to 20 years old. And the plan covers some of VW’s strangest and most exotic models

The changes should future-proof Volkswagen’s servicing protocol as electric cars become mainstream. It also acknowledges owners of modern classics that would otherwise become costly to maintain. We’ll get to the electric car service plan in a bit. First, those ‘unicorn’ cars…

Volkswagen servicing

These include both generations of the V6-engined Golf R32, the W8-engined Passat and the V10- and W12-engined versions of the Phaeton and Touareg.

Given the only limit to the service package is the car must be under 250,000 miles, even oddballs like the ultra-eco XL1 are presumably included.

This is a significant upgrade to the previous package, which allowed cars up to eight years old.

Volkswagen electric car servicing offer

Volkswagen servicing

Also new is the electric car servicing package. This is a big deal for the marque, given the difficulty of preparing dealer servicing departments for high-voltage maintenance.

According to VW, it’s ‘another signpost that mainstream electric vehicles from Volkswagen are not just imminent, but have already arrived’.

How do the service plans work?

Volkswagen servicing

The service plans include the mandatory two-year service on an electric vehicle and the yearly check-ups that follow.

At present owners can buy two services upfront and split the cost of a service plan into a monthly fee. The new plans mean you can pre-book up to four future check-ups at once.

“This series of updates to our service plan catalogue reflects the changing needs of drivers, as cutting-edge, zero-emission electric cars like the e-Golf are now included, as well as older vehicles up to 20 years old”, said Kevin Rendell of Volkswagen UK.

“It’s a real commitment to the satisfaction of Volkswagen owners, whether they are driving family workhorses or cherished modern classics. Offering the peace of mind and quality of care that a full dealer service provides on cars, which can now date back as early as 1999 shows that we value drivers of older vehicles.”

Why Volkswagen is already planning the second life for its electric car batteries

vw electric car batteries

The battery is one of the most expensive parts on an electric car, but what do you do with it when the vehicle reaches the end of its life? Volkswagen has the answer.

Doing nothing is not a solution, but Volkswagen will adopt a two-pronged strategy: re-use and recycle.

While an older lithium-ion battery that’s been in use for a decade may not be suitable for powering a vehicle, it could still have its uses. Amazingly, the battery pack in the 2019 e-Golf can store as much energy as a typical household consumes in one day.

Which is why Volkswagen intends to use the battery packs from its electric vehicles in a network of portable recharging stations. Designed to hold up to 360 kilowatt-hours of energy, these stations can charge up to four vehicles at a time.

And because they’re portable enough to be used in hard-to-charge locations, they can ‘pop-up’ at music festivals, public events and car shows. Clever stuff.

At some point, a battery will lose its ability to store energy, which is where Volkswagen’s component plant in Salzgitter, Germany, will be called into action. From next year, the facility will have the capacity to recycle approximately 1,200 tons of EV batteries every year – that’s around 3,000 vehicles.

The company wants to recycle 97 percent of the raw materials in the battery packs, up from the present 53 percent and more than the 72 percent expected at the Salzgitter plant.

Shredded batteries

electric car batteries shredded

A special shredder will separate the components into a black powder containing the valuable raw materials cobalt, lithium, manganese and nickel. Mining these materials is both bad for the environment and hugely expensive, so using them again is a win-win.

Such strategies are required to cope with the expected rise in demand for electric vehicles. Volkswagen expects to be building a million EVs by 2025, each one with an expected lifespan of 10 to 15 years.

Bill Plant Driving School is now exclusively Volkswagen

Bill Plant Driving School Volkswagen

Volkswagen has become the sole vehicle supplier for Bill Plant Driving School, with the national driver training firm using T-Roc and Golf models.

Bill Plant Driving School started using Golfs in early 2018, but the company’s fleet will be Volkswagen-only by the end of the year. The Bill Plant website states that its fleet currently includes the 1 Series, but the BMW’s days are numbered.

Deliveries of the T-Roc to the Bill Plant Driving School fleet began in March, and so far, hundreds of new cars have been delivered to instructors across the UK. Volkswagen expects to deliver more cars as the business opens more franchises using Golf or T-Roc models.

Bill Plant Driving School Volkswagen T-Roc

The T-Rocs will be delivered in 1.6 TDI SE specification and will feature a touchscreen sat-nav system, remote electrically foldable door mirrors with kerb view, front and rear parking sensors and adaptive cruise control. Learner drivers can expect to pay £29.50 to receive tuition in Volkswagen’s small SUV.

