Traditionally announced on the eve of the Geneva Motor Show Press Day, the European Car of the Year panel last night announced the new Volkswagen Passat as their champion.
The European Car of the Year jury panel is formed of motoring journalists from a host of different European countries, and every year they score the most innovative and outstanding new car to go on sale in the 12 months preceding the date of the title.
The Passat received a total of 340 points, securing it the win by some margin over the second placed CitroÃ«n C4 Cactus which scored 248 points.
The seven nominees and their scoring can be found below:
Volkswagen Passat (340 points) - Winner
CitroÃ«n C4 Cactus (248 points)
Mercedes-Benz C-Class (221 points)
Ford Mondeo (203 points)
Nissan Qashqai (160 points)
BMW 2-Series Active Tourer (154 points)
Renault Twingo (124 points)
Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Member of the Board of Management Volkswagen Brand for the Development Division, received the award for the new Passat: â€œWe are delighted by the honour of â€œCar of the Year 2015â€. This accolade has a very special significance for us because it is awarded by independent international trade journalists. In addition, the honour is known to have a high standing for our customers.â€
Lucky it's a good looking car then, well in my eyes at least, the way the grille bars merge seamlessly into the LED headlights on this concept car is a nice detail. But enough on the styling, you can make your own minds up on that, more about the car.
As the GTE name suggests, this car is equipped with a plug-in hybrid drive train consisting of a petrol 3.0 litre V6 TSI engine and two electric motors. Performance figures are haven't been officially published, but 374bhp is being quoted, delivered through an innovative four wheel drive system which uses an electric prop shaft.
The virtual order books opened online at 12:01 a.m. January 8, and all of the cars were spoken for by 10:30 a.m.
VW confirmed the news on Twitter and has also set up a waiting listâ€”so if you weren't one of the fast and the lucky who managed to reserve a Golf R, it's possible you could still get one if an order falls through.
The first 500 2015 Golf R units will be identical, with Lapiz Blue Metallic paint (pictured), 19-inch Cadiz-style alloy wheels, and the highest level of equipment: they will all come with DCC (dynamic chassis control), navigation, a six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission (a manual will be offered at a later date), and a Fender premium audio system.
Each car in that first batch will also come with an individually-numbered accessories kit consisting of an R-badged watch, a carbon fiber and stainless steel keychain, and a certificate matching the car's VIN....Nice touch!!
The new RS3 has been a hot topic in the news in recent months, and with order books officially opening next month, Audi has finally confirmed the question that everyone has been wanting to know... Pricing in the UK will start at Â£39,950.
It's an interesting pricing point, and with a similarly specified Golf R costing a touch over Â£35k (DSG with Nappa Leather and 19" Pretorias), there isn't a great deal between them.
In case you're not up to date with RS3 news, it will wade into battle with a 2.5 litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine with 367hp and 343lb ft of torque. The seven-speed dual clutch S-Tronic gearbox is standard. For comparison, that is 70hp and 63lb ft up on the Golf R. It also has an extra cylinder, and arguably a more 'performance focused' specification and options list.
Thanks to that options list, very few customers will actually part with Â£39,950 for an RS3. Prices on options have yet to be released, but with sports exhaust systems, carbon-ceramic brakes (a first in this market segment), and of course the standard plethora of MMI and Navigation options being available, I'd imagine most cars will end up being much closer to the Â£50k mark.
With those numbers in mind, the RS3 will will win pretty much every game of Hot Hatch Top Trumps this summer, boasting the most hp, the most torque, an extra cylinder, and a higher price tag over the A45 AMG and Golf R, and it also beats the recently announced 3rd-Generation Focus RS on just about every count too. At least on paper anyway.
Statistics and numbers aside, it will be interesting to see how the cars compare out on the open road. The RS3 should in theory show everything a clean pair of heels, but it will be great to see what provides the most driver thrills.
Even if the RS3 comes out on top, it won't have it all its own way for long. AMG are readying a power upgrade and facelift for the A45, with power expected to be boosted to the 375hp mark. There is even talk of a 'Black-Series Lite' as a swansong for the model, with 400hp allegedly being attainable from its two-litre engine. That might be a couple of years off yet though.
