By on April 6, 2006

De-pimp this!I don't know about you, but I've been feeling sorry for Volkswagen for a while now. VW didn't so much lose their mojo as strap it to the nose of a Titan IVB and fire it into deep space. No disrespect to the world's fifth most populous country, but was anyone really surprised when a Brazilian Golf turned out like German bobo de camarao? Now that Vee Dub's got THAT out of their system, here comes the new, Wolfsburg-built Golf GTI. It's an Old School hot hatch with a Masters in Engineering. Viva VW!

For reasons best left to The International Museum of Marketing Doublespeak, Volkswagen decided to begin their mission-critical US Golf refresh with a two-door. More's the pity. The fifth-gen four-door is a far more handsome beast than the coupe– if only because the Golf's rear portals soften the enormous disparity between the front windscreen's bottom edge and the side windows' lower boundary. This bizarre asymmetry pisses on the Golf's 32-year history of two-box harmony. The resulting rear end trades brand recognition for something vaguely Japanese– as if the Golf suddenly decided to play the Accordian. And then there's the front end's unresolved echo of Audi's unconscionable house snout…

Steering wheel from God; plaid seats from Germany.  If you're offended by the new GTI's jarring, over-reaching modernity, open the door and clock the retro-plaid seating surfaces. You can almost hear David Hasselhoff burning-up the German pop charts. The rest of the GTI's interior keeps faith with VW's noble history of crafting car cabins so dark they make Citizen Kane look like a romantic comedy. Thankfully, brushed aluminum accentuation abounds, and the quality of the polymers almost makes up for their dour demeanor. The switchgear's flimsy imprecision and the stereo's ectomorphic timbre are the last remaining vestiges of the Golf's multi-decade mediocrity.

Wrap your mitts around the GTI's squashed crown steering wheel and you'll soon know that beauty is in the right foot of the beholder. Fire-up the uber-Golf's in-line four and the delightful zizz blatting from the modest twin pipes foreshadows the hoonery to come. The GTI's 2.0-liter powerplant is a high-tech handbag, complete with dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, inter-cooled turbo, drive-by-wire throttle and FSI direct injection. And here's the kicker: Wolfsburg's de-pimpers have bestowed its Dual Sequential Gearbox (DSG) upon America's mid-market motoring madmen, placing the reins to 200 horses in the GTI driver's fingertips. This, folks, is what the Brits call a serious piece of kit.

Fast is our friend. Serious as in seamless. With 207 ft-lbs. of torque from the basement (1800 rpm) to the penthouse (5000 rpm), and six gears available for your dining and dancing pleasure, the VW GTI DSG is an express elevator from any speed A to any speed B. We're talking Johnny Bravo quick; zero to sixty in 6.3 seconds and 14.8 seconds for the quarter. Whoa Mama! (OK, that's no better than a MINI Cooper S, but I don't remember anyone calling the other German brand's hot hatch slow.) The Vee Dub's power-on-demand paddles are an electro-mechanical all-areas VIP pass if ever there was one, facilitating the kind of instant-on maniacal acceleration normally reserved for $70k and up thoroughbreds.

The GTI's cornering is equally phenomenal. This time 'round, VW didn't skimp on the fundamentals; laser welding makes the GTI tight, a fully independent four-link rear suspension, coil springs, telescopic shocks and stabilizer bar make it right. While BMW's electro-mechanical steering system has about much feel as a phantom limb, the GTI's similarly-assisted rack-and-pinion helm delivers an endless stream of road info, excellent on-center feedback AND tightens the rack at speed to avoid paddle-disconnecting hand movements. When it's time for the madness to stop, the GTI's brakes are powerful, fade-free retards.

THE bang-for-the-buck bargain.   Bottom line: you can blast the new Volkswagen GTI DSG through a tight bend almost twice as quickly as you'd imagine possible– at least at first. Once you get used to the GTI's adhesive tenacity, once you accept the fact that the understeer slide justain', only the cleanliness of your license, children on board and the stupidity of fellow road users prevent you from endless adrenal indulgence. Although the GTI rides a bit like a proper sports car tied down with rubber bands, it's comfortable enough to enable a daily fast.

A combination of balls-out fun, affordability and everyday practicality made the original GTI a working class hero. In that sense, June's four-door GTI will be the better– and better-looking– bet. And while there's no question that the new GTI represents a welcome return to form for cash-strapped pistonheads, the jury is out on the reliability part of the practicality equation. If that's an issue, I strongly recommend that you do NOT test drive the new Golf GTI DSG until AFTER you've read Consumer Reports.

[VW provided the vehicle tested, insurance, taxes and a tank of gas.]

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9 Comments on “Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG Reviews...”

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    I spent about 2 hours with a wonderful salesman at my local Porsche dealership. He’s been selling Porsches for over 10 years. When I asked him what he drove, he said the new Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG.


  • avatar

    Is fade free retard a compliment? Sounds like some of the guys I went to college with.

  • avatar

    I think your 0-60 time is a bit optimistic, but I can’t complain about the power. I bought mine 3 months ago and basically love it.

