2008 Volkswagen Golf GT Sport TSI vs TDI review
Two outstanding drivetrains, brilliant chassis, room, practicality, ride/handling balance
TSI not quite as good with DSG, which one to pick?
CarAdvice Rating: (Petrol & Diesel)
– by Karl Peskett
Photography by Anthony Crawford and Karl Peskett
So this is where it gets really interesting.
You take your standard Mk V Golf, whack in 15mm lower suspension, stickier tyres with new wheels, tweak the chassis a bit, add larger brakes and stick on a GT badge. Now, you have a Golf GT. But that’s not all.
Using a supercharger and a turbocharger, Volkswagen has accounted for the best of both worlds, in 1.4 TSI guise. At 125kW and 240Nm, it’s a pearler of an engine. But it gets better. You also have the choice of a turbo diesel 2-litre which belts out 125kW as well, and a stump-pulling 350Nm from 1750rpm.
So, which to choose? Hmmm…this isn’t going to be easy.
CarAdvice staff gathered in Sydney for the verdict.
First of all, the comfort. Golf’s are reknown worldwide (and right here at home, as well) for their superb ride/handling balance, space, and terrific seating. Well, the GTs certainly live up to the reputation.
Both models have bolstering which allows for sporty driving, yet doesn’t close in on you, allowing for easy entry and egress. All round support is excellent, and whether you opt for leather (on our red TSI) or cloth (as per the grey TDI) you won’t be sliding around on the seat. Of course when you bundle in cow’s skin, you get seat heaters as well.
No one likes deceit, however all is forgiven when you realise that the Golf is holding out on how much space the interior reveals. Easily seating 5 adults and cargo is no issue. So yes, comfortably, the Golf can go to golf, or travel from gulf to gulf.
Next up, the drive experience. And here’s where the gap between fuel types widens.
Braking is what we all expect from a VeeDub – a little snatchy, but still effective. No difference there. Steering weight and feel is similar to the Golf GTI too, that is, slightly numb, but with weighting that still satisfies.
But it’s the chassis balance between the car that separates them. The TSI tends to be a little lighter at the front, and a little twitchy in harder cornering. The super-grippy Continental tyres probably contribute here, as the transition from grip to slip in the dry can be quite sudden.
But the TDI tends to have more of that “lead-tipped arrow” feel about it, as a run down the Akuna Bay road at West Head proved. With pro driver Anthony at the wheel, the TDI simply followed where the front end was pointed, with the ESP occasionally correcting the line taken.
But even though it has a slightly heavier front end, the TDI’s grip belied it’s powerplant’s weight and positioning. The chassis seems more balanced than the TSI, and quick turns were simply a matter of the sidewalls flexing to relieve vertical movement, and not lateral slip – the sign of a superb chassis.
But of course the most obvious difference between these two GTs is the engines. To choose, you have to be very objective. Technophiles will love the TSI for it’s combination of two types of forced induction. Using a magnetic clutch to switch the supercharger on and off, with the turbocharger kicking in at the higher revs, is a sure talking point at the weekend barbeque.
By its slightly tinny sound, you can tell that it’s a small motor, but it has the balls to grunt out of corners, especially from about 3000rpm. Plus the fuel economy for what the car is, is outstanding.
The TDI, by comparison, is what you’d call a chunkier motor. It’s not as delicate as the TSI, but still gets the job done. Thank the 350Nm for that. It’s still not that loud, though, but it’s got a rougher, lumpier note, that suits the sporting intentions.
The amazing thing is with the DSG changing when it does, there’s no letup. While most diesels run out of puff at the top end, this 2-litre pulls hard, and then when it changes gear, there’s no lag. Just a seamless flow of torque, which then transitions as the power keeps the pull going. It’s truly an amazing oil-burner, which also suits the Direct Shift Gearbox a whole lot better too.
In TSI form, the ‘box tends to shunt and clunk a little, not to mention the indecisive changes which go along with it. However in TDI, the grunty bottom end glosses over these imperfections, meaning smoother changes, and a more liveable daily drive.
The other consideration is that diesel is 10% more expensive that premium unleaded, yet the TDI costs 15% less to run. 7.7-litres/100km for the TSI, versus 6.6l/100km for the TDI.
In the end, you’re going to end up with a cracker of a car, either way. Both GTs are brilliant, even in their own right.
But if we had to choose; if we were pressed, we’d have to pick the Golf GT Sport TDI.