Disappointing driving experience in 2019 e-Golf SE

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Jan 18, 2020
I purchased my 2019 SE without ever having driven an e-Golf, since there were none in area. I took the leap of faith that I would like it based on two primary points: a) it’s a VW Golf, and b) the C&D reviewers deemed it as handling “just like a VW Golf”.

But thats not been my experience. I’ve been very disappointed in two particular areas: steering and suspension.

Regarding steering, I’ve got a ton of play in my wheel. I can turn the wheel at least 1/2 inch in each direction with no noticeable impact on the vehicle. It feels more like a Toyota than a VW. I say this only half jokingly, but I think a person with mild Parkinson’s could steer this car without the tremors reflecting through the wheel.

I’ve also been disappointed in the suspension. I feel a lot of body roll. I posted a thread a while back where I referred to it as “wobbly”. It’s almost as if the car is top heavy and has tall rubber coil spring spacers. I don’t know how else to describe it other than to say that the body doesn’t feel tightly connected to the chassis. Feels more like an SUV rocking sometimes than a modern VW Golf.

In contrast, I’ve got a 2016 VW GSW SEL that I absolutely adore. Steering is tight, near perfect. Zero body roll or wobble. It is just as a German car should be.

So far, all I’ve found to do is replace the tires. I put on Firestone Firehawk Indy 500’s and found them to make a huge difference in handling. The car is now appropriately grippy, and holds well in curves…. if you don’t mind some roll, and having to make steering angle micro-adjustments.

I hear people who are equally or more attuned Fahrvergnügen-type drivers than I rave about the driving experience. But I just don’t feel it… literally. Is there something wrong with my vehicle? I really want to love this car, but our relationship is currently struggling to get started.
Regarding your 2016 GSW SEL, didn't that come with 18" wheels/tires? That will make a huge difference in handling/response compared to 16's with eco tires.
2016golfse said:
Regarding your 2016 GSW SEL, didn't that come with 18" wheels/tires? That will make a huge difference in handling/response compared to 16's with eco tires.

Yes, the GSW SEL does indeed have 18's vs the 16's on the e-Golf SE. I replaced the eco tires with the same Firehawk Indy 500's that I run on the GSW. That definitely made a difference in handling (grippy, less wheel spin, etc). But I'm not sure that it would help with body roll (I could be wrong). So I held off on spending the extra $ to upgrade from 16" to 18" wheels, and just did the rubber.
I am rather surprised to read your concern. My 2019 SE with factory tires has really good handling and I sense no such play in steering. The car rides crisp and I am at 11K miles now.
Well the good news is that you can swap the wheels from the GSW, at least temporarily, for you to feel the difference 18 inches with less sidewall will make.
2016golfse said:
Well the good news is that you can swap the wheels from the GSW, at least temporarily, for you to feel the difference 18 inches with less sidewall will make.

Ya, thats a good idea. I'll do that this weekend. Not looking forward to the labor, but it should offer a good test.
It really depends where you come from and expectations... There are folks interested in hyper-miling and who see turns as something to be feared, or simply don't know better because they come from a Nissan or Hyundai some equally soul-killing vehicle and never experienced a better car. If you expected a GTI, you *will* be disappointed by the extra weight, taller ride height and softer suspension, and the 16" with tires made of wood which lend to the steering the quality of a well done marshmallow. As is, you should still enjoy the 0-40 take-off though, and trust me the 2019 is way better 40-80 than the 2016 was... If you also dislike the 0-40 feel you may want to consider divesting of the car...

Personally on my first Egolf (the 2016) I started with replacing tires with something grippy - like you did thoughI wish you did not and went straight to option 2 - because my main frustration was the behavior under solid braking (by that I don't mean crazy braking but not grandma either). Whenever you hit a painted line the system would lose its mind between regen and discs and make the tire squeal... To an extent it still does. That was a halfway measure and I was never 100% satisfied.

On my second lease, 2019 model, I followed the example of R&T journalist Jason Camissa who also owns an Egolf (amusing given he rides supercars all year long) and went with 18" from another model and michelin PS4, one of the grippiest tires available...he reported extensively on instagram on better cornering (over 1G) and better feel, but huge range loss.. I went a slightly different route in the hope of mitigating range issues, and chose the lightest 18" wheels I could find, some Enkeis from tire rack for a GTI, and put michelin AS3 on them instead - which is a grippy tire but all season and not quite as sticky as a Pilot sport 4S. By comparison to an ecopia, any decent michelin is a win....I don't recall weight #s but overall same or lighter than the ugly 16s+ecocrapias.

