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VW unveils hi-tech new Golf with ‘swarm intelligence’ and 130mph semi-automated driving

By Paul Connolly

Volkswagen has officially unveiled the Mk 8 Golf, a virtually all-digital model with five hybrid powerplants.

The latest version of Europe’s biggest-selling car has an ultra-modern cabin and the latest tech that includes ‘swarm intelligence’ to predict hazards before they happen.

It also raises levels of semi-autonomous driving, allowing the car to be operated at speeds of up to 130mph in circumstances where legally allowed.

This is without doubt a major launch for VW, still in the shadow of its so-called Dieselgate emissions scandal.

The Golf has sold 35 million units since it first appeared in 1974 as a front wheel drive replacement for the rear-wheel drive Beetle, making it among the world’s top three best-selling cars.

VW says the new digital interior “enables a new dimension of intuitive operation” with speeds of up to 210 km/h (130mph) possible with “assisted driving”.  This is likely to be only on certain motorways and dual carriageways.

This week’s official Golf launch didn’t reveal full details of the new model – the car won’t be on our streets for several months and other details will be revealed later.

So it’s unclear to what degree of semi-autonomous driving the new Golf will tolerate where local laws allow, for example allowing the driver to take hands off the wheel for extended periods.

However, Volkswagen did provide details of how the Golf is the first VW to use ‘swarm intelligence’ from traffic via its Car2X system, meaning it can warn against hazards on an anticipatory basis.

Car2X means, thanks to an online connectivity unit (OCU), the car and driver are connected to the world outside the Golf.

The standard OCU featuring integrated eSIM links to “We Connect” and “We Connect Plus” online functions and services, meaning signals from the traffic infrastructure and information from other vehicles up to 800 metres away are notified to the driver.

VW says this will predict hazards and represents “the beginning of a new phase of traffic safety”. It will be offered as standard on the new Golf.

Practically all displays and controls on the Mk 8 Golf are digital: the new instruments and online infotainment systems feature digital touch buttons and touch sliders and the dashboard is dominated by screens.

A windscreen head-up display is optionally available to project data into the driver’s forward field of vision.

The new Golf also sees VW finally opening up a full hybrid offensive, with the new car being offered in no less than five hybrid drive versions.

Its debut also celebrates 48V technology: a belt starter generator, 48V lithium-ion battery and the latest generation of efficient TSI engines form a new mild hybrid drive in the eTSI.

Volkswagen will offer the Golf in three eTSI output stages: 110 PS, 130 PS and 150 PS.

The eighth generation of the best-seller will also be available as two plug-in hybrid drive variants.

A new efficiency version generates 204 PS while the sporty GTE delivers 245 PS.

Both Golf versions with plug-in hybrid drives will launch with a new 13 kWh lithium-ion battery on board that enables larger electrically powered ranges of approximately 37 miles and temporarily turns the Golf into a zero-emissions vehicle.

The drive options for the new Golf also include a petrol (TSI), diesel (TDI) and natural gas drive (TGI – although this may not be available in the UK or Ireland), two four-cylinder petrol engines with 90 PS and 110 PS, two four-cylinder diesel engines with 115 PS and 150 PS, and a TGI with 130 PS.

Golf is claiming improved efficiency and emissions for all its models, and says this model is, in terms of its technology, the biggest leap forward since the Mk 1 model.

The world premiere took place in Wolfsburg, where the Golf was invented, and where it has been built for the last 45 years.

Sales are due to open early in the New Year, with first UK deliveries expected in April.

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