Then of course we have the will-they-won't-they argument over whether or not Volkswagen will proceed with the R400/R420 project. If it does get the official green light, it's likely to cost around the same as the RS3, and will no doubt be the most eagerly awaited back to back comparison for many years.
Either way, the RS3 has made it's play, it's over to the competition. As the title says, let the battle for the 2015 hot hatch crown commence.
Wind the clock back 30 years, and the recipe for a hot hatch was simpleâ€¦ Extra power, subtle body styling changes, a nice set of alloys, drop the suspension, fit some sports seats, and make sure it has three doors.
Three door hatches are iconic, not just in the VW scene but also when it comes to fast Fords and other brands â€“ the XR2, XR3 and even the hot Sierras all looked good with three doors.
Thereâ€™s a reason why three doors were always preferred, the body shells were stiffer than their five door counterparts giving better handling, three door cars were cheaper to make, and letâ€™s be honest, they were better looking.
How times have changed though. Thanks to modern production standards, the three door car no longer offers a major advantage in body stiffness, in fact, drive a modern 3-door back to back with a 5-door and youâ€™d struggle to tell the difference. The same goes for modern estates too, traditionally estate cars used to suffer from a â€˜boomyâ€™ interior, not any more though, theyâ€™re as quiet now as a hatch.
The estate still represents a small percentage of Golf sales. In January Volkswagen sold 3,922 hatchbacks versus just 380 estates. Thatâ€™s a trend it obviously wants to change, and adding performance estate versions are a great way of doing just that.
The unveiling of the Golf R Estate has been the catalyst of great discussion on our forums, but news this week from Volkswagen has confirmed that the GTD will be unveiled at Geneva in Estate form also, going on sale in the UK in April.
Using the same 184 PS TDI engine as the GTD Hatch, it takes the Golf GTD Estate to 62 mph in just 7.9 seconds with the 2.0-litre unit delivering a maximum torque of 380 Nm yet also boasting a combined consumption figure of 64.2 mpg.
So Volkswagen will have the R-Estate, and the GTD Estate. Does this mean they are buttering us up for a GTI Estate? Possibly, yes.
Whether they create a GTI estate or not, the R and GTD variants pose as an interesting option for the car buyer, in that you can now have a car with the performance of the Hot Hatch, in a sensible, practical and understated body shell.
Itâ€™s the understated part that appeals most to me, the Q-Car aspect that slips under the radar.
Itâ€™ll appeal to the family man too. Heâ€™ll be able to justify the new GTD as a sensible diesel (64.2mph) with space for the kids and their clobber, but be able to have fun when heâ€™s on his own. It has worked for sister brand Skoda for years. The Octavia vRS Estate being the thinking Dads wagon of choice, but now he can have a VW should he wish.
The big question is of course; will these new Estates spell the end of the three door Golf? It has for the Focus and the Clio both of which are no longer available in three door form. So is the three door Golf on borrowed time, and will practicality be its executioner?
Letâ€™s hope not, itâ€™s a nice option still to have. But what do you think?
Last Sunday started just like any other. I spent a couple of hours in the office taking care of some paperwork, got a few jobs done at home, saw the family, and with my list of jobs to do steadily shrinking I decided to venture down the local to take in the afternoons footy, and the darts final from Lakeside.
The day ended though somewhat strangely. After the sport had come to a head, I was chatting with a mate about cars (nothing unusual there, we often do). Heâ€™s a petrol head, and as a man who likes small sports cars, recently bought himself a new Boxster S Manual â€“ I approved. Whatâ€™s not to a like about a small mid-engined rear wheel drive six-cylinder Porsche with a manual box? We chatted away, and then he came out with itâ€¦ (Referring to my Golf R)â€¦ â€œThe problem with your car is that it isnâ€™t a hot hatch, itâ€™s a sports car.â€
I jumped on the defensive, â€œof course itâ€™s a hot hatch, itâ€™s got five doors!â€ But I know what he was getting at, and itâ€™s something Iâ€™ve given thought to. When does a hot hatch stop being a hot hatch, and become instead an out and out sports car?
