PINCKNEY, MI – Volkswagen is updating infotainment systems in U.S. models, with the Golf lineup the latest with better, faster touchscreens.

“We went from a 5-in. (13-cm) display for the entry-level radio to a 6.5-in. (17-cm) screen,” Golf U.S. Product Manager Megan Garbis tells WardsAuto at a media event here for the car. “And then the mid (-grade models) and (those with) navigation go from 6.5 ins. to 8 ins. (20 cm).”

VW is stepping up touchscreen sizes to keep up with the “democratization” of touchscreens, she jokes, as advanced technology is filtering down into relatively basic B- and C-segment cars in the U.S.

Screens in refreshed ’18 Golf models, on sale later this year in the U.S., also get higher resolution and respond faster thanks to a more powerful processor, she says.

Menu structures also are changed to be more intuitive and user-friendly, while different color schemes indicate what part of the infotainment system is being used, such as audio, navigation or climate.

In a test of mid-grade or higher GTI, Golf R and Alltrack wagon models here, the most obvious benefit is the larger virtual buttons made possible by the bigger 8-in. screen. While the virtual buttons for SiriusXM satellite radio channels still are placed too close together, their larger size makes it less likely a driver or passenger will accidently select the wrong station.

The colors of many of the channels’ logos also are more vivid than before.

Mid-grade and higher Golfs, essentially those with the Composition Media and Discover Media infotainment systems, still have a hand-sensing feature. For those capacitive-touch-based screens, a set of sensors near the bottom of the screen can detect a hand approaching and reveal buttons or render buttons bigger as a driver or passenger reaches for them.

While U.S. Golfs lack the gesture control featured in European models with the Discover Pro infotainment system, Garbis says Volkswagen of America is working on getting gesture control in the U.S. market e-Golf, which has a 9.25-in. (23-cm) touchscreen.

“It’s larger, all glass, and it can allow you to do Star Wars-y-like moves, to gesture menus this way or that way, and select a different mode. It allows you to more easily change some menus while driving,” she says.

Thanks in part to its infotainment system, VW's Atlas large CUV was a Wards 10 Best User Experiences winner for 2017.

Other changes to the refreshed ’18 Golf lineup include new bumpers with chrome accents (Golf), standard LED daytime running lights and taillights (Golf, GTI and Alltrack models); standard cloth plaid seating with a sunroof (mid-grade GTI); and standard Digital Cockpit customizable gauge cluster (Golf R). The Golf R also gets a 7-speed DCT with stop/start in addition to the car’s standard 6-speed manual transmission.

The Golf R becomes the only U.S. VW to get the 7-speed DCT, which is a rework of the 6-speed DCT on the ’17 Golf R, not the same as the double dry-clutch 7-speed DCT on the defunct Jetta Hybrid, Garbis says.

VW would like to use the new 7-speed DCT in more U.S. Golfs, particularly the GTI, which has it in Europe as does the non-R Golf.

“It’s something that’s available out of Wolfsburg right now, which is why we see it as a cool thing for Golf R in the U.S.,” she says. “Eventually it would be cool…to have that 7-speed for the U.S.-spec GTI, which is currently built out of (VW’s) Puebla (Mexico vehicle-assembly plant). But for now it gives the Golf R kind of a leg up against GTI.”