Make a joyful noise

The New Golf GTI

Burbles of exhaust, squeels of tires and some interesting sounds from the drivers all point to a successful reinterpretation of  a ground-breaking and well-loved icon

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Words: Carl S. Cunanan
Photos: Jerel Fajardo

It is somewhat hard to determine exactly which “cat that ate the canary” grin you should use to define the new Golf GTI. There were so many of them. You start with the smile on your face that comes from just seeing the car, the icon that is now on its seventh generation, the icon that pretty much defined performance driving, hot hatches, front-wheel drive handling, affordable enthusiast wheels… And so on. Definitely a tough act to follow, and more often than not, these follow-ups fail. Happily, very happily indeed, the new GTI succeeds. But all that comes later. The first grin comes just because you see it and remember.

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Next grin: getting inside and taking a seat. Rather, taking THE seat. The plaid cloth of the GTI seats manage to be playful but still not too flashy, though once again this may be a case of happy memories (or happy memories of unfulfilled desires) that skew judgement. Memories, though, don’t sway the butt, and further time on the road and on the track will prove that these seats are as pleasing and as cradling as you could wish for short of purpose-built chairs that give up too much one way or the other. The seats, like pretty much everything in the Golf GTI, are about finding the right balance. And no, they aren’t leather. And no, I didn’t miss it at all.

 

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Bringing the bright-red, hot hatch out of the showroom into city traffic brought further happiness. The car wasn’t skewed so hard towards enthusiasm that it made things uncomfortable or loud. Steering was easy in traffic, but not too light. Gearshifts were smooth and easy as well. As traffic opened up a bit, the little two liter TFSI engine proved that it was a happy little squirt, bringing us quickly though windows of urban opportunity. I started playing with the Driving Mode Selection adjustments as well. You could choose settings that would adjust throttle and sound, steering, air conditioning either generally based on Sport versus Normal parameters, or you could actually customize things. I can’t really think of what I would want outside their chosen settings other than perhaps have air conditioning at optimal when in Sport Mode (system default in Sport Mode is for aircon to demand less power). I have to say that upon seeing the adjustment choices, I thought, wow, if only I could change suspension settings on the fly as well. It turns out, this is an option available in other countries. Having said that, I have to admit that the way everything rode on the street was just about spot-on. If things were made any softer, they really wouldn’t match the car, and as we have seen in other car models that soften up the suspension too much, it just puts the whole car out of whack.

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The other adjustables will be appreciated. Making the steering more sporty gives you a nice tightness between the wheel in your hands and the ones at the front while keeping the drive calm and may make the more non-enthusiast passengers happier. Drivetrain adjustment makes the engine respond more quickly and more appropriately when you want to run the car a little harder, making everything nice and peppy. This is not a power monster though, rather it is a well-chosen well-tuned motor that pushes the GTI along as quickly as you would want yet still making it completely drivable in everyday traffic. Oh, and when you have the drivetrain in Sport mode, the engine makes a great burbling sound on hard downshifts. I first heard the popping and rumbling while driving in the city, but didn’t really have a way to recreate it reliably while sitting in traffic. The next time I got behind the wheel, I had a better chance. I was on the racetrack.

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“Dude, this is where your 2.3 million bucks goes!” I actually said that. I got behind the wheel and took the GTI out on an open track, and it was glorious. It wasn’t harsh in the way that most overly-tuned track denizens would be. The four-cylinder turbocharged TFSI engine produced power smoothly throughout the range. On one hand, this means you don’t get the “shoved to the back” turbo feel in one hit; on the other hand, you have very smooth very predictable power on hand almost all the time, which means that you get no surprises when you change throttle position in a corner. The engine and the driving dynamics of the Golf GTI reward smoothness, and they reward you with exit speeds out of corners that may be far higher than you would expect. This isn’t a car for the two hundreds, though. It will definitely get there, but it is really at its best at more reasonable speeds on nice twisty roads.

 

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Speaking of changing throttle positions in corners, everything was going so smoothly that we decided to try to make things go astray. We went into corners hotter than we should, and then tried to over-correct to see what would happen. It was pretty point and shoot really, no major drama. The car just seemed to change line and position and kept going. So came another quote of the day: “This is what happens when you get front wheel drive RIGHT!” And on a track, you will end up trying to go into that corner faster and faster because it allows you to downshift more aggressively, which in turn brings out that really nice exhaust burble you normally hear from cars built in Stuttgart. The burbling here in the GTI is not as aggressively loud as on the sportscars; it is more subdued, but it really does bring a big smile to your face and a pressure to your foot.

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The thing to remember here is that this is really an everyday driver. True, it is the seventh generation of what many see as the very definition of the hot hatch, and in many ways it is a way more civilized drive than the original GTI. It is larger than the original, and carries more weight around, but it also brings with it a more mature consolidation of all things good. It would be wrong to look at the GTI based on all the parts and numbers and specs, because it isn’t merely a sum of its parts. The new Golf GTI is a truly well thought out, well-balanced front wheel drive enthusiast car. It costs more than cars that are bigger, go faster, have leather, but it justifies every cent if you understand and appreciate just what it offers. Quite frankly, I can’t see them staying at their pricing for very long if demand is as it should be.

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Specifications:

Engine: Inline-4
Location: Front, Transverse
Displacement: 1, 984 cc
Cylinder block: Cast Grey Iron
Cylinder Head: Cast Aluminum, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, 2-stage Variable Intake Valve Timing, 17.4 psi Maximum Boost Intercooled IHI Turbo
Fuel Injection: Direct Fuel Injection
Max Power: 217 bhp @ 4,500-6,200 rpm
Max Torque: 258 lb ft @ 1,500-4,400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed DSG (Dual Clutch) automatic with Tiptronic and Sport mode and with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, Front-Wheel-Drive, XDS+ Cross Differential System
Drag Coefficient: 0.29 cd
Suspension: (Front) Independent MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar, Sport-tuned
Fuel Capacity: 50 liters (13.2 gallons)
L x W x H: 4,255 mm x 1,799 mm, 1,452 mm
Wheelbase: 2,637 mm
Brakes: (Front) 12.3″ (312 mm) ventilated discs with 1-piston red-painted aluminum floating calipers, ABS, EBD, Traction & Stability Controls
Wheels: 7.5J x 18″ Aluminum Alloy
Tires: P       225/40R18 92Y Bridgestone Potenza S001
Weight[Kerb]: 1,402 kg (3, 085 lbs.)
Weight Distribution F/R: 60.7:39.3 
Quarter Mile: 14.2 seconds @ 166.4 km/h (104 mph)
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 6.4 sec.
Braking (112 km/h) 168 feet (56 meters)
Top Speed (km/h): 246 km/h (154 mph)
Fuel Mileage: 25 mpg City / 33 mpg Highway
Price as Tested: PhP 2,290,000.00
+ The hot hatch standard reestablished
– No Performance Pack option, no Fender audio system, no dynamic Chassis Control Package option

C! Editor’s Rating: 10/10

mm
Editor-In-Chief / Managing Director