Volkswagen's Latest Golf Spawns a Hybrid Concept

The Volkswagen Golf—or VW Rabbit, as it’s known in North America—may be the most flexible and widely used car in the world. Not the car itself—it’s a very good five-door hatchback, the kind Europeans love and Americans ignore—but because its underlying architecture has spawned a phenomenal volume of other cars. The Golf’s underpinnings are used in more than 3 million cars a year, sold under the Volkswagen, Audi, Seat, and Skoda brands.

Now, as VW gets ready to unveil the sixth generation Golf at next month’s Paris Auto Show, the company will reveal a plug-in hybrid concept. If it goes into production, the hybrid would make the Golf Mk VI the only car in the world offering gasoline, diesel, and hybrid powertrains in the same vehicle.

The TwinDrive plug-in hybrid concept, first revealed in June, is being tested in up to 20 present-generation Golfs. A lithium ion battery pack powers the car for up to 30 miles of electric range, with a combustion engine kicking in after that. This arrangement is similar to that of the Chevrolet Volt, which GM calls an “extended-range electric vehicle,” rather than a “power-split hybrid” system—like those used by Toyota.

The Golf TwinDrive has been adapted to plug in to wall current to recharge its battery pack. Earlier this year, VW also showed a TDI diesel hybrid concept—but without a plug.

Alongside the TwinDrive concept, the Golf Mk VI will be launched with a remarkable range of powertrain alternatives. VW offers engines with gasoline direct injection, turbo diesels, and its unique 1.4-liter “TwinForce” TSI engine, which is both supercharged (at low revs) and turbocharged (at high revs.) The lowest-consumption BlueMotion diesel version gives roughly 62 miles per US gallon, with CO2 emissions of just 99 g/km—similar to ultra-economy cars a whole size smaller, like Ford’s Fiesta ECOmotion.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen now offers the current Rabbit (Golf Mk V), Jetta sedan, and Jetta Sportwagen models in the US with a 2.0-liter turbocharged TDI diesel that complies with emissions and safety standards in all 50 states.

First launched in May 1974, the Golf was the car that saved Volkswagen. That company’s Beetles had done spectacularly well in the 1950s and 1960s, but by the early 1970s, it was clear that rear-engine, air-cooled volume cars could never meet upcoming emissions and safety standards. The first Golf, crisply styled by Guigiaro, was as modern as any Euro-hatch, with a water-cooled, transverse engine driving the front wheels, enormous space inside, and tight German handling. Renamed the Rabbit for the US market, it confirmed the basic design for a small car—transverse engine up front, driving the front wheels—a feature pioneered by long-extinct British makes during the 1960s.

Three and a half decades later, VW has sold 26 million Golfs in five generations. The latest one has been simplified under the skin to reduce its build cost, but offers greatly reduced wind noise and better interior fittings nonetheless. North America isn’t likely to see the Golf (or Rabbit) Mk VI until 2010 though, as VW customarily lags a year behind the European launch in other markets.


  • Bryce

    hate to be first again….but….

    It is nice to see as many automakers hopping onto the electric/ extended range electric vehicle band wagon. : ) The series hybrid really is the best way I feel to avoid as much oil consumption as possible. I wonder when this thing, if ever, will be offered stateside. I wouldn’t be opposed to a VW, especially considering my friend has had really good experiences with them.

  • chukcha1

    Looks like mark VI is a mix of Mark V and Mark IV. Looks ok, but not very original. I hope the will bring in the bluemotion and the hybrid soon.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    I loved the diesel Rabbit from the late ’70′s.
    I hope this will allow the diesel auto industry to get beyond complex beasts like the bluemotion. The electric drivetrain should allow the use of constant output diesels that are the most efficient use of an internal combustion engine. The electric part can handle the surges needed for acceleration.
    With 30 miles of electric range, most driving will likely be done without the ICE even running.
    Way to Go VW. I just hope this goes beyond just a concept.

  • Dom

    Slight correction – the new 2.0L TDI is only available in the MkV Jetta and Jetta Sportswagen in the US currently. The US MkV Rabbit only has the 2.5L gasoline engine. Rumor has it we WILL see the MkVI Rabbit with a TDI, perhaps as early as next year. Hopefully they will bring better gasoline engines too (like the 1.4L TSI). It’d be great to see the Bluemotion TDI here too, but that might be hoping for too much.

  • jvoelcker

    Dom: Thanks for the correction. I did actually know that! I just didn’t, ahem, actually WRITE that … probably because the Golf/Rabbit and the Jetta are the same vehicle under the skin, so I suspect something short-circuited mentally. Apologies.

    (And I’ll curious to see if they reprise the New Beetle TDI too ….)

  • Will S

    No fuel economy data in this article, though I found some in another;

    “In a sample round trip route from Potsdam, Germany to downtown Berlin and back – which VW cites as a fairly typical commute of 100 kilometers (62 miles) – the TwinDrive used just 8 kW hours of electricity and 2.5 liters (0.66 gallons) of fuel. That’s about 94 mpg for the trip.” http://www.greencar.com/features/vw-twindrive/

    At 5.03 kWhr/gallon of gas, the actual mileage in terms of *total* energy gives 62/(8/5.03 + .66) = 27.5 mpg equivalent, or barely meeting the current CAFE standard for automobiles.

    Am I off with my calculation, or are these numbers just very unimpressive? Looking just now at http://www.fueleconomy.gov , even a Rabbit only achieves 24 mpg average. It looks like VW better get their 1-liter car out as soon as they can, along with the Lupo 3…

  • kurtdaniel

    its still looks great!!i love it!!

  • ankara nakliyat

    Too bad you fell for the propaganda and lies of the administration and put yourself in harms way in this illegal war in Iraq. You also fell for the lie, as many have, to get loans for college. Stop running to the government and credit cards to bail yourself out of financial ruin. Buck up Sgt. Bowers. Learn the history of the Federal Reserve and the corporations that run this country’s government. Sound like I’m unappreciative that you put your life on the line for our country? Perhaps. However, at least I know that you were willing to do so, but we need to be protecting this country from within its borders, not in some foreign country. While you were fighting in Iraq for our freedoms, we are losing them daily here. When many get back from the war, they’re gonna find out that the freedom they thought they were fighting for no longer exists in this country. Posse Commititus is gone. Now our troops can act as police and even take arms against us. Habeas Corpus is gone. Now we can secretly be taken from our homes and put in jail with out being charged for a crime under the guise of terrorism. Yep, I’m mad that so many soldiers fell for the propoganda. I wish you all had ran to Canada to avoid the military or at least refuse to register with the selective services, WHICH IS ILLEGAL according to the Constitution! Doesn’t anyone read the law of the land? NO, because the frickin government run public schools don’t teach it because the government doesn’t want them to know what their rights are! Didn’t you hear what Bush thinks about it? “Nothing but a g-ddamn piece of paper.”
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