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vw-allroad-side-1Volkswagen added its 4MOTION all-wheel drive and a few other tweaks to the Golf SportWagen to create the Golf Alltrack, a five-seat hatchback with off-road capability. Available in S, SE, and SEL trim levels, it features a full suite of connectivity and driver assistance systems, either as standard or optional equipment.

Like the Golf SportWagen, the Golf Alltrack is powered by VW's 1.8 liter DOHC four-cylinder TSI engine. This turbocharged and intercooled, 16-valve direct fuel-injected powerplant is rated at 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft torque. A six-speed manual is standard on the S and SE, with a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode and available steering wheel paddle shifters optional, but standard on the top SEL model.  EPA rates the Alltrack at 22 city/32 highway mpg, a few mpg less than the SportWagen that comes with 4MOTION.

vw-allroad-underhood-1VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive system normally delivers power to the front wheels and can also sends torque to the rear wheels when needed, with the system automatically adapting to varying road conditions for additional traction. Drivers can select between Normal, Sport, Custom, and Off-Road modes. All-wheel-drive also works in conjunction with other active stability systems like Electronic Differential Lock (EDL). Hill Descent Control actively helps control brake application when descending steep inclines, a feature that’s especially helpful in slippery conditions to maintain a constant, controlled speed. An available three-gauge Off-Road Monitor provides information about altitude, steering wheel angle, compass heading, and more.

The Alltrack is 2.1 inches taller than the SportWagen with an increased ground clearance of 6.9 inches. It also features rugged bumpers for tough conditions. Bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights are available on the SEL. The model’s optional adaptive front-lighting system turns the headlights slightly with steering at certain speeds. A power tilting/sliding panoramic sunroof is available along with roof rails that work with VW accessories for carrying outdoor equipment.

vw-allroad-front-with-kayak-1Car-Net App-Connect allows the use of select apps from a compatible smartphone on the dash, providing information, support, and assistance to make this the center of a driver’s mobile universe. The system’s Guide & Inform features handy items like enhanced navigation with traffic updates, sports scores, weather information, and more. VW Car-Net Security & Service allows a smartphone to locate the car’s last parked location, check to see if doors are locked, or call for help in an emergency.

VW provides desired driver assistance systems that include a rearview camera system and much more. Front Assist, which includes Forward Collision Warning with front sensors, helps monitor traffic and warn of a potential collision. If a collision is imminent, Front Assist’s autonomous emergency braking helps brake the car. Adaptive Cruise Control helps maintain a preset distance from the car in front. If the car in front speeds up or slows down, sensors detect the change and respond by slowing or stopping the Alltrack automatically. Lane Departure Warning senses when an Alltrack driver is drifting into another lane without a turn signal activated and provides steering input to keep the car in its correct lane.

ron-driving-vw-alltrackPark Distance Control uses sensors that help a driver drive into or back out of a parking spot. Audible signals and an optical parking system function in the display indicate how much space is available behind or in front while parking. An alert sounds as a warning if you get too close. The display provides additional support for a driver by showing the position of obstacles. Park Assist determines if a parking spot is big enough, then helps steer the vehicle into the space while a driver operates the accelerator, brake, and shifter.

Those looking to get into a handsome and versatile wagon with off-road capabilities should give the VW Alltrack a close look. It features VW’s expected attention to detail and quality while delivering a fun-to-drive nature and capabilities that allow heading for roads less traveled, at a reasonable MSRP of $25,850 that fits a lot of budgets.

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Autodesk VRED Professional 2014 SR1-SP7Featuring design cues from the iconic VW Microbus, the BUDD-e is VW's first concept vehicle using the all-new Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB) designed specifically for plug-in vehicles. The MEB architecture represents a fundamental change in future electric-powered Volkswagens, from body and interior design to packaging and drive characteristics. An all-electric range of about 230 miles means a vehicle like the BUDD-e could serve a family's primary transportation needs. Options to keep batteries topped off include cordless inductive charging and the ability to be charged to 80 percent in about 30 minutes with an available rapid charger.

BUDD-e is probably more ‘connected’ than any car before it and thus gives a comprehensive look at the future of connectivity with the Internet of Things (IoT). Not only does the car’s completely new infotainment system make traveling more interactive and media more tangible, it also creates a seamless link between the car and the outside world. As an example of connectivity to a Smart Home, a driver or passengers could control air conditioning, turn lights on or off, determine if their kids are at home, or even put the whole house into energy-saving sleep mode. Plus, in the future the BUDD-e will automatically turn on lights in and around the house as soon as the car approaches.