It's safe to say my Egolf is transformed, my previous experience with grippier 16s was "alright" but 18s make *a lot more* difference, the steering is no longer numb (it remains electric power steering so don't expect a 1970s porsche feel either), but change of direction feels instant, braking and handling in general is way better.. and surprisingly with those tires I lost way less range, about 6% overall in my testing going to work. In town the loss is negligible - on the freeway it's more... Going with lighter wheels allowed for unsprung weight to not creep up and retain the lively take off feel too !

Of course, since Covid I no longer drive to work so the car struggles to be driven 20 miles per week instead of 200 (and I'll never get my lease mileage at this rate)... Still I might buy it at the end if it's got no miles to speak of. I'm extremely happy with the wheel change, and let's not even mention how much better it looks and how much I hate the stock wheels. IMO it still sits too high, which somehow is more noticeable with better looking 18s but I don't know who if anyone sells lowering springs for a heavier Egolf and I have a steep driveway anyway, also as long as a lease return is an option I won't do anything hard to reverse. Cost me about $1700 I think which is a lot for some - $800 wheels, 900 tires,, but not much for someone who likes to drive and enjoys a more lively car. Did I mention it looks better too ? I can pass by my car without gagging now...
Hi Deschodt. Thank you so much for the detailed response and feedback. Here are a few thoughts in return:

In regards to overall expectations, I’m very familiar with the EV driving experience. I drove a 2014 Nissan Leaf SV for 6yrs as my daily driver, and generally enjoyed every bit of it. I was actually planning to get a 2019 Leaf Plus to replace it, but veered away after the reviewers all used words like “dull” and “lifeless” to describe driving experience. That was a profound disappointment, as I've always found Nissan (including my prior Leaf) to have a bit of a sporty bias (compared to the other Japanese cars).

In regards to the specific expectations of the e-Golf, I knew I wasn’t getting a GTI, but here’s what I did think I was getting:

“The Golf family has long included some of the most competent, fun-to-drive entrants in the compact class, and the e-Golf doesn't stray an inch from that path. It is nimble and responsive, with light, accurate steering and predictable responses to driver inputs.”
Car & Driver review of 2019 e-Golf

Based on that, I was not expecting the differences that I’m feeling between the e-Golf and the other MK7 in my stable. In my opinion, the e-Golf drives waaay more like a Nissan Leaf than my Sportwagen.

In regards to what to do next, what are your thoughts on testing with the 18’s from the Sportwagen? It’s going to be a huge PITA to do that by hand in the driveway, but if it helps confirm whether changing wheels will make the difference I am seeking, it could be worth the time. Fortunately, I’ve got one week left on my “Try and Buy” with my local tires plus, so I can actually return or exchange my current Firehawk Indy 500’s by the end of next weekend. (BTW: I’ve really loved those tires, I run them on the Sportwagen too).

Conversely, the path of less resistance (and cost) would be to change springs. From what I understand, H&R makes lowering springs (1”) specifically for the e-Golf. So if ride height is what would make the difference in the floaty feel, it’s a potential route to go.

I’m intrigued by the notion that changing the wheels could improve both the loose steering. I read in another forum that one of the VCDS programs allows access to firm up the steering response. Was intriguing, but also always a bit scary to start tinkering with the ECU at that level.

I initially wanted to keep the original wheels, however ugly they may be, just b/c they are unique to the car. But at this point I’m open to whatever gets me falling in love with the car. And they will be much cheaper than a Tesla.
It's worth noting that with the e-Golf, the weight shifts to the rear of the car, which explains tire spin and "jumpiness" from the front. This is why electric cars really need to be designed from scratch (i.e. Tesla, BMW i3, and now the ID). The weight distribution difference means the wheels, tires, suspension, and handling need to be re-thought.
Since having kids, I just don't drive the way I used to in my '91 GTI 16V, modified Civic Si, or BMW 328iS, so I have no issues with the way the car handles. I tend to take on ramps and off ramps fast enough to scare my daughters and I don't hear any tire squeal, so I 'm not sure I could push it much more anyway. No doubt, changing tire construction and rubber compound will make a large difference in handling and feel. If I were to get new rubber, I would stick with the stock rims and pick a tire that provides more grip and has a small impact on range.
Huh, I'm really surprised to read these opinions. Between my '17 GTI and my '16 e-golf, I found there to be little to negligible difference in handling, and actually preferring the ride to the '16 e-golf (even with the stock 16" Ecopias) because of the torque off the line and acceleration in the 0-40 range. Maybe I just don't drive like I used to, now that I have kids in my back row...? :lol:
I don't know I still think it's really fun to drive - and I trade off between an A3 etron with 18" tires and the e-golf. It's definitely geared towards comfort and simple point a to point b city driving - getting a bit wobbly on the highway in comparison - but it still has a precision and nimbleness and spiritedness that arguably makes it more fun to drive than the Audi on a day to day basis.