By on September 6, 2013

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The current GTI has thoroughly earned its reputation as a brilliant, satisfying driver’s car. Under the skin, however, it’s a decade old and in the time since the MkV GTI blew the bloody door off the segment and today the competition has been anything but asleep. The Mazdaspeed3, Focus ST, and Subaru WRX offer vastly more power, while the Fiat 500 Abarth, Fiesta ST, and Mini Cooper S attack from the segment below with a driving experience that is just as involving for less money — or, in the case of the MINI, the same money and more street cred with the lay-dies.

It’s not too soon for Volkswagen to revise the car, and the Mk7 GTI is more than a simple revision. It’s a thorough re-engineering of the Golf from the ground up. This time, weight is down, power is up, and refinement is the watchword. With a formula like that, it’s virtually assured that the civilian-grade Golfs will find themselves back on top of the market, particularly in Europe where people like to pretend that the Honda Civic doesn’t exist. This will be great news to the more than five people who plan to purchase a brand-new Golf late this year or early next. The rest of us just want to hear about the GTI.

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It looks… like a GTI. Are you surprised? Of course not. The basic Golf shape is now completely mandatory, and if none of the generations after the Giugiaro original have anything like that car’s impeccable proportioning, at least they all have thick C-pillars and short noses to remind you that they are, in fact, Golfs. The same-old styling hides the fact that the new “MQB” Golf is larger, more spacious, and at the same time lighter, with a weight saving of up to two hundred pounds over its predecessor.

This is particularly good news in GTI-land because the new car doesn’t come with much more power. The Euro rating of 217hp/258 lb-ft torque is likely to dip a little bit for our market, and even if it doesn’t, the figures are still pretty far south of the Focus ST. VW loyalists will point out, correctly, that VW seems to underrate the 2.0T a little bit, but this is still the weak sister of the segment.

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Our Euro-spec tester came equipped with DSG. You know the drill by now: impossibly quick shifts, cool interrupted-spark noises, seamless flattering of the engine when you’re in a hurry, curiously dehumanizing experience. If you live in Chicago or are looking to set the best possible lap time before trading the car in at warranty’s end, the DSG is recommended. Everybody else should probably stick with the stick. Last year’s testing of the Jetta GLI in both three-and-two-pedal spec does nothing but add reinforcement to this idea. As with the Jetta, if you buy a manual transmission you will probably lose the ability to turn off traction control. If you’re handy with cutting and splicing, this can probably be rectified.

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With each recent generation, VW seems to better understand what the GTI buyer wants. The Mk6 was arguably a bullseye hit in this regard; if so, the Mk7 splits that existing arrow like Robin Hood the fox dressed as a stork did in the animated film that most GTI owners are far too young to remember. Everything you touch feels expensive and bespoke and thoroughly interesting. The steering wheel wouldn’t be out of place in a fully-optioned Porsche 911. The seats have an all-day-comfy feel while looking thoroughly sporting. This is easily the nicest Golf yet and if it ends up costing thirty grand you won’t feel cheated when you take delivery of yours.

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Once on the move, the GTI continues to rack up points. It rides better and has less unwanted NVH than the Passat SEL, particularly on challenging pavement. The steering and brakes are firm and reassuring. Wind noise is minimal. Nowadays, you get a solid helping of 3-Series with your Golf experience, and while this doesn’t quite have the milled-from-billet feel you got from a brand-new E46 ZHP or something like that, it’s not exactly economy-class.

Time to run up the mountain a bit, and in these few minutes the GTI reveals itself to be the most thoroughly perfect back-road car the company’s built in a very long time, certainly since the Corrado. Without the raw pace of the Scirocco R, it still seems to get through the sections at the same speed. Body roll and pitch are controlled at just the level to let you know that you’re making serious progress without impeding grip. The cornering limits of the GTI are difficult to find on the street without being completely irresponsible, but compared to something like a 370Z the Volkswagen’s high seat and outstanding forward visibility make getting there much easier. It grips and grips. There will apparently be a proper limited-slip differential available later on in the model run. That would be nice to have, particularly for long sections of back road where brake-based systems tend to keep heat in the brake system.

Speaking of brakes: outstanding for road work. It’s like VW fits all their cars with about the same thermal brake capacity and just lets the weight of each vehicle determine how reassuring the middle pedal is. In this relatively light and agile hatchback, it’s more than enough. On the track, you’d eventually want something with a fixed caliper. There’s a reason Renault fits the Megane RS265 with Brembos, you know.