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DC Fast ChargeExpanding the driving range capabilities of electric cars through fast charging is of growing interest. Tesla has keyed in on this with its high-profile Supercharger network of fast chargers along major transportation corridors. While this is great for Tesla owners, it’s not a comfort to drivers of other EVs since the SuperCharger network is not compatible with their cars.

Enter ChargePoint, VW, and BMW, which have joined together to offer similar capabilities for other electric vehicle models. The three are developing express electric vehicle charging corridors with fast charging stations that allow EV drivers to recapture up to an 80 percent charge in just 20 minutes. Fast charging sites will be strategically spaced no more than 50 miles apart to make longer trips possible for EVs that incorporate a DC fast charging capability.

Initial efforts will focus on heavily-traveled routes on the East and West Coasts, providing 100 DC fast chargers at existing ChargePoint sites. The aim is to expand fast charging capabilities to other sites within the ChargePoint network, which already offers more than 20,000 charging spots in North America. EV drivers can access the network with a ChargePoint or ChargeNow card or with the ChargePoint mobile app.

Der neue Volkswagen e-GolfVW’s e-Golf is coming to U.S. highways at the end of this year and will be available in select states. Powered by a 115 horsepower permanent magnet AC electric motor developing 199 lb-ft torque, the e-Golf is said to accelerate from 0-62 mpg (0-100 km/h) in about 10.4 seconds and offer an electronically limited 87 mph top speed. Driving range should vary between 70 to 90 miles depending on driving habits and environmental conditions.

The e-Golf’s lithium-ion battery is integrated in the center tunnel and within a space-saving frame in the vehicle floor beneath the front and rear seats. The battery accounts for 700 pounds of the e-Golf’s 3090 pound curb weight. Charging with a 120 volt outlet is accomplished in about 20 hours, although a 220 volt garage or public charger will bring the batteries to a full state of charge in less than four hours. Rapid charging at a fast-charge station could bring the e-Golf to 80-percent of charge in 30 minutes.

 

Volkswagen's very impressive XL1 is the poster child for mpg to the max.  We’ve been following this car’s development program for years now, hearing that it was a production-intent program but fairly skeptical that a vehicle with such a stratospheric fuel efficiency target could ever be built, at least beyond the prototype stage

Yet, here we are. VW is moving beyond development and will be producing the limited-production carbon fiber car at its Osnabrück plant in Germany.

The sleek and innovative XL1 boasts an array of features that tantalize the imagination, like that magic 261 mpg fuel economy rating. It weighs just 1753 pounds and has a 0.19 Cd, the lowest drag coefficient of any production car.

And performance? Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph is just over 12 seconds and top speed is 99 mph, enabled by a plug-in diesel-electric hybrid powertrain using a 47 hp two-cylinder TDI engine, a 27 hp electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries, and a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission.

VW says it will build 250 of the super-efficient XL1, which of course is barely enough to whet the appetite of a mpg-hungry market, but is enough to prove the point that such a car is do-able. These are destined mostly for the automaker's home market. While a small number of these will be brought to the U.S. for testing, there is no intent to market the car on our shores.

Even as the XL1 plies highways at the hands of those privileged enough to claim one, this pretty incredible vehicle will be influencing vehicle development programs at VW in some pretty big ways for years to come.

We are all enamored by the advanced technologies at work in vehicles today. And why wouldn’t we be? The incredibly efficient cars we have today, and the even more efficient models coming in the years ahead, are testament to a process that combines ingenuity, market competitiveness, and government mandate in bringing ever more efficient vehicles to our highways.

It’s been a long and evolutionary process. I remember clearly when PZEV (Partial Zero Emission Vehicle) technology was first introduced in the early 1990s, a breakthrough that brought near-zero tailpipe emissions from gasoline internal combustion engine vehicles. That move was led by Honda and Nissan, with others quickly following. Then there were the first hybrids – Honda’s Insight and Toyota’s Prius – that arrived on our shores at the end of that decade. Both technologies brought incredible operating efficiencies that drastically reduced a vehicle’s emissions, increased fuel economy to unexpected levels, or both.

Of course, there were first-generation battery electric vehicles in the mid-1990s that foretold what would become possible years later. That first foray into EV marketing was deemed by many a failure, yet it set the stage for the advanced and truly impressive EVs we have today. Those vehicles may not yet be cost-competitive with conventionally powered vehicles due to very high battery costs, but that doesn’t diminish the genius engineering that’s brought them to today’s highways.

