Volkswagen’s Golf R Touch concept, showcased this time last year, has moved a step closer to reality this week with the unveiling of the e-Golf Touch concept.
Both concepts, revealed first at the 2015 and now 2016 Consumer Electronics Shows, stand as a preview of Volkswagen’s next-generation display and control systems.
For the Golf R Touch, that meant three large displays: two in the centre stack and one behind the steering wheel, all controlled by a combination of touch and gesture options.
Although a compelling taster, the Golf R Touch’s setup was never likely for a full production plan. The e-Golf Touch, however, is a different story.
Reducing the screen count from three to one (although a small multi-information display would likely continue in the instrument cluster), the e-Golf Touch represents the clearest view yet of the next Golf’s infotainment.
This time, the centre display is a large 1280x960px 9.2-inch screen (down from 12.8 inches in the Golf R Touch), surrounded by a main dial, capacitive touch buttons and, below, the usual array of air-conditioning controls.
An advanced new voice control system is also featured, introducing a ‘Keyword Activation’ function that - much like Apple’s Siri and Android’s Google Now - allows the user to activate voice control by simply speaking a term like “hello Volkswagen”. The company says that “similar” activation commands will be accepted, although it did not offer details.
As with Siri and Google Now, the spoken voice commands and queries are displayed on the screen for clarity.
Adding to the voice-specific functions is a new Electronic Voice Amplification system that, for the rear passenger, means no more leaning forward to hear a quietly spoken passenger in the front row.
The system works by using the hands-free microphone together with the rear speakers, lightly amplifying voices for better communication, with the volume adjusted to suit vehicle speed and media audio.
Interestingly, the system does not appear to amplify the voices of rear passengers, suggesting its usefulness may be limited to delivering instructions to the back row.
Above: last year's Golf R Touch system
Wireless charging for compatible devices is on board, not only at the front - a feature common enough with new cars today - but also in the rear armrests. But, if you prefer to use your charging phone rather than lay it away, new-generation USB Type C ports are also featured for charging and data transfer.
Rear passengers can also access many of the system’s functions through the vehicle’s on-board WiFi and their own mobile device. This offers access to features such as the media settings and navigation.
Perhaps the most appealing feature for passengers, however, is the remote streaming function, which allows the infotainment system to stream the same video media to multiple devices simultaneously.
Interestingly - and perhaps concerning for those with fears of privacy and hacking issues - the system also allows users to save their settings to the cloud with Volkswagen Car-Net ID, enabling their preferences to carry over to another compatible vehicle.
As with this week’s Budd-e concept, Volkswagen says it expects this technology to be offered in vehicles sometime around the year 2019 - although the new voice activation system will actually be available in Europe this year.
Watch for elements of this technology to feature in a mid-life update to the next-generation Golf, which is expected to appear sometime in 2017.