The Golfs are also powered by a 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine but are delivered in SE Match trim. The spec is largely the same, but learners pay £27.50 for manual gearbox tuition or £29.50 to learn to drive in an automatic. Obviously, both cars are dual-controlled.

‘A smash hit’

Michael O’Shea, Volkswagen UK’s head of fleet, said: “The Golf is Volkswagen’s most popular model and is a smash hit with UK customers, being the second best-selling car in the country, so it’s easy to see why learners can benefit from a Golf being their introduction to driving life.

“The T-Roc SUV, with its numerous safety features, elevated seating position and compact size, has the ideal combination of qualities to make learners feel at ease when venturing out on the road. Volkswagen prides itself on the safety of its cars, so it’s little wonder Bill Plant Driving School chose the Golf and T-Roc to create a whole new generation of Volkswagen fans.”

Bill Plant Driving School Volkswagen Golf

Tom Hixon, head of instructor support at Bill Plant Driving School commented: “We’ve received tremendously positive feedback from our driving instructors and pupils about the new Volkswagen Golf, and we also welcome the T-Roc to the Bill Plant Driving School fleet.

“Every week hundreds of pupils will have their first experience of driving with Bill Plant Driving School inside either a Volkswagen Golf or T-Roc. This is a tremendous partnership for Bill Plant Driving School as we continue to grow our business in 2019.”

Volkswagen electric cars produce less CO2 for life

Electric cars DO have a smaller carbon footprint overall, says Volkswagen

Volkswagen electric cars produce less CO2 for lifeVolkswagen has crunched the numbers to show electric cars produce lower CO2 emissions than petrol- or diesel-engined models, for the entire lifespan of the vehicle.

While it may be clear that an electric car produces no direct CO2 emissions when driving, Volkswagen has demonstrated the wider savings through use of a ‘certified life cycle assessment’ process.

The company has taken the all-electric e-Golf, and the traditional diesel-engined Golf TDI, to demonstrate just how substantial the differences can be over the whole life of a car.

Volkswagen electric cars produce less CO2 for lifeThe diesel Golf TDI produces 140g/km CO2 on average over its entire life cycle, while the electric e-Golf sees average emissions of 119g/km.

When in use, and being fuelled, the Golf TDI will produce average emissions of 111g/km, derived from the supply of diesel and the burning of it in the engine.

By comparison the e-Golf will average 62g/km across the use and charging stage of its life. Those emissions are the result of energy being generated from the power grid to recharge the e-Golf’s battery pack.

Swapping to an energy provider that only supplies power from renewable sources would see this drop to just 2g/km for the e-Golf.

Volkswagen electric cars produce less CO2 for lifeThe only time at which the diesel Golf results in a lower carbon footprint is during its initial stage of being built in a factory.

Due to the exotic metals and other elements included in the battery pack for the e-Golf, extracting these from the ground as raw materials results in higher CO2 emissions of 57g/km. In contrast, building the Golf TDI emits accounts for only 29g/km of CO2.

Volkswagen does note that battery technology is improving all the time, and that forthcoming ID electric cars will offer substantial reductions in overall CO2.

The company has also invested in a new pilot factory, which recycles batteries at the end of their lifecycle into new materials. Doing so could save a further 25% in carbon emissions, but will not become a widespread practice until the end of the next decade.

Blockbuster: Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR vs greatest roads of Wales

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR in Wales

The hot hatch is best enjoyed alone. I came to this conclusion after spending a day in the company of the new Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR on the roads of Mid Wales. It was the kind of day that might have prompted Lou Reed to write a song. Almost everything was perfect, including the weather, which was very Welsh.

I’d arrived in Crickhowell, a small town in the foothills of the Black Mountains, just before 8am, feeling decidedly jaded following a three-hour motorway slog in a diesel-powered MPV. But there’s nothing like the sight of a freshly washed hot hatch – not to mention a fresh pot of tea – to stir the soul and awaken the senses.

Before most people had finished their morning commute, I was behind the wheel of a five-door Golf GTI TCR finished in Pure Grey, a colour unique to this run-out model. No passenger, no predefined road route and no rush to get back. Just a full tank of fuel and the entire Welsh road network at my disposal.

In truth, it wouldn’t have mattered where I went, because Wales is essentially a greatest hits album of epic roads: Now That’s What I Call Great Driving Roads. But I intended to put together a playlist of Welsh gems, so I took the A479 to Talgarth and headed for Builth Wells.