The GTI’s excellence on twisty roads isn’t easily quantified. It’s more a simple matter of trust and predictability. The steering reliably places the car where you want it to go and if the grip underneath isn’t sure that situation is reflected accurately through feedback at the tiller. The engine is eager to rev and never feels out of breath, although the DSG assists in that regard. Even the way it rolls from max lean on one side to max lean on the other in a switchback is finely damped. Some cars fight you when it’s time to go fast. Not this one. At an open lapping day you’d be easy meat for everything from G37 sedans to New Edge Mustangs, but the GTI is meant to shine in the real world, which it does. Rapid transitions don’t upset it. Both front wheels stay planted. It’s sensitive to trail-braking but not dangerously so. Torque steer is conspicuous by its absence.

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There is no readily apparent area in which this new GTI is not at least slightly superior to the Mk6. Bigger and more premium inside while weighing less? More power with reduced fuel consumption? Looks slightly more aggressive? Yes to all of it. If only the new 3-Series had been this positive of a change; the showrooms would be standing room only.

The Focus ST probably has a slight speed advantage in some situations, as does the Mazdaspeed3, but the refinement gap between the GTI and the other cars is very tangible and a short drive will settle the issue for nearly all potential buyers. Ever since the fifth generation, the boosted VW has been busy transcending the hot-hatch category its ancestors created. Think of the Ford and Mazda as the spiritual descendants of the Dodge Omni GLH, and the GTI as a sort of front-wheel-drive BMW 2002. As a Mopar loyalist, your humble author feels compelled to mention that none of these cars really have the measure of the Quaife-equipped 2004 Neon SRT-4 when it’s time to hustle at max delta-vee, but that rough little sedan, like the now-departed Cobalt SS, was really an answer to a different question.

In its seventh generation, the GTI continues to set the standard for all-around excellence in its category. As with the Marks Five and Six, it will likely continue to be the only fast hatchback in which you regularly see professors, attorneys, and other middle-aged types. If you’re even slightly less obsessed with the trapping of ostentatious consumption than, say, Khloe Kardashian, the GTI is just about all the German car (built in Mexico) you’ll ever need. It serves many masters. In bright yellow, with short springs and big wheels, it’s the darling of the rich-kid set; in black or silver with a healthy coating of dirt and parking stickers it’s perfectly suited for the forty-year-old chemical engineer or research fellow. Few manufacturers have a product this perfectly refined and resolved. As the phrase goes: the original, and still the best.

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132 Comments on “2013 Volkswagen Intramural League, First Place: GTI Mk7...”


  • avatar
    cackalacka

    Slow claps.

    All is restored in the world.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Very attractive package. VW is gambling on style with the red stripe through the headlights and the black…things…over the fog lights. Still trying to imagine how effective the fogs are being covered and tucked so deep into the bumper.

  • avatar

    +1 JB.

    I concur & I’ll say it again : ” I rather take GTI over CC and keep $5k+ in my pocket since I hardly use the trunk.”

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    In another vein, the recent and upcoming excellent offerings in the hot hatch market give hope to frugal and practical family men like me. You can have plenty of fun behind the wheel, throw all your junk in the hatch and still have room for your kid’s car seat.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Jack, extremely well-weritten review that covered all bases but one: which color you recommend for someone past middle age? I know someone like that.

  • avatar

    Article makes a few references to how light the car is, but what is its actual curb weight?

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Depending on how many doors you want, on which tranny, and on whether or not you want a sunroof, it will range from just under 3,000 lbs. to just over 3,000 lbs.

      So 200 or more lbs. lighter than the MS3 or the Focus ST. It will have an actual-at-the-wheels deficit of around 15 hp and 20 lb/ft compared to those cars.

      And all of the comparison tests I’ve seen so far of the Euro models have it faster than those cars. Car and Driver had a 0-60 of 5.6 seconds.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Is the 2.0 TSI underrated or does VW just not use its potential properly?

    There’s a difference between rating an engine lower and not actually making use of the engine’s power potential.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      Probably a combination of under-rated numbers, tuning for smoothness, flexibility and reliability and protecting Golf R / R32 territory.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Makes me wonder how hard it is to pull another 60 horsepower from the 2.0 TSI…

        I mean, when the 2003 Ford Mustang Cobra came out, people had that motor up to 500 horsepower and beyond within a few months of the car being on sale.

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          http://www.goapr.com/products/ecu_upgrade_20tsi_trans.html

        • 0 avatar
          AndyH_STi

          A stage 1 chip should get you 60 HP and an equal increase in torque (if not more). I’m basing this on APR’s stage 1 chip performance on the MKVI GTI.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Not bad…it did always seem weird to me that GM’s turbo Ecotec made so much more power than the VW TSI at the same displacement. But I’m sure the Ecotec requires more work to make more power due to its already high output. Usually the more power an engine already makes, the more work is required to make that engine produce more power.

