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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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Volkswagen is going to share its MEB electric car platform

VW MEB available to third parties

Roll up, roll up, get your MEB electric platforms! Volkswagen is going to share the tech and share the wealth, by making its Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB) available for purchase by third parties.

In a very Musk-esque philanthropic move, Volkswagen is taking the initiative in the move to electric power by offering its highly versatile architecture out for all to use. An architecture available to multiple manufacturers ought to significantly reduce the cost of development of electric cars.

VW is currently projecting that the first wave of MEB-based EVs will total some 15 million units, with e.GO Mobile AG being the first customer.

The versatility of the MEB platform was demonstrated at Geneva by the ID. Buggy concept. While potentially providing the perfect underpinning for more mass-produced widely available vehicles, MEB is malleable such that it could work in special limited-run stuff, too. If a Buggy production version were to come to fruition, that’s exactly what it’d be…

VW MEB available to third parties

Between now and 2023, Volkswagen is investing over £25 million in e mobility. Electric cars are projected to make up a quarter of the group’s lineup by 2025.

“The MEB is to establish itself as the standard for e-mobility,” said Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen AG.

“Based on the MEB, we will make individual mobility CO2-neutral, safe, comfortable and accessible to as many people as possible. Because the MEB even makes the cost-efficient production of emotional small-series vehicles like the ID. BUGGY possible. I am delighted that e.GO has become the first partner to use our electric platform as the basis for a jointly-defined vehicle project.”

Why VW’s sharing of MEB is a masterstroke

VW MEB available to third parties

If all petrol cars in the world used the same engine, that would be a crying shame. Internal combustion cars derive much of their personality from their disparate engines. Why would Ferrari farm out its V12 or Honda its VTEC powerplants?

One thing electric powertrains don’t have by comparison and therefore do not need to maintain is distinct personality. All EV developers are going for the same thing, with very little distinction. Range, charge times and reduced expense. Without Volkswagen’s sharing of MEB, some already have, and all definitely will get there eventually.

In terms of power delivery and certainly sound, there’s very little differentiation and as such, there’s no conflict of interest and reason to why MEB should be kept ‘Volkswagen-only’.

As well as bolstering the burgeoning EV market, there’s potential for a financial slam dunk. Especially given Volkswagen’s proven prowess at mass-manufacturing on shared platforms.

Volkswagen offers a £1,000 ‘thank you’ to van customers

Volkswagen £1,000 off commercial vehicles

As a thank-you for increased in sales in 2018, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is offering up to £1,000 off new vans and trucks.

There are Ts and Cs, mind. The caveat is that you have to be an existing customer, or the family member of an existing customer living at the same address. You must also order your vehicle in the first quarter of 2019, for delivery before the end of June. 

Volkswagen £1,000 off commercial vehicles

So what’s available in the VW Commercial vehicles range, and how much money do you save?

Unfortunately, the £1,000 isn’t a blanket discount across all models. We start at the bottom with the Caddy and Amarok pick-up, which are eligible for £500 off. The Caravelle and California can be had with a £750 discount. And the Transporter and Shuttle (and other derivatives thereof) attract the full £1,000 discount.

Volkswagen £1,000 off commercial vehicles

 

“We are kicking off 2019 with a big ‘thank you’ to our customers for their fantastic support over the years,” said James Douglas, head of sales operations at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

“The loyalty bonus is available across our fantastic range of vehicles. We look forward to welcoming our owners into a Van Centre soon to help them find the perfect vehicle for their business needs and lifestyle.”

Volkswagen prepares for Nürburgring electric car record attempt

Volkswagen electric car record attempt

These days, a performance car doesn’t seem complete without a Nürburgring lap time to its name, which is why Volkswagen is preparing to set an electrifying record in the summer of 2019.

And we really do mean electrifying, because the car at the centre of this lap record attempt is the ID R, Volkswagen’s sporting flagship for an entire range of electric vehicles, which the company plans to launch from 2020 onwards.

Last year, Romain Dumas set a Pikes Peak record of 7:57.148 minutes in the ID R, beating the previous record set by Sebastien Loeb in a Peugeot 208 T16. Dumas also broke the existing electric car record by almost a minute.

Now, the ID R is being further developed for the record attempt at the Nürburgring, with Volkswagen’s sights set on beating the current electric car record of 6:45.90 minutes, a time set by Peter Dumbreck in a NIO EP9 in 2017.

The ID R is powered by two electric engines with a total system capacity of 680hp, and weighs less than 1,100kg including the driver. It’ll sprint to 60mph in just 2.25 seconds, making it faster than Formula 1 and Formula E cars.

It uses lithium-ion batteries as the energy storage system, with roughly 20 percent of the electric energy required generated during the drive. When braking, the electric engines act as generators, converting some of the braking energy into electricity.