T, C and R, please, Bob

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR decals

First, a bit about the Golf GTI TCR. This is the last hurrah for the Mk7.5 Golf, its name and styling inspired by the Touring Car Racing series. Volkswagen has been successful in the formula, so it made sense to create a hotter Golf GTI inspired by the race car.

The tribute act is a lot more subtle than the track star, especially if you resist the temptation to spend £550 on the honeycomb design side decals. Maybe I’m getting old, but I’d prefer my TCR without the homage to Blockbusters plastered on the side. The letters T, C and R on the base of the rear doors are enough for me, Bob.

Other aesthetic upgrades over the Golf GTI Performance include a new front splitter, side skirts, a rear diffuser, black door mirrors and a larger tailgate spoiler. This particular car had the optional TCR Performance Pack, comprising 19-inch black alloys (18s are standard), semi-slick Pirelli tyres, de-restricted top speed to 164mph, suspension lowered by 20mm and Dynamic Chassis Control.

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR interior

All in, my test car cost a not insignificant £41,289.19, its price inflated by the £2,900 TCR Performance Pack, £1,000 panoramic sunroof, £100 rear tinted glass, £555 decals, £300 rear side airbags and £534.19 vehicle tracker. A panoramic sunroof on a track-inspired hot hatch? No thanks.

But then everyday useability has always been one of the Golf GTI’s greatest strengths. An ability to switch from mellow roast to espresso in the blink of an eye. The TCR is no stripped-out hardcore racer in the style of the Clubsport S, it’s a car for all reasons, even if the Golf R is – on paper at least – a superior car for all seasons.

I hadn’t so much left the suburbs of Crickhowell before I had settled into a groove. Finding the perfect driving position is easy, while the TCR seats provide good initial comfort and superb long-term support. But while the red marker at the top of the steering wheel is a neat touch, I wish Volkswagen had finished the wheel in Alcantara to match the gear gaiter and door inserts.

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR steering wheel

You can play around with the driving modes until your heart’s content, but for 90 percent of the time, I found myself in Sport mode and with the seven-speed DSG transmission set to manual. Some may bemoan the absence of a manual gearbox, but in the hills and mountains of Wales, the paddles weren’t a spoiler, they were adding to the event.

It’s not as though Sport mode turns the TCR into a rabid beast, loaded with pent-up aggression and egging you on to drive faster – this is not a hot hatch in the style of the Honda Civic Type R. There’s a noticeable difference between Comfort and Sport, but the ride quality is never uncomfortable, even on the 19-inch rims, and the exhaust pop-pops on the overrun are more pronounced.

Forget Eco mode, which is akin to exchanging the sticky Pirellis for a set of waders and asking the TCR to go bog snorkelling in Llanwrtyd Wells.

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR seats

Not that the car ever lets you forget that we’re living in eco-conscious times. Every so often, the dashboard would display an ‘eco tip’ advising me to flick the shifter into automatic to save fuel. An unwanted distraction, especially when you’re enjoying the asphalt of Mid Wales.

The 20-mile drive to Talgarth was like a familiarisation event; like being reacquainted with an old friend, everything feels right in a Golf GTI. It might be easy to poke a stick at VW for being a little unadventurous with its interiors, but when the quality is this good, and the ergonomics are near-faultless, who’s complaining?

It puts you at ease and delivers the confidence you require to really enjoy a hot hatch. And as I peeled off the A483 at Beulah, that was precisely what I intended to do.

The Abergwesyn Pass

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR Abergwesyn

By now, the fine weather that had greeted me as I crossed the Severn Bridge had given way to sleet. The clouds hung heavy over the peaks of the hills towering over the Abergweysn Pass, while the roads were coated in a treacherous blend of sheep mess and drizzle. Conditions more suited to the Golf R, perhaps?

Not a bit of it. Up here, in splendid isolation, this was everything a car enthusiast could dream of. No phone reception, no need to be anywhere, no Slack notifications, no four-wheel-drive. A hot hatch should be driven through the front wheels. End of story.

Just a few weeks earlier, this road had been rendered almost impassable by Storm Whateveritsnamewas, but today it created a playground for the TCR, the peace and tranquillity pierced by the tuneful burble being performed by the stainless steel exhaust system. It’s not anti-social loud, but it’s just enough to add something to the occasion.