        • 0 avatar
          Fordson

          My 2011 GTI dynoed (Dynojet) stock at 204/218 whp(yeah, they are way underrated – mine is typical). $600 and 2 hours later, it dynoed at 232/270.

          $500 downpipe will take that to 255/295. These are all whp numbers.

          The Mk7 will be the same kind of deal.

          • 0 avatar
            wmba

            This new EA888 direct injection only for North America has a wimpy crankshaft with only 48mm main bearing diameters. It only has 4 counterweights, and resembles a piece of bent wire. Sure you can turn up the boost. Good luck to you after that.

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            .NoGoYo, GM’s 2.0T Ecotec has been making a warrantiable 290hp/340trq since 2006.

            Today’s 2.0T is over 300whp/wtrq with intake, down pipe and a tune on 93 octane and stock intercooler. All for about $1K.

            http://store.badnewsracing.net/ZZPerformance-LHU-Regal-O2-HousingDownpipe-package_p_91.html

            Add another $150 for E85 tune and your official in the 400hp club, making Coyote 5.0 owners weep on highway roll-ons.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Moar boosts!

        • 0 avatar
          mnm4ever

          Well as many have mentioned before, an APR tune goes a long way with the VW turbo engines. But, you cannot change the laws of physics. The limitation on the current TSI is the turbo and the intake, but those can be changed. If you believe the APR numbers, just a tune will unleash 50-60hp, and swapping out the turbo/intake gets you well over 100hp. I am not sure how accurate those claims are but my Stage 2+ sure does seem fast.

          Now the supercharged Cobras were way underrated from Ford probably for warranty reasons more than anything. The engine had a lot more in it with good design.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            A stock 12.9 second quarter mile at 111 mph definitely points to far more than 390 lb/ft of torque…probably closer to 500.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Not necessarily. There are lots of similar weight vehicles that put down 300-340 peak RWHP/TQ that can rip off 12 second quarters. Depends a lot on gearing and the average power the engine puts out over its rev band.

    • 0 avatar
      FractureCritical

      The engine is not so much underrated as misunderstood. The real-world power of an engine has less to do with the peak of the torque curve on the dyno chart an dfar more to do with the total area under the curve, which VAG boosted motors have in spades. its basic calculus

      • 0 avatar
        Byron Hurd

        When your engines are universally putting down 20-30 more wheel horsepower (peak numbers, mind you) than their advertised figures suggest, said engines are, in fact, underrated.

        The enthusiast echo chamber has bestowed almost mythical properties on the concept of “area under the curve.” Calculus isn’t the reason why the GTI is quicker than the Civic Si. Power output is.

        • 0 avatar
          FractureCritical

          so entertain me: if the engine is underrated, what is your rationale for VW underrating it in a market where every_single_competitor hocks their wares with substantially better numbers? Is it so that just VW fanboys ‘in the know’ buy the car? maybe it’s an elaborate ploy to defraud insurance companies? Government conspiracy? Freemason Plot? Vatican revisionist history?

          Personally, I think the C.H.U.D.s have gotten so smart that they are pushing a disinformation strategy to prevent surface dwellers from buying superior GTI’s and escaping in the inevitable urban raids…. ;)

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            Defrauding insurance companies is probably not far off. All part of trying to balance performance with running costs for the customer. Even German car companies care about running costs (or at least perception).

            I’m not sure about Mercedes, but BMW fanboys are also constantly claiming their engines are underrated. Gaming the insurance system certainly sounds plausible.

            I’m sure marketing is also a factor. A perception that your engines are stronger than advertised is preferable to a perception that your engines don’t live up to the numbers.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I was never very good at calculus for some reason. All I know is when I push on the go pedal, it STILL makes me grin and I have had my car for 4 yrs now. Every other car I have ever owned, even when it “felt” fast at first, I got bored with it after a cpl yrs. I haven’t gotten bored with my GTI yet.

  • avatar
    vertigo

    Great looking car all around. I’d love to have one, but when the new Mazdaspeed3 comes out, there will be no question as to where my money will go. Zoom zoom!

  • avatar
    hubcap

    Too bad you didn’t get a chance to test the MK V11 Golf R. From what the buff books say ( I already have a boulder size piece of salt squirreled away in my closet for such occasions) it’s supposed to be a pretty decent upgrade from the current car.

    Hopefully you’ll get a chance to drive it and let us know.

