Da Volkswagen has not covered itself with fame: When the Golf 8 was launched in autumn 2019, the infotainment software had so many errors that a voluntary recall was made in January of this year to install a major software update. A whole workshop day was planned for each. Too much new technology was stuffed into the Golf 8 too quickly, said critics, and the system in a test car also failed in this editorial team.
But not only that. The new operating system has been unanimously criticized. Adjusting the radio, sat nav, air conditioning and seat heating is overly complicated. You need several taps of your finger even to activate the simplest functions. The focus of the criticism is always the touch-sensitive bar for setting the temperature and volume, which is neither intuitive to use nor precise, it also lacks lighting, so that you wiggle your finger at random on the dashboard at night.
We tried the whole thing with the most expensive infotainment system called Discover Pro, which costs between 1430 and 2500 euros and displays the content on a touch-sensitive on-board monitor with a diagonal of 10 inches. The 10.25-inch cockpit display in front of the steering wheel is also digital in the Golf 8.
When you first sit down in the car, you are amazed at how radically Volkswagen has done without buttons, switches and rotary controls. To the left of the steering wheel there is a touch-sensitive button for light and ventilation, and below the on-board monitor there is another for air conditioning, assistants and driving mode. The buttons on the steering wheel are also touch-sensitive, give a slight haptic feedback – and feel unworthy and cheap. You have to know exactly what you are doing with a pointed finger, otherwise there will be operating errors.
We also agree with the criticism of the said control bar for temperature and audio volume: You don’t get used to it, that’s botch. What is shown on the monitor follows a minimalist design in Microsoft optics. The main menus are visualized by square tiles, the finger quickly lands on the corresponding entry. However, you can see immediately that the on-board monitor only shows its content on four fifths of the area. On the left there is a symbol for setting the seat heating. If you tap the button, you have not activated it at all. Rather, a climate menu is then set up, and here you have to tap the seat symbol that has now been placed in a different position again. Absurd, and with us the passenger seat heater often switched itself off again.
Another design flaw are the three dots under the menu tiles. They suggest a horizontal menu, but you actually have to swipe down with your finger to see all the tiles. That being said, our system didn’t crash, but there were occasional problems with speech recognition. Sometimes the GPS destination could not be auditioned at all, not even on the third or fourth attempt. The system is also slow. It can take several seconds for a menu to appear, and on other occasions you can see small stutters.
But enough of the criticism. On the plus side, the Golf 8 comes up with many functions of the luxury class. This includes, for example, the standard hazard warning with Car-2X technology, in which the vehicle communicates with other cars via WiFi and, for example, warns of a traffic jam behind a hilltop that cannot be seen in advance. For the first time, services such as Apple Music or Amazon Alexa can be integrated into the golf, and the smartphone can be programmed as a mobile car key.
With the standard E-Sim and the VW services We Connect and We Connect Plus not only get real-time traffic information into the car, but also information about parking spaces, including information on prices and capacities. You can also remotely program any auxiliary heating that may be present. The Golf offers various privacy settings so that the driver can determine which data is passed on, and there is even a full head-up display for an extra charge. Overall, the Golf 8 has a lot to offer, but the list of options is long. When Volkswagen speaks of the “mobile icon” of the Golf becoming a “digital icon”, this high claim is not being met. The numerous beautiful details are lost in an operating concept that somehow turns towards MBUX from Mercedes-Benz, but does not achieve its sophistication, reliability and speed.