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR Devils Staircase

From the three fords at the bottom of the pass, the road climbs up Devil’s Staircase, a one-in-four zig-zag hill requiring the use of first gear and an ability to see around corners. Here, the TCR struggled for grip, with a shift from first into second causing the traction control light to flash up as the car propelled itself to the next switchback.

I still hadn’t been able to make full use of the 290hp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine – that would come later – but I was already enjoying the thin-rimmed steering wheel, a welcome tonic to the ‘phat’ wheels deployed on some other hot hatches.

The steering itself is hardly brimming with feel, but it’s communicative enough to let you know what the front wheels are doing. It rewards a light grip on the wheel, and there’s a noticeable difference in weight between low-speed manoeuvring and high-speed cornering.

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR on road to Tregaron

It was from here to Tregaron that I truly appreciated the manual function of the DSG transmission. Blessed with a stretch of freshly-laid asphalt, the first section is a series of tight corners, woven together by short and snappy straights. While the shifts through the gears aren’t lightning quick, the paddles mean that you can keep your hands on the wheel, which is handy when the road is barely wide enough for one car.

Get it wrong, and a multitude of terrors lie in wait, including rolling down the hillside, wheels wiped out by roadside rocks or a head-on collision with one of the many sheep. Get it right, and it feels like heaven, even if the sleet had turned to snow and the pine forests were in full-on Narnia fancy dress mode.

Once past the long-since-retired red telephone box, the road climbs like a helter-skelter, with the fresh tarmac making way for a more pitted surface. It’s here that I discover that the TCR can feel a little skittish when cornering on the limit, a symptom of the larger wheels and lowered ride height, perhaps?

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR 19-inch wheels

On the flip side, the way in which the TCR corners is utterly intoxicating and in many ways the raison d’être of a car of this ilk. It turns in with such precision and vigour, and the harder the corner, the more rewarding it gets.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I channelled my inner Meg Ryan on a number of occasions – remember what I said about enjoying a hot hatch alone? – and my heart skipped a beat when I laced together a series of bends to absolute perfection. And if I entered a corner too quickly, the TCR was on hand to get me out of trouble, and there was no passenger on hand to judge me.

Mountain road and the Elan Valley

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR in Wales

Dropping down into Tregaron and below the snow line, it was back to reality. The first sign of civilisation since I left Beulah over an hour ago, and the unwanted influx of messages appearing on the crystal-clear 9.2 infotainment screen.

Not that my playlist of great roads was about to fade to grey – there were no fillers or makeweights on this greatest hits album. Instead, I took the B4343 to Cymystwyth, where I’d join the mountain road to Rhayader, via the sublime Elan Valley.

It was on the mountain road that I finally managed to stretch the TCR’s legs. It begins with a tight, technical section; the road behaving like a temptress, provoking you into a wrong decision. One minute you’re enjoying a ribbon of bends, the next minute you’re tangling with a savage cocktail of sudden camber changes, blind summits or unexpectedly tight turns.

Occasionally it’s a blend of all three…

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR near Rhayader

It’s fun, exhilarating and at times scary, but it serves as a prelude to the main event: a fast, open section to the junction for the Elan Valley, blessed with wild vistas and, on this occasion, snow-capped peaks.

When the road is free of sheep and day-trippers, it’s possible to unleash the full force of the TCR’s 290hp engine. The 0-62mph time of 5.6 seconds seems a tad pessimistic, but it’s the mid-range pull that’s most impressive. The full 280lb ft of torque is available from 1,950rpm to 5,300rpm, so there’s plenty of pull in whatever gear and at whatever speed. Make no mistake: the TCR is properly quick.

Peak power is at 5,000rpm to 6,200rpm, so there’s a reward for holding on to a gear for longer, especially given the fact that the soundtrack is at its most raucous above 4,000rpm. Annoyingly, the DSG will change up when you approach the redline, diluting the feel of total involvement, not to mention providing fuel for the fire for those who’d argue that the TCR should have a manual option.

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR exhaust

Not me. I was revelling into the feeling of leaving my hands on the wheel, clicking up and down through the gears, listening to the pop-pops and spits on the over-run. With the sun shining and the road blessed with a 60mph limit, the Elan Valley road to Rhayader was arguably the high note of the trip. Everything fell into place – I felt no urge to stop for pictures.