  • avatar
    ScottE5

    Someday, I’m gonna overcome my VW reliability phobia, pull the trigger on one of these, and drive around like mad, dressed in tartan plaid.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      If it helps, I have a 08 GTI and in 5.5 years the only thing that’s ever gone wrong is a rattle that was fixed with a TSB and a sqeak in the drivers seat that was fixed with a dab of white grease.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Where was the rattle? I have one somewhere in the back that is driving me bonkers on my 2008. I have removed everything from the back, its definitely something in the car. I am about the rip the entire interior out!

        Oh and that reminds me of something that did go wrong… the headliner has completely fallen out. Apparently it’s a common problem according to my service adviser and the headliner guy he recommended I use rather than factory replacement. Should be around $200 to fix. I have been reading about valves that get carbon buildup, but I think that’s on the FSI not the TSI.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          I’ve ripped the interior out of cars until for rattles before. The problem is the amount of road noise you notice with the interior gone. Even the C pillar trim alone made a noticeable difference. It makes it tough to hear much of anything.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            Well I was going to put it back in once I figured out where the rattle was and fixed it! Just need a little well-placed foam or felt. I figure when I get my headliner fixed I can poke around and find the offending loose panel.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            I wasn’t too clear there. I meant that the interior gets so loud it can be hard to hear the rattle you were trying to solve. Maybe removing the C pillar trim fixed it, maybe not. There was so much new noise I wouldn’t have heard the rattle anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            Ah, gotcha. That makes sense, and ruins my big plan.

        • 0 avatar
          Jerome10

          I sold my 2008 MKV about a year back. I had a few rattles as well, including the loudest in the back of the car.

          Check the rear seat latch. The one that clamps when you fold the rear seats up or down. Mine would often have no rattle when I folded the seats up, then slowly the rattle would come back.

          I tried grease. Wrapping the bracket in felt or electrical tape, etc. I never really kicked it.

          I HATE rattles. I can’t stop hearing them (when passengers would say “what rattle, i don’t hear anything” I would always wish I was as deaf as they were)

          That was actually my biggest complaint with the car. I absolutely loved it. My first and so far only brand new car I ever bought myself. Optioned and colored exactly as I wanted. I still miss it quite a bit, but I moved to Germany and couldn’t take it with me…

          I really want to try one of these MKVII GTIs quite badly. I would gladly own another GTI based on my old car. Only downer is that due to package changes and such, a car with leather, xenons, and a sunroof now appears to also make me buy 18″ wheels and navigation…and those cars are about $3000-$4000 more than mine. Got mine for invoice in 2008 for a hair over $26K before taxes etc. That same car today because I gotta get nav and big wheels looks to be $30-$31K at invoice. I know its 5 years later, but at 26K it is a fair price I think. At 30-31K it starts to get to that range where you hesitate just a smidge.

          But damn I loved that car. Loved driving it. Loved how it looked. Love how it made me feel. Loved the sound. Loved the motor. Hated the rattles.

          Great review.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            18″ wheels are standard on all GTIs now, so it isn’t the wheels. You are paying extra to get leather (top of the line trims only) and sunroof and HIDs (middle trims). If you skip leather you can get away for $27k or so, and if you skip HID/sunroof you are back to $25k.

    • 0 avatar
      jdiaz34

      @ScottE5

      2008 GTI here. Five years, 50k miles, and one seized low speed cooling fan replaced under warranty. That’s it, not even a single Check Engine Light.

  • avatar
    jaybird124

    Does the Mk7 GTI motor have that stupid integrated exhaust manifold?

    Any gripes?

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      Yes, it has an integrated exhaust manifold. And a fiendishly complicated “thermal management system” that keeps the engine coolant at 115 degrees C under light load, decreasing rapdly to 85 degrees C at high power, which allows them to not enrichen the AFR at full whack. Should get good mileage compared to most turbo engines when you’re pushing it. Until something goes wrong.

  • avatar
    segfault

    Awesome writeup. HP isn’t much higher than 2013, but torque is way up from 207 ft-lbs in the 2013 model.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Jack, is this the Euro-spec version? If so, is there any evidence at all that our US version will be similar?

  • avatar
    Cubista

    Love this. Is that the Autobahn package w/ leather interior on the model you drove? Sure would be a shame to say goodbye to the Interlagos (OK, “plaid”) seats.

    And I know I’m the only one, but I miss the Detroit wheels from the Mk VI. They were SO over-the-top. New ones probably weight a lot less.