You see, that Boxster S, with its 3.4 litre six-cylinder engine, only musters up 315bhp. Compare that with the 296bhp in the Golf R which is two cylinders and 1400cc down, thatâ€™s not a lot in this day and age. The Golf weighs around 60kg more, but has the benefit of 4-MOTION, all of which means their 0-62 time is identical at 5.1 seconds â€“ comparing like-for-like, manual with manual.
BMW has a go at sticking up a fight for the sports car â€“ the current flagship Z4, the sDrive 35iS M-Sport can scamper to 62 in 4.8 seconds, but itâ€™s only available with the double clutch gearbox, so isn't far ahead of a DSG Golf R at 4.9.
Surely Audi with their all new TT can edge the sports car sector into a clear lead? Well yes, they can. Thanks largely to it using the same MQB platform as the Golf, a 310PS version of the Golf R engine, and elements of aluminium in the body means it weighs 100kg less than a Golf R, the result is 4.9 seconds to 62mph for the manual car â€“ a 0.2s advantage over the Golf.
Hardly a massive margin is there?
Things are going to get harder for the Sports Car too. With the new RS3 confirmed to arrive this summer with a 367bhp five-cylinder engine under the bonnet and a 0-62 acceleration time of 4.3 seconds, the current breed of Sports Cars wonâ€™t see which way it went.
There are more too. Although unconfirmed Mercedes are working on a hotter version of the A45 AMG with nearer 400bhp (think of it as a mini â€˜Black Seriesâ€™) but of course thatâ€™s only in response to the fact that VW are umming and ahing over putting the Golf R400/R420 into production.
So, in an age when you can buy a 5-door hatchback thatâ€™s as fast as, or even faster than a Sports Car, where is the line drawn? Is the Sports Car a dying breed, and are these super-Hot Hatches the new Sports Cars?
Well no. The truth is itâ€™s always been that way, well since the early 80s at least. Thatâ€™s how I should have answered the man in the pub. There have always been quick little cars that can take on the proper sports cars. As a classic car fan, Iâ€™ve watched countless battles between small nimble Austin A40s and Minis, with larger sports cars struggling to keep up.
Hot hatches are the â€˜pocket rocketsâ€™. They are cars that are reasonable to buy and run, and yet deliver a turn of speed that punches well above their weight.
Take the original GTi, the Mk1. Its power to weight ratio of around 135bhp/tonne far eclipsed the Porsche of the day, the 944 with its 2.5L engine, and 127bhp/tonne. Of course, given a long enough runway, the Porsche would win hands down. Autocar back in the day wound one up to 137mph, whereas the Golf would have been out of puff at 110mph. But, stick both cars on a B-Road, and the driver of the Porsche would seriously have his work cut out, and wondering why theyâ€™d paid the extra.
Fast forward to 2015 and the story is the same. The current breed of Hot Hatches, like our Golf R with 296bhp, and the newly face lifted M135i with 326bhp both cost around the same at Â£30/31k, and both share very similar performance figures. Yes, given a long runway, the Porsche Boxster S will stretch out a lead over both, but stick them all on a twisty B-Road, and just like it was back in the 80s, the Porsche driver will wonder why his machine cost Â£16/17k more.
Looking to the future then, what about this new breed of Hot Hatches, the Ãœber Hatches? Well, theyâ€™ll simply compete with the next level of Sports Car.
The new RS3 will show a clean pair of heels to an entry level 911, and instead of a Â£30k Golf R embarrassing a Â£47k Boxster S, we hope to see a Â£40k Golf R400 taking on cars double its price tag.
The Hot Hatch is growing up; the hot hatch is punching further above its weight than ever before.
Welcome everyone to the new hot hatch Golf, and it's electric! Well partly electric because unlike the e-Golf we drove recently, this is a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV).
Up front you have a 1.4 TSI petrol engine producing 150PS and built into the gearbox housing lives a 102PS electric motor. Together, they will produce a maximum output of 204PS and 350Nm of torque (258 lbs ft) - that's some 70Nm more than the Golf R. A six-speed DSG box developed specifically for hybrid vehicles is standard, there's no manual option.
With both power plants running, the GTE can sprint to 62 mph in 7.6 seconds, and head on to a top speed of 138mph - for comparison that's just 0.1s behind the GTD in the dash to '62.
