Volkswagen is becoming a company of gestures. In the Virtual Engineering Laboratory (VEL) at its Wolfsburg headquarters, designers use gesture control to modify concepts via augmented reality. Now it can also be used in the new Golf, enabling occupants operating the car’s redesigned infotainment system, called Discover Navigation Pro, to do so at the wave of a hand.
In the VEL, Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality goggles are being trialed. The system projects virtual content onto a physical object via gesture control and voice command. Frank Osterman, head of the VEL, said of the augmented reality tools VW has used for some time: “We are now taking a major step forward, transforming this technology into a tool for technical development, allowing engineers to work on a virtual vehicle to change its equipment as they wish, and even design new components virtually.”
First new vehicle concepts and design studies using the system are said to be “close." The use of gesture control, described by VW as “the interface of the future” is claimed as a first for the new Golf's compact segment. Digital technology trumps aesthetic changes in the new model range, including automated driving functions, to distinguish the car as a “new Golf” (also unofficially dubbed the Mk. 7.5).
Like the VEL technology, the Golf’s system operates via both by gesture and voice, plus some touch functions. A proximity sensor facilitates added menus appearing on the screen. A light reflex and visualized hand symbol signals gesture actions availability. An audible acknowledgement of a successful action is incorporated but can be driver deactivated.
Worthy though all this may be, it is the Golf’s hardware that continues to impress, courtesy of its established MQB flexible platform design. The author has experienced all iterations of the Golf from the first production models in 1974; driving the latest cars demonstrates the fundamental “rightness” of the MQB in terms of ride and handling making it the best Golf yet.
While the MQB platform’s wheelbase and track can be varied, there is uniform mounting of all engines. Modular gasoline and diesel engine systems are used; the company claims it has reduced the number of engine and gearbox variants by around 90% without restricting choice as a result of the MQB strategy.
Particularly significant among new Golf power units is the 1.5-L TSI (gasoline) Evo range, which includes a 96-kW (129-hp) Miller cycle "Blue Motion" variant featuring 12:1 compression ratio and a VTG turbo. The engine is VW's first (the company claims a world first) to feature “extended coasting,” the ability to completely shut down when the accelerator pedal is released, something that has previously been used for hybrid powertrains.
The Evo engines mark a small upsizing of about 100cc as they succeed 1.4-L power units. Internal friction has been reduced via technologies that include a polymer-coated No. 1 crankshaft bearing. Injection pressures range up to 350 bar (5076 psi). The throttle valve is downstream of the intercooler to achieve optimum temperature.
Other engines for the "Golf Mk. 7.5" span a 63-kW (85-hp) 3-cylinder 1.0-L to a 228-kW (305-hp) 4-cylinder 2.0-L turbo for the R-line, which accelerates to 100 km/h (62 mph) in a claimed 4.6 s. A new 7-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission designated DQ381 is introduced for engines producing more than 340 N·m (252 lb·ft). It has two compact gearwheel pumps to look after oil circulation, one mechanically driven plus a second, electrically driven, to cope with higher demand situations such as mountain road ascents.
As with new models from many OEMs, connectivity and digital capability are a primary development and engineering focus. As well as gesture control, the new Golf includes an Active Info Display, on a 12.3-in screen, and a fully digitized instrument cluster with five information profiles. For navigation, the speedometer and tachometer are moved to the screen’s flanks to provide space for a 2D or 3D map.
Automated driving functions include Traffic Jam Assist, offering semi-autonomous driving at speeds up to 60km/h; Emergency Assist, new to the Golf’ segment, that detects if a driver may be incapacitated and then initiates warning actions up to making an emergency stop. The car also offers Trailer Assist using image processing algorithms, receiving data from the rearview camera, with vehicle control using the exterior mirror adjustment switch and Park Assist semi-autonomous parking.
Cumulatively from VW plants around the world, a Golf is built every 40 seconds. Total production since 1974 has topped 33 million units, some 12 million more than the iconic Beetle.