After an unhealthy snack at Rhayader, I had a decision to make: take the A470 and A479 to Crickhowell, or the longer route via Llandovery and the Black Mountain Pass. Needless to say, I chose the latter.

Black Mountain Pass

In truth, playtime was over. After the rollercoaster B4358 to Beulah, the journey to Llandovery was a frustrating mix of no overtaking zones, lorries and mid-range hatchbacks. Worse still, by the time I had reached the bustling town of Llandovery, the sun had turned to rain and, for the second time this year, I was predicting a rather wet drive along the A4069.

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR in snow

I was wrong. The A4069 – known to car enthusiasts as the Black Mountain Pass – was in the midst of a pounding by near blizzard conditions. For the first time on this trip, I figured that a Golf R might be more appropriate.

And the Golf R is arguably the Golf GTI TCR’s chief rival. While the Megane RS Trophy, Civic Type R and i30 N might seek to tempt a Golf driver away from the safe bosom of VW, if you fancy a hot Golf, you’re unlikely to be swayed by a  temptress wearing a different dress.

Personally, I’d choose a TCR over an R. While the additional 10hp and 4Motion might be appealing, the R is also heavier and seems to be driven by every Tom, Dick and Gary living along the M4 corridor.

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR Black Mountain Pass

The TCR feels a tad more special, even if Volkswagen could have worked harder to increase the sense that it’s derived from a successful race car. And no, I’m not talking about adding more decals.

Whether or not the TCR is worth the £2,310 extra over the Golf GTI Performance is a matter of opinion. Subjectively, the TCR is the best looking Mk7 Golf GTI – especially in Pure Grey (£595) and without the decals – and the additional 45hp is most welcome.

But you’ll want the Performance Pack, which adds another £2,900 to the price. Heck, ‘my’ test car cost an eye-watering £41,300, which is big money for a Golf GTI, especially one based on an outgoing model and without the attraction of limited-run status.

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR at ford

I called it quits on the ‘White’ Mountain Pass and endured a slow crawl back to Crickhowell, energy and enthusiasm levels hitting the floor following 12 hours on the road. I had done around 200 miles in the TCR, mostly on mountain passes and technical B-roads, averaging 22mpg in the process.

Nearly a week on, I’m still thinking about the Golf GTI TCR. It has renewed my interest in the Golf GTI and awakened a former desire to own a new one. I have owned a GTI in Mk1, Mk2 and Mk3 flavours – and enjoyed a brief romance with a Rallye – but the newer models have passed me by.

Thanks to the TCR and the magical Welsh roads, I’ve added the Mk7 Golf GTI to the short list of new cars I would buy with my own money. And the first place I’d head to having taken delivery: Mid Wales. Alone.

The VW I.D. R is going to take on the Nürburgring

Volkswagen ID.R

The all-electric Volkswagen I.D. R stunned us all last year with its stonking record at the Pikes Peak hillclimb in the United States. For 2019, it has its sights set on another challenge: Germany’s Nürbrugring

With its dual-motor setup good for 680 horsepower, the I.D. R whipped to a Pikes Peak all-time record of 7 minutes and 57 seconds, with two-time Le Mans-winner Romain Dumas at the wheel.

At under eight minutes, it’s also over 15 seconds quicker than the previous record set by Sebastien Loeb in a Peugeot.

The Nürburgring is another of the most challenging automotive arenas, but is an altogether different beast to tackle.

At Pikes Peak, the I.D. R had to utilise a massive rear wing and front splitter in amongst a comprehensive aero package. This was because the elevation of Pikes Peak means that the air is thinner. Thinner air means you need to scoop more of it to get good downforce figures.

How will the new I.D. R be different?

Volkswagen ID.R

The Ring-spec car will feature a more efficient aerodynamic package to make the I.D. R slipperier for higher top speeds.

“This concerns not only a smaller rear wing, but also the front splitter and floor of the vehicle,” explained François-Xavier Demaison, technical director of Volkswagen Motorsport.

Also helping the higher top speeds the I.D. R will need to achieve will be a continued development of the electric drive system and battery management. Traditionally, electric powertrains haven’t been the best for high speeds.

“It takes ingenuity to strike the right balance with top speed and the limited electric energy available. So we’re concentrating on the continuing development of the drive technology and battery management,” continues Demaison.

What will the I.D. R be up against?

The fastest electric car around the Nürburgring is the incredible NIO EP9. Peter Dumbreck took it to its 6 minute 45.9-second record in 2017.