Despite those impressive performance figures, the GTE boasts a combined consumption figure of 166 mpg and CO2 emissions of just 39 g/km. It'll run for 31 miles on pure electric power up to a top speed of 81mph, and with the petrol tank in use as well, a theoretical range of 580 miles should be possible. Like the e-Golf, the GTE is expected to be exempt from VED and the Congestion Charge.
The Golf GTE's battery is much smaller than the e-Golf at 8.8 kWh, so will charge in 3.75 hours from a domestic socket, or 2.25 hours if you have a wallbox.
It looks pretty good too! Available in just the 5-door bodystyle and in one trim level, it combines elements of the e-Golf with elements of GTI. For instance it gets the C-shaped LED running lights from the e-Golf, and where the GTI has red colour accents, the GTE has blue - that includes the stitching on the steering wheel, gear lever gaiter and seats. 18 inch 'Serron' alloys are standard.
The familiar touch screen system is standard with DAB radio and Bluetooth, and if you spec nav it includes bespoke EV features such as the ability to identify known charging points and destinations on your electric range.
The GTE also has an e-manager which allows the driver to preset vehicle charging, as well as interior cooling or heating and these functions can be operated remotely using the Car-Net app on a smartphone; a three-year subscription is standard in the UK. The speedometer and tachometer are familiar, and the latter is supplemented by a power meter in the central display, which shows the status of the battery, whether or not power is being used and the intensity of any regeneration.
So, the big question then? How much is it?
Well the UK RRP is Â£28,035.00 with the Â£5,000 Government grant factored in, which makes it around Â£2000 more than the GTD and Â£1500 more than the GTI.
If you're a regular city dweller however, with the congestion charge and fuel savings that won't take long to balance out, and with a minimal performance sacrifice, I can see the GTE being a popular choice.
I guess the big question is what is it like to drive? Well I can't wait to find out.
The two inventions of the century, the car and the computer, are gradually converging.
This is why Volkswagen is demonstrating â€“ with an entire fleet of vehicles at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas just how much the car and computer are already becoming intertwined today and will continue to grow together in the future.
The main focus is on four aspects. First, computer-driven drive systems. Second, app and smartphone integration. Third, intuitive vehicle operation. Fourth, autonomous and semi-autonomous driving.
Golf R Touch: cockpit concept solves future challenges
Connected Golf: perfect compatibility with MirrorLink, Apple and Google
Intelligent Charge: e-Golf automatically docks above inductive charging plate
Trained Parking: future Park Assist drives into garage semi-automatically
These four cars demonstrate what we can expect in our cars both in the near future, and in years to come. Here's some more information on each car...
Golf R Touch
Volkswagen is equipping its show car in Las Vegas with the controls of tomorrow. The high-performance of its computers, the brilliance of today's displays and the recognition of precise human gestures are merging into a new interface generation here.
In the Golf R Touch concept vehicle, Volkswagen is presenting, for the first time, an infotainment system that incorporates gesture control as a consistent next development step that is based on current thinking in the area of intuitive control. All it takes is a hand movement in the space in front of the infotainment display of the Golf to make human and machine interact as one. Volkswagen is thereby extending touchscreen operation into a third dimension.
Beyond the applications of Volkswagen Car-Net, the Connected Golf is equipped with many other innovations which further connect the Golf with the latest array of portable devices. The press release states that Volkswagen will introduce MirrorLinkâ„¢, CarPlay (Apple) and Android Auto (Google) into vehicles in 2015 - whether that's for US customers or us in Europe we don't yet know.
A new feature, Regular Routes is the name of a function by which the navigation system automatically detects (without needing to be activated by the driver) traffic disturbances on the daily commute to work, and it autonomously suggests an available alternative route.
Parking Guide is another ingenious navigation feature. It embodies a technology that finds parking sites that have a high probability of available parking spaces.
e-Golf Intelligent Charge
You read recently how much we enjoyed driving the e-Golf, well in Las Vegas, Volkswagen is now presenting Intelligent Charge in the e-Golf It illustrates how electric cars will be used even more conveniently in the future. Over the mid-term VW say it will be possible to offer inductive charging as an alternative to cable-based charging. In this type of charging, the car is parked over a charging plate.
In the future, it will be possible to see in just seconds whether the battery is still being charged, or whether it is already fully charged just by looking at the vehicle's exterior lights.
