“When I saw it for the first time, I didn’t even know it was new,” a Volkswagen executive told me as we stood beside the revised Golf. That’s understandable. The midterm facelift of the Golf Mk VII is difficult to notice at first glance.
The front fascia is restyled to look more aggressive—and also to more closely resemble the smaller Polo, while new LED and halogen headlights accent the corners. The taillights, too, are amended LED units. But the real changes are under the skin. The U.S. market will see some of these changes after a one-year delay, which is better than the two years we had to wait before the seventh-generation model made its debut in this market for 2014.
Paint colors and interior fabrics are revised, and there is a thoroughly upgraded dashboard that packs a lot of fresh telematic and infotainment equipment. In Europe, the standard 6.5-inch and midlevel 8.0-inch center screens are complemented by a top-level 9.2-inch screen that can be operated with gestures, even from a distance. Also optional is full TFT instrumentation, similar to the Audi Virtual Cockpit found on the U.S.-market A4, Q7, R8, and TT. All of this is technology you’d expect to see in a luxury car, but we don’t yet know how much of it will be offered in the United States.
The same is true of the multiple driver-assistance systems, such as adaptive cruise control that allows stop-and-go assistance at speeds up to 37 mph, pedestrian detection, and even a trailer-assist system that helps with reversing. Some of these systems may come to the U.S., but perhaps not all of them—it would be a break with past practice for VW to equip U.S. Golfs for towing, for instance. But perhaps, now that it has the SportWagen and the Alltrack in its lineup and its U.S. arm is operating more independently, even that could happen.
The U.S.-market engine portfolio will certainly be more limited than the wide range offered in Europe. We will continue to get the turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder for the standard Golf and versions of the turbocharged 2.0-liter for the GTI and the Golf R. They are all part of the EA888 engine family, built—among other places—in VW’s new plant in Silao, Mexico. (The low-volume Golf R will be the only variant made in Germany for the U.S. market.) We won’t see the two new 1.5-liter engines that are part of the EA211 family; fitted with a cylinder-deactivation system, one is rated at 150 horsepower, and the other, a BlueMotion version with a variable-geometry turbocharger, is rated at 130 horsepower. Those engines could come to the U.S. later, but probably not in this generation of Golf. For Europe, the GTI and GTI Performance models just got a power boost to 230 and 245 horsepower, and the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is being replaced by a seven-speed dual-clutch, starting with the Performance model. Those are upgrades we expect to see here, but we have no information about the time frame.
No one at VW likes to speak of diesel models right now, and don’t hold your breath waiting for those to reappear in the U.S. market. Instead, VW will push the e-Golf, which launches at the Los Angeles auto show next week. We hear its motor will be upgraded from 115 to 136 horsepower, and the 83-mile maximum range will increase very significantly. And there’s yet another Golf that could make it to our shores: the GTE, a plug-in hybrid that shares its technology with the Audi A3 e-tron. Its combined 204 horsepower is likely to increase to 218 soon if, as expected, the GTE gets the European Passat GTE’s engine. The GTE would be costly, but it would lend credence to VW’s commitment to electrification.
The Sportwagen and Alltrack models will see changes similar to those on the regular Golf. Europe, by the way, still gets a three-door, but it remains dead on the U.S. market. As details on the U.S.-market 2018 Golf shake out, we’ll let you know. But if you’ve got the itch to get a new car, there’s not much reason to wait for the facelifted Golfs. Trust us: People won’t be able to tell the difference.