And the I.D. R and the NIO have butt heads before, believe it or not. During last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed hill shootout, the NIO was on for an overall win before the I.D. R (in Pikes Peak configuration) pipped it by half a second, with a time of 43.86 seconds.

There’s no word on when the attempt will be made, but the testing and simulation programme for the car is underway. Safe to say, we reckon it’s going to be electrifying. 

Volkswagen launches Netflix-style subscription service

 

Volkswagen subscription service

Ownership is so last century. These days, members of the so-called ‘Generation Rent’ prefer to hire, subscribe and rent their way through life, which is why Volkswagen has teamed up with Drover to deliver its first subscription service.

Drover offers a no-strings, cancel anytime subscription service for running a car, with no deposit and the option to upgrade and downgrade to a different car with just seven days notice. You stream music and movies via a monthly subscription service, so why not your motor?

For the pilot scheme, Volkswagen is offering a choice of three vehicles: the Golf from £528 a month, the Passat from £514, and the Tiguan from £643. All that’s left is the cost of the fuel; the insurance, VED, servicing, maintenance and breakdown cover are all covered within the fee.

Customers can sign up for anything between a one-month rolling contract through to an annual term, with discounts available for longer contract periods. Everything is done online, with customers able to secure their car in just 48 hours. In areas with slow internet speeds, it can take longer to download a blockbuster movie…

‘The first shoots of something much bigger’

Volkswagen Golf subscription service

Claire McGreal, brand strategy and mobility services manager at Volkswagen UK, said: “Given the changes we face in the automotive landscape, and as drivers’ needs change, we need to adapt and diversify from traditional concepts like outright ownership, into more flexible and user-friendly options like subscriptions.

“Our pilot partnership with Drover is Volkswagen UK’s first exploratory step into subscription services, but represents the first shoots of something much bigger – an evolving brand. Subscription services in general offer the convenience, freedom and ease of use that people have come to expect from Volkswagen.”

Felix Leuschner, founder and CEO of Drover, added: “We are excited to start working with Volkswagen and Volkswagen Financial Services, and feel proud to be able to make this announcement. Together, we’re helping to drive a shift within the industry toward exploring new business models to meet the needs of the next generation driver.

“The partnership brings together some of the most popular cars in the world, with our innovative business model and we can’t wait to see how this can impact ownership as we know it.”

The pilot scheme is up and running at joindrover.com/volkswagen, with customers given a free fuel card offering 5p per litre off the price of petrol and diesel.

1 in 2 van drivers admit to NOT using hands-free

Van driver talking on mobileMore than half of Britain’s van drivers admit to using their mobile phone behind the wheel without using a hands-free device. This is according to research conducted by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

The study found that van drivers spend an average of 35 minutes on the phone every day, making an average of seven calls a day. 

However, around a quarter (23 percent) of the 500 drivers surveyed admitted their vans are not hands-free enabled, with a third of drivers (33 percent) saying they have the technology but don’t always use it.

Only a quarter (27 percent) said that their van is fitted with hands-free technology and they always use it to make a call while driving.

Risking their livelihood

Van driver making a call

Tougher penalties came into force in March 2017, with motorists caught using a phone while driving receiving a £200 fine and six points on their licence – up from the previous £100 penalty and three points.

Motorists caught using their mobile phone twice or accruing 12 points on their licence risk losing their licence and a fine of up to £1,000 (or £2,500 for lorry drivers). For van drivers, this could ultimately mean the loss of their livelihood.

At the time, transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “Our message is simple and clear: do not get distracted by your mobile phone while driving. It may seem innocent, but holding and using your phone at the wheel risks serious injury and even death to yourself and other road users.”

Working With You

Van driver on the phone to head office

Volkswagen Commerical Vehicles offers a Bluetooth hands-free kit as standard across its entire model range, while its vans are also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Sarah Cox, head of marketing at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “Our figures show that many van drivers don’t have or aren’t using a Bluetooth hands-free kit behind the wheel – risking not only a fine and potential ban, which would damage business, but, more seriously, a potentially fatal accident.

“As part of our Working With You promise we ensure all our customers have the right accessories and equipment to make their jobs as easy and safe as possible, whether that’s offering flexible van servicing or something as simple as a hands-free kit as standard.”

Volkswagen T-Cross review: a Polo with SUV attitude

Volkswagen T-Cross

Small and tall: that’s how increasing numbers of people like their cars. The market for supermini-sized SUVs is booming. And Volkswagen, with the new T-Cross, wants a slice of that crossover cake.

