Featured Review: Android Auto in the 2016 Volkswagen Golf-R

We're starting to see more and more cars hit the road with Android Auto inside. We've already reviewed the launch partner, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata. Now we have our hands on the 2016 Volkswagen Golf-R to check out. The Golf-R is the first in Volkswagen's fleet to come with Android Auto as part of their App Connect, which includes Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink. Just about all of Volkswagen's 2016 models will come with Android Auto, and the experience will be mostly the same with them all. So let's have a look at Android Auto on the 2016 Volkswagen Golf-R.

Video Review

Price

So there are a few models here. The Golf-R comes in both Manual and Automatic transmissions - new in the 2016 model. The base Golf-R Manual comes in at $35,650 with the Automatic coming in at $36,750. However, if you want Android Auto, you'll need to opt in for the DCC and Navigation package. Which will bring the price of the manual version to $37,895 and the automatic version to $38,995. Our model is the manual with DCC and Navigation (obviously so we can use Android Auto). Delivery costs are $820, on top of all that.

With that pricing breakdown, you'll see that the cheapest Golf-R you can get with Android Auto will be the manual transmission version, however, it's only an $1100 difference between the two. And with you spending that much, another $1100 isn't a huge difference.

Exterior

The Volkswagen Golf-R looks really nice. We have the tornado red model here which really stands out. I really like the headlights, they look really good on the Golf-R, they are also really bright. I'd even say they were brighter than the 2015 Hyundai Sonata (of course brighter than my 2009 Chevy Aveo). We have dual tailpipes for the exhaust.

The Volkswagen Golf-R looks like a small car from the outside, but when you get in the car, you realize that it's really not a small car. Now it is a hatchback, which my car is also a hatchback, so I'm somewhat used to the smaller cars that hatchbacks normally are. But there's definitely more space in the Golf-R. Both in the trunk and in the seats. Especially the back seat, which usually ends up not having a whole lot of space.

Interior

The Golf-R that we are test driving this week is a leather interior, and it looks sporty as well, as you can see in the pictures. One of my favorite parts of the interior, however is the LED lights throughout the interior. There is a strip of blue LED lights at the bottom of the car, near the door. And another row near the window. The lights inside the car are also LED's and look really nice.

Volkswagen's steering wheel is also wrapped in leather. It both looks nice, but is also comfortable for driving long periods of time. The steering wheel is a bit thicker than some other cars, but it's not too thick where it's uncomfortable to drive. Speaking of the steering wheel, there are tons of buttons. This includes buttons for changing up the info in the instrument panel, changing the volume of the media, skipping or repeating songs, voice control and making calls. So this way you can interact with Volkswagen's infotainment system without looking away from the road. As it should be.

With the Golf-R, there are plenty of LED lights. From the lights on the outside of the car, to the trim inside, and even the lights in the roof that appear when you open the car door. There is a blue strip of lights on the floor near the door on both the passenger and driver's side, as well as one on the door near the window. These look especially nice at night. This is Volkswagen's idea of ambient lighting, and I quite like it myself. This is available on all trims of the Golf-R and as standard.

Android Auto

Now here's the part most are probably looking forward to, Android Auto. Volkswagen has built Android Auto into their MIB II system, which also offers Apple Carplay and MirrorLink capabilities. Android Auto is somewhat easy to setup, however, if you just bought this car and didn't know it featured Android Auto, you may never have found out that it did. Android Auto is somewhat buried. Basically, you plug in your phone to the USB port that is in the center console, then tap on the Menu button on the side and find your device from the list to connect to. Now you're going to go into Android Auto. It's not too buried, but it is behind a few other menus that many users may not find. Hyundai has it front-and-center on their Sonata, making it easy for users to go "Oh, hey, my car has Android Auto".

Otherwise, Android Auto is integrated about how you'd expect it to be. So the center panel is your overview screen. From here you can see the weather, places you've looked up on Google Maps, messages from supported messaging apps and even music that's playing on a supported music app. All the way on the left-side is Google Maps. From here you can either use it to see where you are, or for navigation. It's pretty self-explanatory, I do believe. One thing to point out in regards to Google Maps though, is that the Golf-R has its own GPS signal so it'll be using that GPS signal instead of your phone's. This makes your phone charge faster while plugged in for Android Auto, since it's doing less, and it doesn't heat up as much either.

The second from the left panel, you have your phone. So from here you can make calls, view your call history, your voicemails and more. One thing that's a bit strange here is that this doesn't support Google Voice. So if you're using Google Voice you can't make phone calls through the car using your Voice number. It'll be the actual phone's number. On the other side of the overview screen is your media player. There are plenty of apps that are compatible with Android Auto these days. This includes Spotify, Google Play Music, NPR One, iHeart Radio, Pandora, PocketCasts, BeyondPod, Player.FM, and many more. There are more coming every day as well. You can choose between different apps as well. Remember that Android Auto will only show that apps that are installed on your phone that are also compatible with Android Auto. Through the Android Auto companion app, you can browse and find compatible apps for Android Auto. Finally on the far right is another panel which doesn't actually have a name. But this is where Car Makers can install different services. Like Roadside Assistance. But here on the Golf-R we just have a link to get back to Volkswagen's system.

