I went for a
spin in the Volkswagen Groupís future this week.
I drove around
Oakland County, Mich., in the automakerís first electric vehicle
and the first U.S.-bound car to use VWís madly innovative new MQB
The e-Golf I
drove had the current modelís body, but used the electric
drivetrain VW will sell in California and the other states that
require EVs late next year.
VW expects the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to rate it at 100 miles on a
full charge. Itíll take about eight hours to charge the e-Golf
from empty with a 240-volt charger, but an 80 percent charge will
only take 30 minutes. Top speed will be 85 mph.
engineering car I drove was quick and silent, with a T-shaped,
701-pound battery in its floor that lowers the Golfís center of
announce prices next year, not long before e-Golfs go on sale.
vehicle architecture is at the heart of nearly everything the VW and
Audi will do over the next decade. Itís a revolutionary set of
parts and structures that can be used in vehicles ranging from
subcompacts to midsize cars. It will also underpin compact
If VW can use
a single architecture to produce really good vehicles in that many
different market segments, pity the automakers that canít match
it. The Volkswagen Group will grind them into dust with MQBís
savings in engineering and manufacturing costs.
On the other
hand, if MQB stumbles or fails, VW has a crisis on its hands. Nearly
every volume vehicle the VW brand will introduce for the next decade
relies on MQB. The architecture must also prove it can support Audi
luxury cars and crossovers.
The first test
comes next year, when Audi launches the A3 compact sedan,
convertible and plug-in hybrid; S3 performance model; and Q3 compact
A3 prices will
start at $29,900 for a front-wheel drive model with a six-speed
dual-clutch transmission and 1.8-liter 175-horsepower engine. Diesel
and 2.0-liter gasoline engines and Quattro all-wheel drive will also
the 2015 A3 to outsell the current model, which is available only as
a hatchback. Audi sold just 7,205 A3s in 2012. It hopes to reach
30,000 a year with the new model.
The A3 sedan
will compete with the new Mercedes-Benz CLA compact sedan and other
small luxury models to come.
an interesting addition," IHS Automotive senior analyst
Stephanie Brinley said of the A3, which is somewhat smaller than the
CLA. "As luxury cars like the Audi A4, BMW 3-series and
Mercedes C-class have gotten bigger and more expensive, itís
opened the door for models just below them."
The 2015 A3 is
about the size of the original Audi A4, which went on sale in the
United States in 1995. Itís trimmed in high-quality materials and
has features like Audi Drive Select adjustable performance settings
and a controller for phone, navigation and other systems.