  • avatar
    harvurd

    I just love your writing. Funny, self-aware, but not overly safe or self-conscious IMO. This intramural series of articles has been thoroughly entertaining. A couple of months ago, I almost pulled the trigger on a 2013 GLI (will be trading in my 09 Cobalt SS), but I think I’m going to TRY to wait for this Mk7. As a middle-aged dude with a healthy commute, the power, economy, and stop-and-go friendly DSG (my manual is killing me) is proving hard to resist. Thanks again, Jack!

  • avatar
    lon888

    Volkswagen is making a huge mistake taking so long to get this car to the U.S. market. Realistically, I will be willing to bet that the GTI won’t be avaialble over here in any significant numbers until Sep 2014. VW has historically been the slowest manufacturer to bring a new car to market. With the Asian brands you csn practically get a new model 1 week after you read the reivews in the car mags. It took 5 weeks for me to get my 2012 GTI in Oct 2011 – and that was a short wait compared to what others have waitied. Most people when they are in the mood to buy a car they typically want near instant gratification. Ford waited too long to get the Focus ST to market and it hurt its sales. VW is just shooting itself in the foot again.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    My TL is soon to be fully paid for, and we just bought a CX-5 (for Mrs. Astigmatism) and a house, so I really can’t justify even thinking about a new car right now. But god, I want one of these. Maybe in a couple of years…

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    Im not sure how it will happen, but I still need to own a GTI at some point in my life. Im in my 30s now and have to lug around baby crap, and already have a fun car that is twice the price of this thing….so it’s not really that practical right now, but damn. I keep thinking back to my moms 2000 Golf and want that same feeling….that was one of the most “pure joy” cars Ive ever driven, and it was just your basic Golf. Added power of a GTI would only help one would assume.

    If only there was a Jetta Wagon GTI (with manual of course).

  • avatar
    Thill

    I like what VW did for the most part. Lower weight, more power, better MPG, more refined.

    That said, there are still things that turn me off about this car:
    - The styling. It is just tired for me. I would love to see VW do something less drab and shake things up a bit.
    - The nanny issue on the manual.. Frustrating to say the least.
    - I have owned several VW’s and have always had serious reliability issues with them. Looking at CR, it seems things have improved slightly, but I would love to see VW step it up.

    I do think this car will be a success for VW globally, but I want something different. The Focus ST is more to my liking for a FWD hot hatch, and I am hoping the upcoming Speed3 will raise the bar even more. The competition is not sitting still either.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Jack did mentioned numerous times, “but it is not as good as ________”.

      Either Jack is getting soft in his older years or this VW as much about refinement, and moreso vs competiton, than about raw performance or driving pleasure.

      Maybe we are not old enough yet. :)

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    @danio: Well apparently stock 2003 Cobras will put down dyno numbers that suggest an actual power output of between 415 and 440 horsepower…so Ford definitely undersold the monstrous modular.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Not stock they won’t, at least on a reasonably accurate dyno. Dynojets notoriously read high. That’s where, if anywhere, those numbers likely came from. A local Mustang dyno typically puts stockish Terminators in the 320-360 rwhp range.

      Keep in mind the 500 bhp GT500 easily runs 12.4-12.6 in the quarter with at least another 400lbs over a Terminator. In this range, each 100lbs will roughly drop a tenth of a second. So the published Terminator numbers are about on target with that.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Yeah, probably Dynojet over-estimation…362 rwhp apparently equals 425 at the flywheel, so 320-360 being accurate seems, well, accurate.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Yeah, no two chassis dyno pulls are ever the same, even on the same machine, so the best thing is to try and compare to the same dyno type. A dynojet told us our stock 2.4L DOHC engined Stratus LeMons car put down 150 whp when that engine is rated at 150 crank hp, so I always take those numbers with a grain of salt.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            Well, they’re not exactly the same. I did four pulls with time out for cooldown between, and hp was always 229.5-233 and torque was always 267-271. Pretty close.

            I did 204 stock (200 rated crank hp). Earlier a guy in a stock Toyobaru (200 hp) did 173 and change and four Civic SIs (200 hp) in a row did 176-178.

            TSIs aren’t pulling 200+ on a Dynojet because Dynojets read high…they’re doing it because they in fact make more than 200 hp at the crank.

  • avatar
    daviel

    Do the Golfs still “break good” as my mechanic used to say?

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “As a Mopar loyalist, your humble author feels compelled to mention that none of these cars really have the measure of the Quaife-equipped 2004 Neon SRT-4 when it’s time to hustle at max delta-vee, but that rough little sedan, like the now-departed Cobalt SS, was really an answer to a different question.”

    How exactly did you come to refer to yourself as a Mopar loyalist?