Android Auto is nice and fast here on the Golf-R, and it looks good on the 6.5-inch display here in the center of the car. It's not a super high-resolution display, which is fine because you don't need a high-resolution display here. Just one that you can touch and it recognizes you touched it. As well as being able to see directions to where you're going. Navigation worked perfectly, while I was using it. The GPS signal was spot on pretty much all the time. However, there is one issue I have with Volkswagen's Android Auto implementation. Voice Control works with the MIB II and there is a button for it on the steering wheel, but it doesn't work for Android Auto. Instead, you'll have to press the microphone icon on the screen in Android Auto to use it. A bit disappointing, I'd say.

Update: Google reached out and explained to us that you can long-press the voice control button and activate voice control inside Android Auto. Unfortunately, we are unable to try this out as we have already returned the Golf-R.

There are also steering wheel controls here, which allow you to adjust the volume, skip or go to a previous track, as well as make calls and voice commands. However, the calls and voice commands work just with the MIB II system and not Android Auto. So if you want to make a call, you'll need to use the screen inside Android Auto to do so.

Volkswagen's Infotainment System

The MIB II system is actually pretty nice. I've used some other infotainment systems and were not a fan of them. One of those being Ford's SYNC system. The MIB II was very responsive, it had some great info to display about the car. So you can see how your mileage is performing on a specific trip, as well as how many miles you can go until empty. We have Sirius XM Satellite radio installed, but you can also use good old FM radio, as well as plugging in your phone and using media from your phone.

Navigation from Volkswagen seems to be on par with Google's. Although I will say that the traffic part of their maps isn't as great as Google's is, and sometimes it takes a while to update or even appear on the maps. But when you're traveling somewhere you've never been before, it works great. One of the things that navigation from car makers has that Google does not, is the speed limit. Showing me the speed limit on the screen is a big help. Especially if I'm in an unfamiliar area and don't know what the speed limit is. This way I can still travel and not worry about seeing flashing lights in my rear-view mirror. I know it's a minor thing, but I really do like it.

From the steering wheel, you can use the infotainment system as well. Voice control works somewhat decently. However it does not work with Android Auto. So the built-in voice control buttons will only work with the MIB II system and not Android Auto. Alternatively, you can press the microphone icon in Android Auto to use voice commands.

One of the options in the MIB II system is seeing the info screen. From here you can view gas station prices nearby, what's playing at a local movie theater as well as what the weather is planning on doing in the next few hours. All very helpful, especially if you're planning to be out driving for a while, or even on a road trip. The other is the Car Info screen. Which shows you how many miles you have left before you'll need to fill up. Always a nice feature to have on a car, so you don't have to worry about running out of gas, as that's the last thing you'd want to do.

Vroom

So enough about Android Auto, Volkswagen's infotainment system and what the car looks like. Let's talk about how it drives. And it drives really well. The ride has been nice and smooth while I've been driving the Golf-R. The car can get around 31 miles per gallon, of course there are a lot of factors into that, but that's pretty decent for a car of this size. We're looking at a 2.0-Liter EA888 SI DOHC 16-Valve Turbo 4-Cylinder engine here on the Golf-R along with 4-Motion All-Wheel Drive. Didn't get the chance to check out the 4-Motion All Wheel Drive seeing as I kept the car on the road, but this would probably be really good in the winter, here in Michigan, with all the snow we get. However, not too good for the potholes we get since it does have 19-inch Alloy Wheels for getting you from point A to point B.

The weather recently got a bit chilly around here, and having the seat warmers in the Golf-R definitely felt nice. It kept me nice and warm and comfortable when driving the Golf-R this week, even during the crazy Michigan weather we have here. Volkswagen also has a rear-view camera. Again this isn't new, and actually the 2015 Hyundai Sonata had the same thing. This allows you to get a better view for when you are backing up, so you don't hit anything or anybody. It seems to work pretty good at night when there's no lights around. Obviously it is getting some light from the lights on the back of the car, but it was more clear at night than on the Sonata.

While we're talking about Driver Assistance systems here. That's not all Volkswagen has in the 2016 Golf-R. We also have adaptive cruise control, which uses forward facing radar to maintain a set speed while helping maintain a set distance to the vehicle in front of you. You, the driver, are still able to set the speed and the spacing you desire using the buttons on the steering wheel. As always, you can use the accelerator, or brake pedals to override the cruise control. Other driver assistance systems include Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert as well as Park Distance Control.

The Golf-R does come with a standard five-year/60,000-mile powertrain limited warranty as well as a three-year/36,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty. For those that might be wondering.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed my time with the 2016 Volkswagen Golf-R, my first time with a Volkswagen model. The Golf-R may not be my car of choice, but it is a great car that is jam-packed with technology. Android Auto works fairly well, although having it buried did not make me too excited. As well as the voice control only working with the MIB II system and not switching over to Android Auto. Volkswagen is rolling out Android Auto to their entire fleet of cars beginning with the 2016 model year. So while the Golf-R was the first car with Android Auto, it won't be the only one.

The Golf-R is available now from your local auto dealer. Just make sure to ask for the DCC & Navigation package, to be sure you do get a model with Android Auto built-in. It'd be a shame for you to spend all that money on a new car and not have Android Auto built-in.

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About the Author
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Alexander Maxham

Section Editor
Alex has written for Androidheadlines since 2012 as Editor of the site and traveled the World to many of the biggest Smartphone and Technology events. Alex has a background in Technology and IT and Deep Passion for Everything Android and Google. His specialties lay in Smartphones of all budgets, Accessories, Home Automation and more. Contact him at [email protected]