July 31, 2007 > Auto Review
Volkswagen's GTI is a lot of fun to drive. It is a light, nimble, powerful front-wheel drive car that handles very well; the brakes are great. I also liked the GTI's freeway manners, stable in heavy crosswinds, and a smooth, relaxing character so long trips would not be a problem.
The GTI is the "hot rod' version of VW's Golf sedan, sharing the same body structure. Both are hatchbacks and available in 2-door and 4-door body styles. The current body style, introduced in 2006, is the fifth generation of the GTI/Golf.
The GTI's power plant is a state-of-the-art 4-cylinder, 2-liter, 16-valve, turbocharged, intercooled motor that delivers 200 HP and 207 foot pounds of torque. This engine has been used for years in many VW and Audi automobiles with good reliability.
EPA estimates are 25 mpg, city and 32 mpg for the highway cycle. As you can imagine, these numbers start to tumble as your right foot gets closer to the floor. Due to the engine's high compression ratio, the GTI uses premium unleaded fuel.
At large power outputs, the GTI shows some torque steer characteristics, but it's not as bad as most front drivers. However, you need to be ready for it during aggressive runs. The engine responds to the throttle quickly, because it has virtually no "turbo lag."
Our test car had a fabulous DSG 6-speed automatic transmission. It is virtually a manual transmission using two computer-controlled clutches to make the shifts. It gives you four different options for shifting. "D" (Drive) is just like drive in other automatic transmission cars; it's good for the freeway. The "S" option (Sport) is like Drive except the computer programs an engine/transmission combination to deliver higher performance levels at a decrease in fuel mileage. This was my "around town" choice.
By moving the shift lever into the Tiptronic mode, you can use that lever to up shift and down shift at your command, OR you can use steering wheel mounted paddles to choose gears. The paddles are just the trick for those fun roads around the Bay Area. It is interesting to note that the automatic transmission GTI gets better fuel mileage AND better performance than the manual transmission car.
GTI's interior is very well designed; seats are comfortable and very supportive. Controls are easy to understand and use. The $1,800 navigation system was clear, reliable, easy to read and use. This price also includes a CD changer mounted in the center console. The doors open very wide for ease of entry and exit. Storage space behind the rear seats is as large as many cars' trunks. The rear seat backs also fold down to turn the GTI into a mini-station wagon.
I only had one small complaint with the entire car. The gas pedal was much lower than the brake pedal. During the movement from the gas to the brake, you need to lift your foot up more than you should. Not a big deal, just an annoyance.
Base MSRP for the 2-door, 6-speed manual transmission GTI is $22,220 and the 4-door is $500 more. The automatic transmission adds $1,075. Other options include power sunroof, larger wheels, leather seats, premium sound system, and more.
All new Volkswagens get a 24-hour roadside assistance program for four full years. VW then adds a 5-year (60,000 mile) power train and 4-year (50,000) bumper to bumper warranty to the GTI. The GTI is a good, solid, cost effective performance sedan.
By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists