2015 Volkswagen GTI Details:

  • Bigger, lighter, faster, more economical than before
  • 2.0TSI engine | 210hp, 258 lb-ft | MQB body structure
  • Six-speed manual or DSG | Larger trunk space
  • Priced from $24395 | Performance Package offers +10hp, LSD, bigger brakes

Electronics: Standard Automatic Post-Collision Braking | Driving Mode selector | Standard 5.8" screen | Optional DCC adaptive damping

+ Pros: Good all-rounder | More power, torque and MPG

- Cons: Fidgety ride


2015 VW GTI - Tech Perspective

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess to a soft spot for the Volkswagen Golf GTI. I've owned five in the past and, while it might not always be the best in some individual areas, it's always been the finest all-rounder money can buy.

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In the right hands, a Volkswagen GTI should be able to keep pace with almost anything on a twisty road. It will also return decent fuel consumption, accommodate five people, transport furniture, look good and respond well to tuning. What more could you want? It's certainly more sophisticated than any of its domestic or import alternatives such as the Mazda3, Ford Focus, or Subaru Impreza.

With seven generations in the 40 years since the first Golfs were introduced in 1974, more than 30 million cars have been sold. This makes it the most successful European car of all time.

When the first Volkswagen GTI was launched in 1976, it created the hot hatch market and set a high bar for all future models. The formula of a small car with hatchback practicality, sports car handling and a powerful engine has been copied countless times, and yet the GTI still manages to be the best all-rounder. And having been voted the World, European and Japanese Car of the Year, the new Mk7 GTI seems to be maintaining its enviable market position.

2015 Volkswagen Golf R - First Drive

Based on VW's new MQB architecture, the newest Mk7 GTI manages to be larger than the outgoing model but also lighter, faster and more economical. That's an impressive feat, and we can thank the extended use of high-strength steel (28%) for much of the weight savings (51 lb). The third-gen EA888 2.0TSI engine also saved a further 72 lb over the previous motor.

The engine is now up to Mk6 European-spec. Those cars were 210hp years ago, but it's the torque increase that's most appreciated - up almost 25% to a respectable 258 lb-ft at 1500rpm. However, the new Performance Package on the options list will probably tempt readers of this magazine. It adds a further 10hp, taking output to 220hp, while also increasing brake rotor size to 13.4" front and 12.2" rear (calipers remain the same but get a GTI logo), plus a torque-sensing mechanical limited-slip diff.

The package costs an additional $1495, which is reasonably good value if you're considering the Volkswagen GTI for track days, or if you have the opportunity to regularly drive some amazing roads. VW claims a GTI with this package knocked 8sec off its Nurburgring lap time compared to a stock Mk7 GTI.

If you don't plan to drive the wheels of your Volkswagen GTI, we have to admit the extra power is difficult to detect and the stock XDS+ e-diff does a pretty good job of putting the power to the road and getting you around corners. A mechanical diff obviously has advantages, such as tightening your line as your accelerate through a turn, but in anything but very hard driving it won't be fully exploited.

Another new feature includes the Driving Mode selector. This lets you switch between Normal, Sport and a custom mode. Hitting Sport gives you a sharper throttle response, more engine noise and heavier steering, with the custom setting allowing you to choose a combination of Sport and Normal.

Pay an additional $800 for the option DCC adaptive damping (only available in combination with the Performance Package) and not only will the selector alter the damper rates in concert with your choice, but you also get a Comfort setting as well.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to sample the DCC and found the ride comfort rather fidgety on uneven surfaces. Perhaps we've been spoiled but the Mk7 didn't seem to have the GTI's trademark composure on country roads that we'd become accustomed to. Hopefully the DCC would rectify the problem by adapting to the bumps more rapidly.

There were no complaints about the braking, and the steering was sharp in the Sport mode. The engine also pulled harder through the rev range, and especially at higher RPM when compared to the Mk6 GTI that was available to us for comparison.

We drove cars with both the DSG and manual transmissions, preferring the three-pedal version for its involvement and control. The gearing also seemed better suited to the twisty roads we encountered, allowing the 2.0T to use more of its torque, where the DSG seemed to be higher in the rev range and needing more shifts. Obviously, this would change for different roads or tracks, but we basically prefer the manual transmission.

The interior gets a standard 5.8" touchscreen that comes with radio, CD, Bluetooth and iPod integration. Unfortunately, navigation can only be added if you get the $30k GTI Autobahn trim level.

The sports seats and thick-rimmed steering wheel remain perfect for the job. However, the interior overall didn't have a premium feel. It's not an unpleasant environment but it didn't feel special. However, we were grateful for the new Fender audio option that comes standard on the SE trim level.

When comparing the cost of the Mk6 and Mk7 GTI, VW claims to have cut the cost of the new car by about $700 when fitted with comparable equipment. So the base GTI S two-door manual starts at $24395 (rising to $26095 for a four-door DSG).

The S trim includes 18" wheels, Drive Select, XDS+ e-diff, LED fogs, painted exterior trim, plaid seat cloth, manual lumbar adjust, manual A/C, multifunction steering wheel, touchscreen, iPod integration, Bluetooth, sat radio, Car-Net and Automatic Post-Collision Braking.

The Volkswagen GTI SE 2dr 6MT costs from $27395 and adds a standard sunroof, keyless entry, rearview camera, Fender audio and leather seats. Finally, there's the GTI Autobahn that's only available as a four-door. The 6MT costs $29595 while the DSG is $30695 and it gets standard nav, 12-way seat adjustment and Climatronic A/C.

We were pleased to see a range of VW Accessories on display, with a GTI sporting different wheels, a roof rack, etc. Check out the VW website for the full range.

Overall, the VW GTI remains at the top of our list of affordable all-rounders. However, it's perhaps not the home run that previous models have been. Or perhaps we just needed to drive it on better roads or a racetrack to appreciate it more...

Whatever the case, VW buyers have a great selection of cars, including a new Golf Sport model: limited to 650 cars, it gets a body kit to distinguish it from the regular Golf models. The Golf S will cost from $18995, but look out for a Golf "Launch Edition" that will retail from $17995 and come with 15" steel wheels for a retro feel.

Then there's the $21995 TDI that gets a slight power increase to 150hp. Or you might want to wait until early 2015 for the Golf R model, which is getting good reviews (see our First Drive in EC7/14). The Golf Sportwagen will arrive at the same time.

There will also be a Golf R "Evo" or "RS" model to follow. The 395hp Golf R 400 that was unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show earlier this year hinted at it, rather unsubtly. Several VW representatives assured us the car was in the pipeline, but whether it will come to North America, and if we'll get that much power has yet to be seen. It certainly promises a great future for VW enthusiasts.

Tech Spec

2015 VW Golf GTI

Layout
front-engine, transverse, FWD

Engine
1984 EA888 TSI four-cylinder 16v single-scroll IHI turbo, variable valve timing, variable exhaust valve lift, direct injection

Drivetrain
six-speed manual or six-speed DSG automatic transmission, XDS+ e-diff

Brakes
single-piston calipers, 12.3" rotors f, single-piston, 10.7" r

Suspension
strut-type, 24mm sway bar f, multilink, 20mm bar r

Wheels & Tires
18x7.5" wheels, 225/40 R18 tires

Performance

Max power
210hp at 4500rpm

Max torque
258 lb-ft at 1500rpm

0-60mph
6.5sec (DSG)

Top Speed
130mph (limited)

Weight
2972 lb (2dr, 6MT)

Economy
25/34/27mpg (city/highway/combined, 6MT)

MSRP
$24395 (plus $820 D&D)

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