  • avatar
    robbiec

    “There will apparently be a proper limited-slip differential available later on in the model run.”

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I am 99.5% sure that the red calipers with “GTI” in white are part of the Performance Pack, which includes the limited slip diff. My guess is that this test car is so equipped.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      I believe you are correct. That new trick LSD is very clever, and makes you wonder why people like Quaife didn’t think of the idea and had to get complicated instead.

      Also, according to the C/D test of the Euro version, which this is, i.e. a ringer, the nav screen on the US version will be smaller and it gets cheaper adjustable shocks. North Americans apparently value, er, value, according to VW.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Rightly so. The fact that you can spec up a Golf/GTI in Europe with everything from lane assist to self park is awesome – but all things that Americans won’t pay for (yet) in a car of this size/class (yet). I’ll be one to say that I’d love the performance pack upgrade with tartan seats, navigation and uprated sound system for around $30k and I’m in on the order list. But knowing VW, the performance pack will only be sold with leather and DSG, so I’ll have to make compromises. Damn, I hate those compromises….

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    I have just one question – the metal-looking stuff in the middle of the wheel in the last photo – is that metal or plastic?

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Well…sounds very nice but I think I read through the entire story and still missed the ONE bothersome feature…torque lag.
    I drove the last GTI with auto and I was terribly bothered by the lag at every take off…especially if at a stop on a hill.
    Perhaps I would have gotten used to it…but it was very, very nerve racking for the test drive.
    Very nice car…but simply cannot have this scary take off lag. I just never knew if I had given enough peddle…and then a stupid rush take off…much more quickly than I wanted. Even lost traction a few times and scared my wife.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      That is a trait of the DSG and its unnerving to me as well… the computer engaged clutch just isn’t quick enough to respond. Took me a while to get used to it, and even still I get caught where the fuzzy logic will be wrong and cause an expensive-sounding clunk. It’s not scary, for the most part I have gotten used to it, but it is the main reason I wouldn’t get a DSG again. The manual doesn’t do that. Now the loss of traction?? Thats the fun part of too much power in a FWD chassis, you just learn to modulate it. And the stick has that as well.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        Was wondering if this was a DSG thing. With three pedals, the gratification is pretty instant with the tiny K03.

        • 0 avatar
          mnm4ever

          Its definitely a DSG thing, but its not turbo lag. I think the problem is actually compounded by the instant spool-up on the turbo, its quicker than the computer can slip the clutch out. Thats why I always point out that the DSG isn’t the same as a regular automatic, if it was this wouldn’t be an issue.

          • 0 avatar
            cyberc9000

            It’s not that the computer can’t do it, it’s that it’s programmed not to. In “D” mode, it’s programmed to attempt a 2nd gear start. Because of that, it takes a moment to decide whether or not you’re babying it enough to press on with the 2nd gear start or drop down to 1st.

            Most aftermarket tunes eliminate this “feature”.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            Well if I can eliminate that slow engagement on takeoff with a tune that’s great, I will look into it. Thanks!

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      It’s probably the hill holder.

  • avatar
    racingmaniac

    Did not expect that….I guess being first place its gotta be positive, but that was really positive, even extend back to the MK5/6.

    Really curious as to the US spec car will end up being. A lot of stuff still seems to be up in the air as far as non-insider goes. Whether the engine will be equipped with the array of emission/performance enhancing accessories, or how the whole “Performance Pack” will be handled in US(eLSD and bigger brakes). There is also the rumor of having mechanical parking brake and smaller infotainment screens….

  • avatar
    dbcoop

    I test drove a MKVI GTI when I owned an E46 330i 6sp. I thought it was 90% as much fun to drive as a 3 series. You don’t really notice the FWD until you get close to the limit but torque steer is definitely something you don’t get in RWD. Ride quality was about on par with a BMW sport package (which is to say pretty firm.)

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Ride quality varies between MkVI GTIs.

      All boils down to the wheel size. 18″ look great, but the 17″s are just firm enough to be interesting while being supple enough to go touring for 15+ hours.

      • 0 avatar
        vbofw

        Not to mention the MKVII finally gets rid of the obnoxious cigar-cutter wheels. Consequently, this thing’s now a fully-acceptable middle aged crisis mobile, as Jack noted.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        I would have to agree with the comment on the value of 17′s, especially over any road from Chicago up through Boston. My A3 has 17s and the ride quality is okay (8 year old car that never had a very compliant suspension setup to begin with), but must be brutal on 18′s.

    • 0 avatar
      Jerome10

      I would agree. My mother has an E90 330i BMW. Her car dances with you. On backroads with the I6 humming, it makes me feel like the best driver in the world. An absolutely brilliant car.