The e-Station Guide will not only assist the electric car drivers in finding a charging station. They will also be informed about their location and charging equipment as well as payment options.
e-Golf Perfect Parking
We're all familiar with Park Assist, well at CES, Volkswagen is now introducing an advanced evolutionary stage of Park Assist known as Trained Parking.
Here the car (an e-Golf) uses a camera â€“ mounted in the base of the rear-view mirror â€“ to scan a frequently used path into a parking space, and from then on the parking process is executed semi-automatically and highly precisely by sensors and computer.
In the future, it will of course also be possible to semi-automatically park above a station for inductive charging. In another evolutionary stage, plans call for the driver no longer needing to stay in the car during parking. The driver would just monitor the operation of parking or exiting a parking space with a smartphone as a "remote control" device.
The history of the internal combustion engine is a complicated and convoluted affair. Karl Benz is largely attributed as the inventor of the â€˜carâ€™, but many of his early engines were gas powered. For me, Edward Butler, an Englishman, is the one who gave us the engine as we know it. His engine developed between 1884 and 1888 was powered by petroleum, and featured liquid cooling, valves, a radiator and even a carburettor. Butler was also credited as the inventor of the spark plug. All this some five years before Maybach managed to create the same.
In reality, little has changed in the last 126 years. Our cars today feature internal combustion engines that run on petroleum, using valves, liquid cooling and spark plugs. Yes, the fuels we use now are more advanced, the production techniques have been massively refined, and the carburettor is a distant memory, but our cars still use the same basic principal.
The problem with that is the world is running out of oil. It might not happen in our lifetime, it might not happen in our childrenâ€™s lifetime, but it is going to happen. Oil will get harder to source, and the more difficult it gets to produce petrol, the price at the pump will increase eventually to a point where it becomes uneconomical to use. I know at this present time oil prices are slumping, but Iâ€™m not talking now, Iâ€™m talking in 10, 20, 30, or even 40 yearsâ€™ time â€“ nobody knows.
All I know is the way we fuel our cars will have to change. So why not start now?
Alternative fuel vehicles and electric vehicles (or EVs) are becoming an increasingly popular sight on our roads. Most manufacturers now have one, Nissans Leaf, BMWs i3, Renaults slightly bonkers Twizzy, right the way through to the top line Tesla. Volkswagen now has the e-Golf.
For those not up on EV terminology, the e-Golf is a plug-in electric vehicle. Basically, plug it in to the mains, charge it up, jump in and drive, and when itâ€™s low on juice, charge it again. Official range is 118 miles, but realistically youâ€™re looking at 80-100 miles. Charging to full on a fast charge point can take as little as 35 minutes, or up to 13 hours on a home 13 Amp socket.
The e-Golf is an intriguing thing, on paper is has nearly as much torque as the Golf R (270Nm plays 280Nm in the Golf R), and its 115PS rating is only slightly down on the 1.4TSI, and slightly up on the 110PS 1.6TDi Bluemotion.
So whatâ€™s it actually like?
Well, the good news is that itâ€™s just like a Golf. Jump in, turn the key, and instead of a starter motor and engine firing, you get a â€˜bongâ€™ and a little lamp saying itâ€™s ready to go. Move the gear lever to drive, release the e-Brake, press the pedal on the right and marvel as the e-Golf moves you in an eerie silence.
Okay, silence is slightly extreme, you do get an electronic â€˜whirrâ€™ from the direct drive system, but it is very quiet. Performance is brisk with 0-60 coming up in around 10 seconds dead, even though we were two up on a cold morning. Donâ€™t try that too often though, or the range will soon take a hammering. Handling is pretty adequate for most needs, although the eco green tyres break traction pretty easily forcing a fair bit of under steer â€“ but for pottering about town, itâ€™s very good indeed.
Out on the road, the ride is very good â€“ those bouncy tyres with big side walls definitely help. They donâ€™t produce much road noise, and coupled with the lack of an engine thrum, the result is a very relaxing, quiet and comfortable cabin. The e-Golf is like reading a book in the country, thereâ€™s nothing to distract you from the task in hand â€“ no noise, no gears to worry about, and the auto-hold brakes even take care of holding the car for you at traffic lights. Itâ€™s blissfully serene.
