2008 Volkswagen Golf GT Sport Review
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Price As Tested: $46,130
by Anthony Crawford & Alborz Fallah
Where it sits: There are just on twenty-four different model variants in the current Golf line up, and the GT Sport TSI kicks off the performance end of the range. You can also get a GT Sport TDI with DSG for $39,790. Only the more expensive Golf GTI and V6 powered R32, sit above it.
But it’s all about the engine with this particular Golf, nothing more and nothing less.
For a 1.4-litre five-door hatch, to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 7.9 seconds and reach 220km/h, is ground breaking stuff. If that doesn’t sell you, then 7.2 litres per 100km might just seal it.
Both systems have their problems. The supercharger is a belt-driven air compressor, which spins up from the moment you tap the accelerator and the crankshaft starts spinning. Result - more power, but potentially, high fuel consumption. The turbo on the other hand, is exhaust gas driven, but you need a certain amount of gas pressure to get the turbine working. Result – turbo lag, and, if you’re punching it for prolonged periods, poor fuel economy too.
But if you work out how to successfully marry the two systems, you get something quite special. Meet the Golf GT Sport 1.4 TSI.
It doesn’t seem like rocket science, but it is, if you want this kind of performance with a hybrid-like fuel consumption.
Behind the wheel, it doesn’t feel that much slower than the GTI. And it isn’t. Comparing both cars with the Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) in a 0-100km/h sprint, the GTI wins by just 0.8 seconds and the difference in top speed, is a mere 15km/h.
When you need to jump on the throttle, you’ll be rewarded with more than 200Nm from just 1250rpm, which makes this car such an easy thing to live with, day to day.
Modern turbo diesel powered cars (of the common rail variety) have similar performance characteristics to the GT Sport, such as the low down torque and minimal fuel consumption. But the downside is, the technology needed to get diesels to run clean and not spit out harmful particulates, is expensive, and it shows in the premium price oil burners attract over their petrol counterparts.
One thing you don’t get with diesels though, is the ability to rev out to 7000rpm in all gears, if you wish. You won't harm the engine, but you can forget about 7.2l/100km fuel consumption, more like 10 plus!
The answer is price, and price alone. The Sport, with the DSG transmission, is just over $5000 dearer than the 2.0 FSI with the six-speed auto. My guess is that when the TSI catches on, Volkswagen will dump the 2.0 FSI variants, all together.
Curiously, I’ve heard several people say that it doesn’t handle the twisty stuff all that well. Rubbish. We drove the car on decent little racetrack and the Golf GT Sport is a contender.
It’s suspension set up is certainly not as stiff as that on the GTI, but nor is it meant to be. But at 175km/h down the straight and into a hard left turn followed by a fast corner-to-corner stretch, the GT Sport was quick.
Steering weight and feel is near perfect, and brake fade was not existent after ten punishing laps with the right hand pedal mostly glued to the floor.
While Tony was busy Golfing in Sydney, I took my lipstick-coloured Golf GT up Mt Glorious here in Brisbane. There is something peculiar about telling your mates you have a supercharged and turbocharged car, it almost sounds fake.
The Golf GT is not like any other car on the road today, so if uniqueness is your sort of thing, and you love explaining how the engine works at a barbecue, this is the car for you. It also helps that it's comfortable, easy to drive and yet extremely good fun when pushed.
Around tight corners there is evident understeer given the front-wheel-drive setup, but corner to corner you'll have a hard time criticising the GT's handling. It begs to be driven hard and with body roll virtually unnoticeable, the GT can easily keep up with the rally kings.
Volkswagen generally goes for the subtle look with their performance models and the GT Sport is exactly that, the warm hatch approach.
The car lacks racing pedals, a sporty instrument cluster and could do with a little less plastic. The steering wheel has a sexy chrome GT badge built in, which looks great - for about two seconds.
There is noticeable road noise thanks to the performance rubber but with excellent handling and driving dynamics, it's a fair compromise.
By: Anthony Crawford and Alborz Fallah