Even conventionally-powered cars today are achieving fuel efficiency levels approaching that of more technologically complex hybrids. Who would have imagined popular cars getting 40 mpg or better, like the Dodge Dart, Chevy Cruze, Mazda3, Ford Fiesta, and many more in a field that’s growing ever larger each year?

VW and Audi have proven that clean diesel technology can also achieve 40+ mpg fuel efficiency while providing press-you-back-in-your-seat performance, and importantly, doing this while meeting 50 state emissions criteria. That’s saying something considering diesel has historically had a tough go of it meeting increasingly stringent emissions standards in California and elsewhere. Yet, with elegant engineering by these automakers and their diesel technology supplier Bosch – plus this country’s move to low-sulfur diesel fuel late last decade – ‘clean’ diesel was born.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention natural gas vehicles. There was a time when quite a few automakers were exploring natural gas power in the U.S., but that faded and left Honda as the lone player in this market with its Civic Natural Gas sedan. Now others are joining in with dual-fuel natural gas pickups and vans, benefitting from advanced engine technologies, better natural gas tanks, and a sense that with increasing natural gas reserves in the U.S., demand for natural gas vehicles will grow. As Honda has shown with its Civic, it’s possible to operate on this alternative fuel while also netting admirable fuel efficiency.

All this advanced powertrain technology is important. It makes air quality and petroleum reduction goals achievable, even ones like the ethereal 54.5 mpg fleet fuel economy average requirement that looms for automakers by 2025. There’s no doubt that advanced technologies come at a cost and reaching a 54.5 mpg average will require the full range of efficiency technologies available, from better powerplants and transmissions to greater use of lightweight materials, aerodynamic design, and answers not yet apparent. But I’m betting we’ll get there in the most efficient way possible.

 

Ron Cogan is editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and editor of CarsOfChange.com

Natural gas vehicles are popular in Europe with nearly 100,000 on German roads. Italy has about 800,000 due to a favorable tax advantage plus rebates on new car purchases, exemptions from certain traffic rules, and an extensive, subsidized natural gas station network. Most European automakers offer at least one compressed natural gas (CNG) model. Volkswagen offers the Caddy 2.0-liter EcoFuel, extended Caddy Maxi 2.0-liter EcoFuel, Touran 1.4-liter TSI EcoFuel, Passat and Passat Estate 1.4-liter TSI EcoFuel, and now the eco up! Next year, these will be joined by an EcoFuel version of the VW Golf.

The eco up! features Volkswagen’s newly developed three-cylinder, 1.0-liter gasoline engine. Here, the lightweight, aluminum 12-valve engine was designed to operate on natural gas, but can run on unleaded premium gasoline as well. Driving on natural gas, it produces 67 horsepower and 66 lb-ft torque, a combination that motivates this four-place urban car from zero to 60 mph in about 16 seconds with a 102 mph top speed.

Natural gas is stored in two subfloor tanks near the rear axle. This location means they don’t reduce useable space, although they do displace the normal spare tire recess. The eco up! has a total range of 373 miles – 236 miles on natural gas and another 137 miles on the reserve gasoline tank.

According to Volkswagen, the new eco up! is currently the world’s most fuel-efficient natural gas passenger car with consumption of just 2.9 kg of natural gas per 100 kilometers. This equates to roughly 56 U.S. mpg. Helping achieve this fuel efficiency are low vehicle weight, good aerodynamics, low rolling resistance tires, BlueMotion Technologies Stop/Start system, and regenerative braking.

A major benefit for natural gas cars like the eco up! is that they are not limited to just natural gas, but can also operate on alternative fuels such as renewable biomethane. When produced from straw, animal and biological wastes, or plant byproducts, biomethane does not compete with food crops, which is currently the case with biodiesel and ethanol. Biomethane is also CO2-neutral since the car only emits as much CO2 during combustion as is absorbed by feedstock plants while growing. Today, biomethane is blended with traditional natural gas at a quarter of Germany’s natural gas stations and is available as pure biomethane at about 100 stations.

Natural gas vehicles can additionally run on e-gas, also known as ‘power-to-gas.’ Electricity produced by wind or solar power is used to produce hydrogen by electrolysis, and in a second step the hydrogen is converted to methane to be used in vehicles. As fuel cell vehicles become economically practical, the hydrogen can be used directly in vehicles. Importantly, e-gas represents a way to store overcapacities from renewable sources in the form of methane or hydrogen for use in vehicles or electrical generation plants when wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.