“Volkswagen’s goal is to reach the pinnacle of electromobility with the ID family,” said VW’s Dr Frank Welsch ahead of the Pikes Peak record attempt in 2018. The ID R will require some modifications before making the switch from Pikes Peak to the ‘Green Hell’.

Goosebumps

Volkswagen ID. R electric car

“Above all, we will modify the aerodynamics of the ID R, in order to cope with the conditions on the Nordschleife, which differ greatly from those on Pikes Peak,” says François-Xavier Demaison, technical director at Volkswagen Motorsport.

Dumas is unsurprisingly excited about the record attempt. “The thought of driving the ID R on the Nordschleife is already enough to give me goosebumps. I know the track very well, but the ID R will be a completely different challenge, with its extreme acceleration and huge cornering speeds,” he said.

No date has been set for the record attempt, but Dumas will need to average at least 115mph if he is to beat the current record.

Ford and Volkswagen to build pick-ups, vans together – and maybe electric cars

Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger pickup trucksVolkswagen and Ford have announced a global alliance that will lead to the introduction of a new dual-brand pick-up truck in 2022, quickly followed by a commercial van partnership.

The two automotive giants have also committed to explore potential collaborations on electric cars, along with autonomous vehicles and mobility services. Future vehicle collaborations may thus be announced in the future – potentially in a matter of months.

Both companies stressed it is purely an alliance; there is no cross-ownership between the two firms. Savings from the alliance are expected from 2023. 

Volkswagen Transporter

“Over time, this alliance will help both companies create value and meet the needs of our customers and society,” Ford CEO Jim Hackett said.

“It will not only drive significant efficiencies and help both companies improve their fitness, but also gives us the opportunity to collaborate on shaping the next era of mobility.”

Volkswagen CEO Dr. Herbert Diess said: “Volkswagen and Ford will harness our collective resources, innovation capabilities and complementary market positions to even better serve millions of customers around the world.

“At the same time, the alliance will be a cornerstone for our drive to improve competitiveness.” 

British boon?

2018 Ford Transit Custom

Both the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok pick-ups will be due for replacement around 2022, which is why the first stage of the alliance is timely.

The next step, to develop replacements for the Ford Transit and Volkswagen Transporter, could be a boon for British automotive. In the announcement, it was confirmed Ford will take the lead to build new large commercial vans for European customers.

2019 Volkswagen Caddy

Volkswagen, in turn, will develop a city van for the two firms, replacing the current Volkswagen Caddy (above) and Ford Transit Connect.

The alliance will enable the companies to share development costs, leverage their respective manufacturing capacity, boost the capability and competitiveness of their vehicles and deliver cost efficiencies, while maintaining distinct brand characteristics.

Volkswagen is entering the energy industry with ‘Elli’

Elli Volkswagen energy company

Volkswagen is starting a company called Elli, short for Electric Life – but it’s not an all-new electric car brand. Think of it as an energy company, aimed at providing carbon-neutral power across a diverse network of charging points.

There is an automotive link, however. VW is addressing the leap customers need to take when buying an electric car. With current infrastructure on the road network and, indeed, at our houses, electric cars aren’t quite as ‘plug and play’ as we’d like. In the case of many residences, it’s more ‘lob an extension cord out the window’.

With that in mind, consider the following statement from Elli CEO Thorsten Nicklass: “The name ‘Elli’ stands for ‘electric life’ because we intend to enable a lifestyle that fully integrates the electric car in people’s everyday lives. This approach could be compared with the use of a mobile phone, which is taken for granted nowadays.

“We will be creating a seamless, sustainable ecosystem that addresses the main applications and provides answers to all the energy questions raised by electric car users and fleet operators.”

Elli Volkswagen energy company

The intention is to help prospective customers ‘upgrade’ their lives around their electric car purchase.

Elli wants to help put charging points at homes and workplaces, as well as across Volkswagen and VW Group dealerships. Fleet charge points (for company cars) and chain outlets are also on the radar. In Elli’s ideal world, there will be a unified charging infrastructure from your garage to your workplace, and where you’re going to eat or go shopping.

At present, VW employee car parks have 1,000 charging stations. That will increase to more than 5,000 by 2020. All 4,000 dealers throughout the EU will receive similar charging provisions by 2020.

There is also scope for energy management. That means communication across a network of car chargers that can, for instance, manage charging network-wide so that minimal strain is put on the local power grid. Your car can also be used as an energy storage unit and give power back to the network into which it’s plugged. Cars will even be able to take in power via their solar charging systems and add it to the grid.

Elli Volkswagen energy company

Thinking about it now, electric car proprietors taking such an active role in upgrading the infrastructure makes an awful lot of sense, rather than leaving it to local authorities and governments to make it happen. 

Companies like Elli and schemes like VW’s mobile charging systems will surely proliferate in the coming years.

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