And we thought it was impossible to better the Mark V Golf GTI...
And we thought it was impossible to better the Mark V Golf GTI...
The definition of perfect is: exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose, entirely without any flaws.
Perfect is the word you would use to describe the Mark V Volkswagen Golf GTI. Everything about it was sound and exactly as it should be. Like most other motoring enthusiasts I was left scratching my head, wondering how Volkswagen could possibly improve on the Mark V GTI.
Enter stage left, the Mark VI Volkswagen Golf GTI.
New optional 18-inch wheels differentiate the GTI from the rest of the Golf range, but the standard 17-inch wheels fitted to the test vehicle are almost identical in design to the outgoing GTI.
At the rear a distinctive set of sizeable twin exhaust pipes and GTI insignia are the only distinctive characteristics of the GTI moniker.
Inside the cabin you begin to appreciate what the GTI is all about. The sculpted sport steering wheel sits comfortably in the hand, while the body hugging seats ensure you don’t move an inch when hurtling through corners at great – but legal – rates of speed.
The three door version tested has big, wide opening doors but surprisingly they’re not heavy and open with a narrow angle, making entry and egress in tight parking spaces easier.
The interior could be made of chalk and the Golf GTI would still be the best handling hot hatch this side of a go-kart. Power from the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine has increased from 147kW to 155kW, while peak torque remains the same at 280Nm, the only difference being that peak torque now comes in 100rpm earlier at 1700rpm.
Our test vehicle was fitted with an ‘old-fashioned’ six-speed manual gearbox. The slick shifting six-speed cog box is mated to a light and sharp clutch with short travel. The pedals are perfectly spaced for heel-toeing, but the touchy brake pedal takes a bit of time to get used to.
The ride is firm, but not firm enough to kick up a stink. It takes bumps with a sharpish jab but won’t leave you with back pain after ten minutes of driving. It’s the perfect compromise between comfort and sportiness.
From the moment you start the GTI and first get a hint of that four-banger burble, you know it means business.
Under load the GTI emits a hefty and deep bark throughout the rev range. The audio note inside and outside the cabin assaults the ears to a perfect degree. It’s not overdone, but on the same token it can be heard when you begin getting stuck into the GTI.
As you hit your first corner, the heavily weighted steering wheel will be the first smile the car attracts. It’s heavy enough to make cornering feel go-kart like, but light enough to make parking and city manoeuvres effortless.
The next thing that will certainly heighten your senses and increase the smile is the manic acceleration. Under full throttle the GTI steers dead straight. Torque steer is a refreshing non-event and makes driving the GTI even more desirable.
During cornering, it’s hard not to question the physics behind the GTI setup. By any stretch Volkswagen have rewritten Newton’s laws of motion and done away with laws of friction. Anyone unknowingly thrown behind the wheel of the GTI and asked to nail it through some corners will almost certainly be convinced they are driving a vehicle that sends torque through all four wheels.
Volkswagen’s latest trick is its electronic transverse differential lock (or XDS for short). The electronic front differential reshapes what most people would consider typical front wheel drive behaviour.
Understeer is quelled courtesy of the intelligent XDS setup. XDS allows the front differential to actively shift torque between the front wheels, constantly adjusting torque delivery to the wheel with the most traction under load.
In most normal circumstances a front wheel drive vehicle (especially one with forced induction) will send all torque to the wheel that’s under least load. This causes wheel spin and inevitably causes understeer. XDS not only shifts torque to the wheel with the most traction, it will also cut torque and even brake the least laden wheel if it begins spinning.
The touchy brakes are the first port of call before a corner. The brakes attached to the GTI bite with ferocity and slow the GTI in commendable fashion. Initial turn in is then taken care of with a short, sharp twist of the steering wheel. The somewhat heavy wheel retards the turn beautifully and communicates all facets of the road directly to the driver.
The front end points exactly the way you would expect it to and remains flat and tight throughout the corner. Body roll is non-existent and goes to show just how complete this package is.
While powering out of the corner, it’s almost impossible to make the GTI understeer. No matter how much throttle you pile on, the GTI steers exactly where you want it to go with minimal intervention from the traction control. XDS has totally transformed the GTI, turning it from a hot hatch that rivals all other front wheel drive hot hatches, into a hot hatch that rivals ALL other hot hatches.
Unfortunately the brakes on our test vehicle weren’t up to the task. The first section of the test loop includes a considerably twisty downhill stretch. Although the brakes bit hard at the beginning, they started to fade by the bottom of the stretch. The same problem occurred when the car was pushed through numerous corners on the second flat stretch of the test loop.
Fellow road tester Matt Brogan also drove the DSG GTI and claims the brakes were far better on his vehicle. Our manual test vehicle was recently loaned to a car magazine (and is currently on their front cover), which could explain the brake anomaly.
The Golf GTI comes from the factory with a selection of tyres. They include the Pirelli Pzero Rosso, Michelin Primacy, Bridgestone Potenza RE040, Bridgestone Potenza RE050, Dunlop Sp Sport 01A, Michelin Exalto 2, Continental Sport Contact 2 and Dunlop Sport Maxx. Our two test vehicles were fitted with Bridgestone Potenza tyres and were a perfect match for the car.
Fuel consumption doesn’t suffer with the power rise either. Even after being spanked around our test loop and with over 60% city driving, the GTI returned a combined fuel consumption of 7.2L/100km, bettering the ADR figure of 7.7L/100km.
Prices start at $38,990 for the three-door six-speed manual tested and finish at $42,990 for the five-door six-speed dual-clutch variant. While it sounds cheap, you won’t get out of the dealership without ticking some of the expensive option boxes. Metallic paint is $700, navigation is priced at $2,500 and leather seats hit the wallet at $3,300.
Despite the pricey options, the Mark VI Volkswagen Golf GTI manages to exceed expectations and raise the impossible bar set by the Mark V GTI.
If you have ever wanted to buy a hot hatch, you cannot look beyond the Golf GTI. It is the ultimate hot hatch, the Jennifer Hawkins of girls and the Brad Pitt of guys. Perfection has a new name – Mark VI Golf GTI.
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