Desperate to reclaim a position as a socially responsible corporate citizen after Dieselgate, Volkswagen will also focus heavily on delivering clean, zero-emission, battery-electric and plug-in hybrid versions of its Golf VIII. It will effectively create a two-tier Golf family, with the petrol, diesel, and plug-in hybrid versions sitting on a modest development of the current Golf's MQB architecture. Both the three- and five-door models will use the same 103.5-inch wheelbase.
The battery-electric e-Golf (pictured below), on the other hand, will use a standalone, five-door MEB architecture, though it will look identical to the rest of the family both inside and out. The e-Golf will boast a 48-volt onboard power supply that will also be used in the GTE plug-in hybrid Golf VIII, and which will spread throughout the Volkswagen Group's MQB cars, including the Tiguan, the (Euro-spec) Passat, and an unnamed small electric car being planned as a stand-alone electric model.
The battery-electric e-Golf will use a standalone, five-door MEB architecture, though it will look identical to the rest of the family both inside and out.
"The current e-Golf is 190 kilometers [118 miles] of range on paper and about 120 kilometers [75 miles] in the real world," Volkswagen Group small car development leader Dr. Jocham Böhle explained. "The Golf VIII e-Golf will have 300 kilometers [186 miles] of real-world range – genuinely 300 kilometers – and the current plug-in hybrid has 50 kilometers [31 miles] of electric range and we don't need more than that ... The electrified Golfs will all have 48-volt power. They might not be there right at the start of Golf VIII, but they will be close behind ... That system will go through all the MQB cars, with 48 volts. All hybrids and battery electric MQBs will go to 48 volts."
Initial planning and engineering for the Golf VIII was already well underway by the time Dr. Diess arrived on the Volkswagen board from gardening leave in July, after a long career in supply management and development at BMW.
"Dr. Diess has changed things on the Golf VIII already," Dr. Böhle said. "He had very clear objectives. He said it must have strong digitalization and electrification of the drivelines." The increased connectivity needed to be a massive leap forward from where Volkswagen's sharpest products sit today, even as the Tiguan arrives with Apple CarPlay. "The most important targets for Golf 8 are design and connectivity. We can see it in the Tiguan but this is only the first stage. Dr. Diess wanted to put us on the next level with the big step to the Golf."
The volume versions of the all-new Golf VIII will begin life with modest developments of Volkswagen's current 1.4-liter four-cylinder petrol engine and the 1.6- and 2.0-liter TDI diesel engines, even though all-new engines are on their way.
"The most important targets for Golf 8 are design and connectivity."
Slated to make their debut about a year after the late-2016 Golf VII facelift, the new 1.5-liter engines will be more costly to make, but are lighter and more economical, setting the Golf VIII up for the tighter 2020 European Union emissions regulations. Ultimately, the four-cylinder engines will find their way into the Polo and Tiguan as well, along with the Audi A1 and A3, and models from Seat and Skoda. "They will make their debut in the facelift of the Golf VII, but not at the beginning," Volkswagen brand CEO Herbert Diess said during the Detroit Auto Show.
Styling the Golf VIII is no doubt a tough job, moving forward one of the world's best-known shapes without leaving any customers behind, but design boss Klaus Bischoff has already had positive feedback from Dr. Diess.
"We are now discussing the first stage of design with him and he found the lines of Klaus Bischoff to be good. He liked it," Dr. Böhle said. "It is highly unusual that a designer survives three CEOs, especially at a place like Volkswagen. Klaus Bishoff is on one length the new Chairman."
And the much-talked about MQB (Modular Transverse Architecture) might make it beyond even the Golf VIII, after debuting in the Golf VII. It's Volkswagen's usual strategy to deliver, with slight modifications, two full generations of a model off the same architecture. "The MQB might go to three generations. It's usually two at Volkswagen. ... There could be small steps to meet requirements where we need to, but there is no reason not to go three generations with it. It's very expensive so why not?"