Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: June 8, 2017
If there was ever a car with big shoes to fill, it would be Volkswagen’s GTI. The MK1 helped kick off the hot-hatch craze that took the world (and young enthusiasts) by storm. Since the MK3 with its venerable VR6 motor, the GTI has struggled to live up to its name.
Three generations later, Volkswagen has unanimously gotten another winner on its hands with the MQB-platform-based 7th generation GTI. Literally every single MQB product thus far has been a knockout for the brand - save for any Diesel variants (yes, I’m petty enough to take this cheap shot).
Yet just as the GTI had finally lived up to its expectations, Volkswagen goes ahead and develops a formidable big brother to beat down on the GTI’s accomplishment (yes we're talking about the Golf R). Or does it?
First off, let’s talk weight. The GTI is the more lithe option compared to the R. Shedding the Haldex-based AWD system means a weight savings of 125 kg. It doesn’t seem like much, but once you’re on the road making fast direction changes, the GTI absolutely dances through them. Most of it is imparted by the excellent chassis that the MQB platform was designed to be.
Tick the Performance Package and the GTI gets an added factory installed limited slip differential, further enhancing the car’s cornering capability. Out there in the switchbacks though and sweeping on-ramps, even without the LSD the car feels eager to perform and show you just what it's got.
To put the power to the floor is Volkswagen’s DSG. It makes quick work of the GTI’s power too. The tach races towards the redline when your right foot kisses the floor. Tap the paddle on the right and the car emits a fart and bangs into the next gear almost instantaneously. It’s an addictive experience. Every light feels like an opportunity to experience the thrill again. It’s not all fast, all the time either. Tap the gear lever in D/S mode and it will switch to Drive leaving any semblance of its exhilarating alter-ego behind. Pattering silently about the city, you’d think this was a Golf TSI.
Adding to the hatch’s dual-personalities is Volkswagen’s Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC). A simple push of the button and the vehicle will make adjustments on the fly to the Soundaktor (your source for a cheesy piped-in engine noise), drivetrain, steering and most importantly, suspension settings. Left in comfort, the car glides through the throngs of city traffic effortlessly, perfect at home among the potholes on Adelaide. Push the Mode button and the car can switch to “Sport” and instantly, as if injected with a shot of caffeine, the entire car wakes up: diving into corners with a bit of extra verve, all the while growling a bit louder.
The folks in Wolfsburg have developed quite the motor to match the GTI’s chassis, though I’m still baffled by the measly 10 hp added to the experience when ticking the Power Package option. A “whopping” 210 horses eked out of the 2.0L turbocharged EA888 isn’t much especially when other brands are squeezing more out of similar displacement blocks. The diminutive 2.0L is capable of so much too as the R clearly demonstrates.
Volkswagen’s pursuit for a refined driving experience will tell you that “Nein! Nein! Nein! Too much power to the front wheels will ruin ze drive!” However, the 210 hp front-wheel drive pocket rocket has made torque steer a dramaless experience. Launch hard off the line, and you’ll feel a twinge of it in your hand. It’s is so well managed in fact that you can’t help but wonder what the GTI would have be like with 240 horses on tap instead with an LSD.
Perhaps then, the only downside to the GTI’s current power plant is the lack of power (in the traditional definition) that comes out the box. I’d have loved to experience the GTI with 240 horses from the factory, especially when the EA888 motor (shared in the Golf R) can clearly handle 292 hp.
Inside, trade-offs with the GTI’s brawnier brother are minimal, offering an outstanding level of fit and finish. The car feels far more expensive than its price tag suggests. I’ve always loved being inside the Mk7 Golf family, and this GTI (even with the Clark seats) is no different. The seats are identical in shape (the R receives the leather treatment with badging to match), as are the interior LED accent lighting (though the GTI gets red instead of the R’s blue). Gauge needles are also red. Other than the minute differences, the two interiors offer almost the same level of comfort, though some may argue the GTI offers more comfort thanks to a graciously large sunroof, absent in all North American R models.
At an as-tested price of $37,705, this GTI comes equipped with all the essentials, and then some. If it were me, I’d spec it without the $1,400 DSG. Personally, the six-speed adds more to my driving experience, while simultaneously reducing cost. It’s a win-win, but understandably not for everyone. Needless to say, the DSG does a formidable job of making me forget the clutch pedal. The Driver Assistance Package (a $1,460 steal) is also a must, and adds adaptive cruise, front assist with emergency braking, lane assist, adaptive headlights, park assist, and park distance control.
After my week with the vehicle, it was clear that the GTI’s triumphant return to form hasn’t been overshadowed by its AWD brother. In fact, I’d argue that the GTI when used as a daily driver offers a nearly identical ownership experience to the R. Regardless which of the two you choose, both will be an outstanding choice.
型号 Model: 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI
顏色 Paint Type: Night Blue Metallic
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $33,845
試車售價 Price as Tested: $37,705
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,631
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,628 / 1,799 / 1,442
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,400
引擎 Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 210 hp @ 4,700 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 9.6 / 7.2
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 10.1
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 225/40R18