Nissan launched the Juke – arguably the car that popularised the compact crossover – back in 2010, so Volkswagen is late to the party. Its many rivals now include the Renault Captur, Ford Ecosport, Vauxhall Mokka X, Citroen C3 Aircross, Peugeot 2008, Seat Arona and new Skoda Kamiq.

The T-Cross is on sale from April 2019, with prices starting at £16,995. Can it stand out in such a crowded class?

It’s a pumped-up Polo

Volkswagen T-Cross

Volkswagen likes SUVs that start with a ‘T’. And it now offers five of them: T-Cross, T-Roc, Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace and Touareg (in order of size, from little to large).

The T-Cross is based on the Polo hatchback, but is 54mm longer and a lofty 138mm taller. Its footprint is roughly the same size as Mk5 (2003-2009) VW Golf, so we use the word ‘little’ advisedly here.

Four vertically-unchallenged adults – five at a squeeze – can sit comfortably, and the boot holds 385 litres. That compares to 355 litres in a Polo.

The styling is chunky and funky

Volkswagen T-Cross

Whether owners acknowledge it or not, part of crossovers’ appeal is how they look. They compress the rugged style of an SUV into a smaller, more socially acceptable package.

The T-Cross isn’t as radical as some rivals, but it’s more than simply a high-riding hatchback. Pumped-up wheelarches, chunky sills and a stocky stance bestow a suitably ‘go-anywhere’ look. Never mind that most won’t venture further off-road than mounting a kerb.

Its most distinctive angle is the rear view, especially the full-width light bar. Trend-spotters will recognise this as the must-have styling feature for 2019, seen on the new Porsche 911, Peugeot 508, Audi A8 and others.

Volkswagen calls it an ‘urban SUV’

Volkswagen T-Cross

The T-Cross won’t be climbing any mountains, then – particularly as all versions are front-wheel drive. Customer demand for a 4×4 model simply isn’t there, we’re told. The Suzuki Jimny can breathe easy.

Volkswagen calls this an ‘urban SUV’, which sounds like an oxymoron. However, an elevated driving position and squared-off bodywork do help when manoeuvring and parking. Those beefier bumpers might be beneficial on city streets, too. Leaving the airport in Palma, Mallorca’s congested capital, the T-Cross felt instantly at home.

Visibility is further heightened (literally) for rear passengers, who benefit from theatre-style seating. They’re perched around 50mm higher than the driver and front passenger, allowing a good view of the road ahead.

There’s one engine, with two power outputs

Volkswagen T-Cross

Two engines are offered at launch. Actually, if we’re being pedantic, there’s just one – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol – but available in two states of tune.

The entry-level 95hp motor serves up 62mph in 11.5 seconds, with fuel consumption of 57.6mpg and 112g/km CO2. Trade up to the 115hp version and you’ll hit 62mph in 10.2 seconds, and economy and emissions are identical. Note these are NEDC figures, though; the more stringent WLTP stats, which become mandatory later in 2019, aren’t available yet.

In terms of transmissions, the 95hp car has a five-speed manual gearbox only, while the 115hp model offers a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic.

Other European markets get 150hp 1.5 petrol and 95hp 1.6 diesel engines. The former may come to the UK at a later date, depending on demand.

It’s practical enough for a small family

Volkswagen T-Cross

This car has the R-Line styling tweaks. Two 1.0-litre TSI petrol engines are available in the UK: 95hp and 115hp.

Not all crossovers are as capacious as they look, but the T-Cross is usefully more practical than a Polo. It would be perfectly adequate for a couple with one child.

One useful feature is the sliding rear seat. Move it fully forward and luggage space swells from 385 to 455 litres. The only downside is a large downward step in the boot floor. The front passenger seat backrest also flips down for loading long objects.

There’s plenty of stowage space for family detritus, plus up to four USB ports for charging phones, tablets and other devices. Cries of “Are we there yet?” should be a thing of the past.

The interior is packed with tech

Volkswagen T-Cross

Indeed, technology is a T-Cross strong suit. An intuitive eight-inch touchscreen media system is fitted to all models, and connects seamlessly to your smartphone via Apple Carplay or Android Auto.

Volkswagen’s Active Info Display is an option (standard on top-spec R-Line), replacing the traditional instruments with configurable digital dials. And you can download the Volkswagen Connect app for info specific to your car, such as average fuel economy and when the next service is due.

