2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI.
the Volkswagen Golf has proven that driving can be fun, and driving
fun can be affordable. The spacious hatchback has always balanced
good handling with punchy powertrains in a package versatile enough
to mature with owners beyond their 20s. But the technology was
With the refreshed seventh-generation GTI, or Mk 7.5 for Golf nuts,
Volkswagen has gone from one of the worst automakers in infotainment
to one of the best.
that could cheat emissions testing íround the world was so behind
the curve on in-car technology that the Golf didnít get a USB port
until 2016. Chalk it up to complacency for VWís best-selling
vehicle of all time, which wonít get a full redesign until model
year 2020. The rehashed Golf comes available with all the advanced
driver assistance systems, including a very effective blind spot
monitor that hit the brakes before we backed over our garbage can.
All that tech
comes with a price, especially on the fully loaded top Autobahn
trim. At just over $35,000 ó about the average of what Americans
are paying for new vehicles these days ó the value proposition of
the GTI gets tested. But for drivers who love to drive and
appreciate cutting-edge technology, the GTI Autobahn hits all the
points it promises and more.
changes on the outside except standard LED treatment and the
elimination of the Sport trim. Autobahn gets new 18-inch alloy
five-spoke wheels with a more fanlike design.
The fun factor
starts with the six-speed manual transmission, and not just because
of the golf-ball shifter knob. The rowing is smooth, the notching is
predictable, and the clutch pedal is softer, kinder, more welcoming
to noobs wary of stalling it. Yet thereís enough kickback on the
track to inspire rally hero fantasies. It made my tween daughter beg
to drive but she canít see over the wheel, among other legal
issues. But I made a promise to teach her how to drive stick on the
Golf, and, no, I wonít get her the plaid seats because theyíre
as ugly as a good cry.
DSG six-speed automatic is quicker than the manual but it wonít
inspire 10-year-old daughters. And it costs $1,100 more.
bumped 10 horsepower to 220 horsepower on premium fuel in the
turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Torque remains the same at 258
pound-feet at 1500 rpm, which hits the sweet spot for quickening the
heartbeat on a lightweight car (3,031 pounds) that is not fast but
brakes, limited-slip front differential and adaptive dampers make
the front-drive hatch more tossable. Torque steer is minimized and
itís much more composed than the Civic Si and the Mazda3, but
there are front-drive limitations. In back-to-back laps with the
all-wheel-drive $40,000 Golf R, the GTI was more skittish braking
hard before a turn. Itís hard to go as hard with the GTI as other
But no hot
hatch is as perfectly balanced for an everyday driver. Itís not
rally rough like the Subaru WRX, and feels as large as a Honda Civic
but with more intuitive instrumentation.
All Golfs get
larger infotainment screens, and the Autobahn gets an 8-inch screen
that you donít need to use. Volkswagen has adapted the Virtual
Cockpit from Audi and called it Digital Cockpit. It pixelates the
gauge cluster so the vehicle info is not just customizable, but
zoomable and changeable. It is so able. With the steering wheel
control you can minimize the tach and spedo to display a bright 3D
Google map, among countless other features. Itís easy to learn and
eschews fiddling with the touch screen. It is the best system on the
market. And so overdue.
Even at this
price, the total package is worth it if you are among the impatient.
Otherwise youíd have to wait more than a year for the eighth-gen
Golf, and to wait until then would be missing out on a whole lotta
fun right now.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn at a glance
$35,070 (excluding $850 destination)
Mpg: 25 city,
2-liter turbo four-cylinder
Get To It.