Everybody agrees that the Volkswagen GTI is a great car. Except for the US-market MkI, which was underpowered. And the Mk2, which was
If I understand the conventional wisdom, the only GTI which
Five minutes in this MkVI GTI will
We’ll start with a 150-degree off-camber right-hander. Too hot! The GTI plows for a moment until we remove all brake input and let the outside edge of the tire catch. Now it’s full-throttle along a long sweeping downhill left-hander. The end of the turn is blind but keep your foot in it. At the bottom of the hill there’s an odd dip that completely upset the Beetle and caused the Golf R to compute ferociously as the four driven wheels argued amongst themselves.
The GTI, on the other hand, just doesn’t care.
…except these are computer shocks, too, as this GTI has some kind of three-way adjustment and I have it set to “Sport”. We’ll make a mental note to drive one
Speaking of fancy stuff, note that the DSG has been flawless so far, holding the right gear when needed and seamlessly helping the engine along despite just being left in “S”. Why waste time paddling the wheel shifters when the transmission is so smart on its own? The exhaust note is multi-dimensional and it stutters almost like a boxer engine before blipping, F1-style, into the next gear without a whiff of flywheel effect. It may be one of the first dual-clutch transmissions, but it’s still perhaps the most appealing one.
Now we have a series of fast switchbacks down a hill. The guys from Bigtime Magazine who were tailgating us on the state highway a few minutes ago aren’t even visible in the mirror. This is an excellent place to try going flat in third, and we’re on the way to doing it ARRRGGGHHH THERE IS AN ELDERLY WOMAN PLANTING FLOWERS BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD well the brakes, honestly, could stand a little more pad area or a more aggressive compound. The calipers from the Golf R would be nice to have.
Now there’s some soft, heat-related travel in the left pedal but it doesn’t matter. Stomp the ABS a bit for a sharp 120-degree left. Too hot again. Would be nice to have just a slightly more aggressive tire on this thing. Unless we make a change here we will hit a mailbox at about fifty mph, so brush the brake left-footed and
Now we have a long straight followed by a wide-radius blind right-hander and sharper left-hander running beneath an overpass. In the R and Beetle this wasn’t really flat-out, but in the GTI you can hold your throttle/breath/nuts all the way to a late entry of the second turn. Doing so requires that you grind the outside tire to the squealing semi-limit very close to gravel. There’s plenty of feedback through the steering, and the level of effort involved is an accurate reflection of the number of small stones beneath the tread block closest to the shoulder. It inspires confidence. We could pick up 1 or 2 mph next time.
Now it’s time to hustle up and down a narrow road before hanging it out for a third-gear downhill leftie. All the way down, the GTI responds to mild throttle adjustments by pointing the nose in or out just a touch. If we get a bit ham-handed with the wheel, the DSC light
The Golf R didn’t really feel fast enough on this road, since the binary stop/turn/go technique demanded by its weight and drivetrain showed up the engine’s deficiencies. The GTI, on the other hand, is more than fast enough. If anything, it’s brakes that we need back here; the 2.0T can push the little car just a bit faster than it can stop. On a racetrack, the problem would be even more pronounced.
Take a look around the interior. It’s standard VW fare, available with a few extras if you so desire. The cloth seats are, to many people, an indispensible part of the GTI experience, but some people will insist on leather. Your humble author is not qualified to judge the minute distinctions between different Volkswagen plastics the way that many Euro-fans are. I had two Phaetons and compared to them the GTI sucks. I also had a 1990 Fox, and compared to
Let’s return to the drive. The GTI can do what the Beetle and Golf R can’t. It can make you
Most importantly, the obvious speed gap between this GTI and some of the competition doesn’t matter so much when the experience of driving the car is so delightful. Yes, a Mazdaspeed 3 is faster; no, I wouldn’t dream of buying an MS3 instead. It would be nice if the GTI were five hundred pounds lighter, but we live in a world where something like that simply isn’t going to happen. No time soon, anyway.
If the GTI is so wonderful — and it is, it truly