Other optional niceties include keyless entry and start, automatic headlights and a 300w Beats audio system with a large subwoofer in the boot.

But the lines between VW, Seat and Skoda are blurred

Volkswagen T-Cross

The T-Cross is less successful when it comes to perceived quality, specifically inside the cabin.

As you may know, it’s virtually identical to the Seat Arona and forthcoming Skoda Kamiq under the skin. Yet while Volkswagen has traditionally positioned itself as an ‘in-between’ brand – above the likes of Ford and Renault, and below Audi and BMW – the differences in feelgood factor here are marginal.

Nothing rattled, squeaked or fell off, of course. But the T-Cross feels built to a budget, with hard plastics that might make you think twice about paying a premium versus its VW Group cousins.

It tries to be down with the kids

Volkswagen T-Cross

Thankfully, you can jazz up your T-Cross to the extent that nobody will notice the minor details. Fancy Energetic Orange paint or Bamboo Garden Green alloys? Step this way.

Indeed, the T-Cross is a tad anonymous in silver, white or black, so we’d go for one of the brighter shades; Flash Red and Makena Turqoise look great. The latter is a minty-fresh shade last seen on modified hot hatches in the 1990s: we approve.

The interior can also be customised with tiger stripes on the dashboard and two-tone seats. A list of permitted colour combinations prevents you going too wild, however. Probably a good thing when it comes to resale value…

Yet the driving experience is very grown-up

Volkswagen T-Cross

The T-Cross feels pretty sensible on the road, too. It’s easy to drive, with the calm, measured maturity Volkswagen does so well.

As noted previously, the car feels in its element around town. Its light steering is direct, if a little lifeless, and its suspension is supple enough to soak up potholes and speed humps.

It also keeps its composure on faster roads, without the bounciness that afflicts some small SUVs. Body-roll is kept in check and the handling is safe and predictable at the limit. Yes, a Polo is slightly more agile and engaging, but few buyers will care.

The engines are peppy and refined

Volkswagen T-Cross

If you can afford it, the 115hp T-Cross is the one to go for. It’s the same engine used in the Up GTI, and feels fizzy and eager to rev.

The more powerful engine is mandatory if you want an automatic ’box, but the DSG does blunt performance. Unless you select Sport mode, it constantly tries to change up in the name of efficiency. Go for the snappy manual instead.

In either state of tune, the TSI is exceptionally smooth and refined. Rev it hard and you’ll hear a distinctive three-cylinder snarl, but most of the time it’s inaudible.

A sporty T-Cross R could be on the cards

Volkswagen T-Cross

Despite the Up engine transplant, a GTI version of the T-Cross seems unlikely. Volkswagen has always limited those three iconic letters to hot hatchbacks – perhaps rightly so.

We could, however, see a T-Cross R in the not-so-distant future. A precedent has been set by the recently launched T-Roc R, which borrows its 300hp engine from the flagship Golf. Stranger things have happened.

Possibly not so strange as a convertible, though. The T-Cross Breeze concept, a drop-top SUV in the mould of the Range Rover Evoque, actually previewed today’s production car at the Geneva Motor Show in 2016. Thankfully, there are no plans to build it.

Volkswagen T-Cross verdict: 4 stars

Volkswagen T-Cross

If you like how the T-Cross looks, it could be the pint-sized SUV for you. Volkswagen took its time, but the end result is a solid all-rounder that majors on practicality, comfort and connectivity.

It certainly has the edge over the dated Captur, Ecosport and Mokka X. Its in-house Arona and Kamiq rivals, however, are a sterner test. The Volkswagen is the most expensive of the trio, but a more upmarket image (and thus likely stronger residual values) could mean the monthly payments are almost identical.

Us? We’d stick with the Polo, or upgrade to a Golf – still perhaps the most solid all-rounder of all.

Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 TSI 115 SE manual: specification

Price: £19,545

Engine: Three cylinder 999cc petrol

Drivetrain: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Wheels: 17 inches

Power: 115hp@5,000 rpm

Torque: 148lb ft@2,000rpm

0-62mph: 10.2 seconds

Top speed: 120mph

Fuel economy: 57.6mpg

CO2 emissions: 112g/km

Length/width/height: 4,235/1,799/1,584mm

Kerb weight: 1,655kg

Volkswagen T-Cross review: in pictures

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