      The MKV could be just as much fun, but you worked it a lot harder. It didn’t dance, it seemed to need to be muscled a bit more. But I will admit the DSG was pretty fun in the way it downshifts and pops at every upshift.

      I did let her drive my GTI a few times and she confided that on a long uphill corner where she enjoys really putting her foot into it, the DSG grabbed a low gear and the car took off to the point of spooking her just a bit. Completely different power delivery from the BMW.

      Guess I can say I think her BMW is magic, but agree that for the money, the GTI is awfully awfully good. But it certainly isn’t a BMW (at least not the E90…haven’t driven the F30)

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        I had a brand new F30 328i xDrive as a rental car (you read that right, kids: rental) as a free upgrade from Budget Rental last weekend. I spent a good 3 days and many many miles in the car. It was fine, it was nice, the balance was good. That all said there was absolutely nothing about it that excited me.

        A recent MK 6 GTI drive was far more exciting and I would agree is about 80% the refinement of the 328. I would suspect that the MK 7, especially with the trick LSD, will be just about on-par for the vast majority of drivers – at a significant savings.

  • avatar

    Is it just me, or does one of the engine covers look awfully crooked, in the one photograh of the engine bay we have?

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Two questions:

    1) Since the MKVII GTI will have been on sale in Europe for a year before it arrives in the US, any chance those early cars will be German-built models? Or will we have to wait longer while the Mexican factory works out the bugs?

    2) Will building it in Mexico affect price? I’m looking at VW’s US website right now.

    2014 GLI Autobahn w/Nav (fake leather) – $28,495
    2013 GTI Autobahn (4 doors, real leather, navigation standard) – $30,995

    $2500 for German-built and real leather seems a bit steep. Skip the navigation on the GLI, and it’s a $4500 difference between the cars, and they’re a model year apart. Is the Mexican-built GTI going to get any cheaper to buy?

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Skip on the Autobahn package, Navigation, and Sunroof and you can get a Wolfsburg edition for $25k. Those wheels are better looking anyway.

      But I hear ya, the prices on the higher trims don’t really make any sense. Looks to me like they are building profit into it for those that cannot live with the plaid interior.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Yeah, Wolfsburg looks like the best value. I was only trying to compare apples-to-apples, as best is possible, for some well-optioned cars. The base GLI to base 4-door GTI is only a $500 difference, which is much more palatable. But the gap seems to grow considerably once the trim levels rise. If only the sunroof was a stand-alone option, I’d be much happier, and the choice would be much easier (Wolfsburg + sunroof).

        • 0 avatar
          mnm4ever

          In 2008 the GTI came with HIDs standard and the sunroof was a standalone option. I wanted HIDs but didn’t want a sunroof, but I was shopping used so of course the one I found had one!

          If I were buying a new one I wouldn’t bother with the sunroof, it is poorly designed and creates terrible wind buffeting, and the glass bakes the interior so I leave the sunshade closed all the time anyway. I love my HIDs but I wouldn’t add a $2-4k package just to get them. IMO the GTI is a great car for $25k; at $30k not so much.

          • 0 avatar
            Q

            “IMO the GTI is a great car for $25k; at $30k not so much.”

            Couldn’t agree more. It’s peers have it beat in everything but driving feel and fit n’ finish IMO. It’s reliability problems (former?) hurt those quality perks you pay extra for.

            I had an MKIV 1.8T with a tune, suspension, pads and fluid; the car served me well as a daily and monthly track rat. The only problems were window clips (covered beyond warranty by VW) and ignition coils that must have been made with old Lucas tech.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            I love my sunroof and it’s not noisy at all. The adaptive HIDs are the real story with the price differential between the GLI and GTI Autobahn models, not just the leather.

            And I feel the GTI dresses up very well, because it’s a refined car to begin with. Compare to a loaded Civic SI or a loaded WRX or similar noisy ham can to see what I mean.

          • 0 avatar
            jdiaz34

            “If I were buying a new one I wouldn’t bother with the sunroof, it is poorly designed and creates terrible wind buffeting”

            My car was awful. I wondered how VW blew it so badly on the sunroof…..the one on our $17k Fiesta is silent and the roof sheetmetal doesn’t budge while its open.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            @fordson – maybe you got lucky with your sunroof, but with mine and all the other ones I drove including a new MK6, when you open the roof all the way without any windows open the buffeting is terrible. I have to either close the roof partway, or open the windows a little to assist with the airflow. It’s also such a small opening, I don’t really see the point, but then again I am not really a sunroof fan. I have a convertible for days I want open-air motoring, and the sunroof doesn’t offer anywhere near the same feeling. So I wouldn’t pay $2-4k just to get one.