    However, I have 2 major gripes. The brakes suck. I have driven more than my own GTI with another well run in example. If you want real stopping power you are going to have to stand on the brakes with a hefty right foot. The stopping power is not commensurate with the loud pedal. I was considering having the brakes upgraded to Brembos or something else until I was told it would stop the ABS and anti wheel spin technology from working. I don’t know how VW got that one so wrong.

    The other gripe is the drive by wire accelerator. There is no feel to it and the engine response lags far behind the depression of the pedal compared to a mechanical linkage. There’s no such thing as blipping the throttle on this one, the pedal has already returned before the engine has decided to respond, a split second I grant you but enough to make it feel benign.

  • avatar

    Have you seen one of these lowered? it looks like a mini space shuttle or twinkie.
    I tried to test drive one of these in glendale CA, and the dealer said it wasn’t letting any of the cars be driven because people didn’t want to buy a car with a 100 miles on it, and they could get more money for it. stay away from vw in glendale please.

  • avatar

    try 2 (no disrespect intended for the reviewer, just brutal honesty):

    VW didn’t fire its mojo off into orbit; it’s been hammered for the last 8 years with an exchange rate that would have brought a lesser manufacturer to its knees. Had Ford been headquartered in Wolfsburg during the last 8 years, Ford would be liquidating its last factory tooling right now.

    I am not familiar with the IMMD, but my guess is that Karl Rove is curator, no?

    methinks the 2-door is vastly more attractive than the 4-door and looks like no Japanese car i have ever seen, but that’s pure personal subjectivity that has no place in an objective review. perhaps instead we should compare price difference between the models and assess the difference in dimensions of entry/egress between the models. How does the cargo space compare? I’d take the 2-door and put the bag o’ cash in the back seat. but, that said, both GTI models represent extremely good packaging that allow suprizingly large interior space in a tidy package.

    the steering wheel feels great, far better than a “squashed crown”. The flat bottom steering wheel is fantastic because i don’t have to tilt the wheel to comfortably slide into the driver’s seat, even when wearing billowy scottish unbiforcated male garments that match the plaid seats.

    speaking of seats, does any manufacturer offer better seats at this price point? …none in which i’ve had pleasure of installing my derrière.

    while decently balanced, the GTI understeers when pushed, just like almost every other front-heavy car in the world. traction, too, is limited like any other fwd beast. Thus a GTI would never keep up with a Boxster or Miata without application of serious driving skills and a few aftermarket tricks. But for most street driving the GTI satisfies the quest for performance and agility.

    there are very few cars whose brakes truly impress me, and for the most part, German cars’ brakes just don’t feel progressive and firm to my liking. Porsche braking performance won’t happen here. But, again, pedal feel is subjective, and this is probably the only mechanical quirk on the GTI worth elaboration. the binders stop the car as well or better than most cars in the GTI’s price range.

    the obvious handling difference between the gen 4 and gen 5 GTI is that the stiffer body and superior suspension allow the new model to play ball. the old flexy flyer GTI gave up before the second inning.

    downsides: premium fuel is required to get the advertised performance out of the superb 2.0T engine, and of course when you do, you’ll find yourself pushing the engine into the not-so-fuel-economical zone. An economizer this is not. However, the GTI is currently the best hot hatch in North America, and it deserves high praise for arriving on our shores at a price that belies its ability. Unless of course you go for the leather interior (which unfortunately comes only in black, a little warm for some climates), which kicks the price up two big notches almost into Audi/BMW/Acura territory.

    Bottom line: solid 8/10 score.

  • avatar

    I agree with the review–I think 5-doors looks better.

  • avatar

    Overweight, overpriced POS if you ask me. Anyone stupid enough to pay $26K or more for a loaded GTI has lost his or her mind.

    VW has completely lost it’s way in offering low priced, good quality, reliable cars. VW now reminds me of latte drinking, yuppie wannabes who can’t quite afford a BMW or MB.

    Too bad.

  • avatar

    “yuppie wannabes who can’t quite afford a BMW or MB.”

    Quite the contrary actually, I bought mine out of positive choice. The 1 series looks like a bread van with no room in the boot and the 3 series is about as bland as a bowl of porridge. The MB’s are for butchers and taxi drivers. The GTI is fast, cool and well executed. This wannabe just loves it for what it is.

  • avatar

    My wife and I both have one (which I suppose is as lame as it sounds), and I couldn’t disagree with nozferatu more. Our last car was a Saab 9-2x (which was awful, but I got it cheaper than a WRX due to incentives) and we considered (test driving almost all of them) a 350z, a Magnum RT, a 325i, a G35, an RX-8, a Legacy GT, a TSX, a TL, an Audi A4, a Crossfire SRT-6, and a Mazdaspeed 6. We could have afforded any of them and yet we chose the (admittedly goofy-looking) GTI. In real world driving, the GTI is just as much fun as any of those we drove, the interior is nicer than all of them save perhaps the BMW (though it’s debatable, and I drive in one of those every month as well) and with the hatchback it is more practical than any of them. This is truly the best car for the money in America, so long as you don’t mind condescending fools thinking you a “yuppie wannabe who couldn’t afford a BMW or MB.”

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