On the dashboard in place of a rev counter youâ€™ll find a charge meter. The needle swings to show you whether the charge is being taken from the battery, or whether youâ€™re putting charge back in through brake regeneration. You can also adjust the level of energy regeneration using the gear lever from a level that recharges with a gentle brake application when coasting, through to a more extreme level where you really notice the car slowing down as soon as you lift off the throttle. With careful use, and setting selection, you can help to eek those extra few miles out of the batteries.
The e-Golf is really well equipped with air-conditioning, Discover Pro navigation, LED lights front and rear, and LED daytime running lights. The 16â€ Tilleve alloys are a love or hate design - Iâ€™d personally be tempted to swap them for another style OEM wheel, but as you canâ€™t spec any other, youâ€™d need to order those separately.
The e-Golf also takes advantage of the Car-Net e-Remote app technology. This smartphone app allows you to check battery levels remotely and charging times, adjust air-conditioning settings, lock or unlock the doors, and even see where it is parked, all from the remoteness of your mobile phone - Useful if youâ€™re frequently forgetting where youâ€™ve parked your car. In an age where even your kettle can be controlled from your iPhone, the appsâ€™ abilities will please a large number of potential customers.
Do the numbers stack up? Well, the e-Golf comes in at Â£26,145 with the Government grant factored in, which seems like a big chunk of cash. In reality though, itâ€™s only around Â£3k more than the equivalent 1.6TDi Bluemotion once the diesel has navigation and 16â€ wheels added. Yes, itâ€™s true that Â£3k will buy you an awful lot of diesel, probably enough for 35,000 miles at todayâ€™s money. But, diesels might soon be harder hit with proposals to charge for taking them into London over and above the congestion charge, while drivers of the e-Golf can make the trip daily without incurring any costs at all.
Compared with other EVs out there, itâ€™s pretty competitively priced and sits between the top spec Leaf which comes in at just under Â£24k and just undercuts the BMW i3 once the i3 is specced to the same level as the e-Golf.
Whether this car is for you, only you can decide. Perhaps itâ€™d fit in to your life as the school run car, or station car? Whatever your needs, if your daily routine rarely exceeds 80 miles, then why not take a look at the e-Golf? The charging network is constantly expanding, and the reasons for not owning an EV get fewer every year.
What a nice little lift to the January blues the town of Wolfsburg has given the nation of stars and stripes. Welcome to our American cousins!
We hope you find some solace on VWROC.COM while you wait for your orders. Remember our members have been out road testing these little beauties for nearly a year, so we're sure theyâ€™d be delighted to help answer any questions you may have.
So far, over in Europe, this little car has been taken more scalps against the competition than the Crow Creek Massacre, and for good reason.
Hereâ€™s what Chris Harris thought of it when he put it up against a race prepped BMW M235i.
So letâ€™s have look at what youâ€™re getting over there.
The first 500 buyers who sign up on VWâ€™s website and put down a $500 deposit will allegedly get a certificate based on the cars production number. Nice! What would be nicer would be a numbered plaque on the dash somewhere, like the limited edition BMWs of old, but hey weâ€™re not complaining, itâ€™s better than what we got over here (unless you count a long wait as a badge of honour). Youâ€™ll also get an R wristwatch and a carbon fibre/stainless-steel keychain!
A "nearly" full blown 292hp engine also makes its way across the pond, only slightly down on the EU 296hp, which must be a relief as some parts of the world, Australia and South Africa, have a massively detuned version to deal with the hot climate. So thatâ€™s a good start.
Leather seats look like standard fit, as does the DSG gearbox. The manual, stick shift wonâ€™t be available for a while but will cost $1100 less. Also standard on the launch model are Dynamic Chassis Control, 19â€ Cadiz wheels, parking sensors and the small 5.8in â€œDiscoverâ€ navigation. But it will set you back more the base model, coming in at $39,090.
We have no idea how long you early adopters will have to wait to take delivery, but if itâ€™s anything like over here in the UK, you may be looking at 5 to 6 months!
Part of the fun is in the waiting. In the meantime come over and join the debate on the worldâ€™s largest specialist site, the Volkswagen R Owners Club.