            Oh and I agree they dress up nicely, but I don’t think they need it. The base car is very well equipped, and you pay through the nose for leather, HIDs and a touchscreen stereo or nav.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            My 2011 Autobahn (5-door, everything but DSG) listed for $30,610. I got it for $28,578.

            Bought it the last day of the month – guy wanted to make his plan.

            More than $25k, but it wasn’t $31k either.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      I would agree on the $30k sentiment as well. Now, if the MK 7 can give me adaptive suspension, a *good* navigation/infotainment system, HIDs, uprated stereo, 6MT and plaid seats for $30k I’ll be happy to give VW my money. On the MK 6, however? Nope.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Does the lack of defeatable traction control make VWs with that quirk a nuisance in winter?

    I’m not advocating driving around in winter conditions with traction control off, but if you do get stuck, some wheel spin helps to rock the car loose.

  • avatar
    walker42

    I’ve always loved the GTI, and like what they’ve done with the dash and door panels, it’s just a shame what happens to the body structure after a couple of years. Journalists only see the cars when they are new, which is a plus for VW.

    I spent loads of time in my buddy’s Mk V and loved the engine. Car is in its element on a mountain road, no doubt. But in daily use things like the noisy door locks, creaks and rattles constantly remind you that you are in $17K Golf.

    We concluded one day that the huge door and hatch openings were probably to blame for the less than robust structure. And that the low profile tires were slowly beating the car to death. The 5-door might actually make for a nicer car.

    • 0 avatar
      cyberc9000

      You might be on to something. 3-door owners I know constantly moan about rattles and creaks, but my 5-door is relatively well kept together in comparion.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        My 2009 5-door is built like a bank vault, with no rattles or creaks. The sunroof is extremely quiet, even open at speed. But don’t believe me– I’ve owned a dozen VWs, including four GTIs, and I’ve never replaced a coilpack. And what are these “window regulators” I keep hearing about?

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      My 08 is almost at 70k miles and the structure is completely solid, I don’t have a problem with that or the suspension. The rattle I hear is a minor interior plastic thing and its been there since I got it, so not age related. But I do have a 5-dr so maybe that’s it…

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Thanks for the great review. The humble and much maligned economy hatchback has come along way over the years. The GTI does indeed fulfill multiple roles. Fun, fast enough, comfortable enough and ridiculously practical to. Easy to live with, I say.

  • avatar
    cyberc9000

    Biased MkVI owner here. I don’t think the use of the MkV chassis hurt the car’s competitiveness at all. Almost every competitor listed in the first paragraph is a one trick pony. If it’s faster, it has a dreadful interior (MS3, WRX). If it’s a looker, it’s not very quick or practical (Abarth). Or perhaps it’s not significantly better at anything, and just took the ugly stick (Focus ST, dashboard especially) Somehow despite being a bit aged in some aspects, it’s still king of the segment.

    If anything the MkVII is a bit uglier, though I think the tech upgrades are great. Just glad I don’t have to own that glossy center stack, because that’s going to look like shit about 10 minutes after the plastic film comes off.

  • avatar
    joywmse

    3 series sales are rocking even with a bland redo :

    BMW, Mercedes
    Sales of Munich-based BMW’s 3 Series, its top-selling model, surged 29 percent to 9,890, helped by the new 320i. BMW’s X5 climbed 17 percent to 2,674. Mercedes was led by gains of 34 percent to 7,604 for the C-Class sedan and 73 percent to 3,092 for the M-Class SUV.

    :bloombergnews

  • avatar
    08Suzuki

    Nice to know that the next GTI will be awesome. But I feel like I’m the only one who misses a hot two-door, whether hatchback or fastback/notchback coupe. It seems like the only ones around are with Honda unless you resort to pony car territory or go visit Scion.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    When is the on-sale date for the US? Driving a ’11 GTI MK6 now, looking next summer/fall for a new one.

  • avatar
    Jim Zellmer

    Several months ago, I chose a 2013 “Wolfsburg Edition” DSG GTI. Here’s why:

    http://www.zmetro.com/?p=5158

    I have been impressed with the build quality (buying the last of the Wolfsburg, Germany variants is, perhaps dumb luck), day in and day out performance, space and fuel economy. A great car for the money. That said, I am happy that a cloth seat, non sunroof/nav system version could be found. Might the next Golf R be available without a sunroof, leather and various nav/computer systems?

    A recent expedition: http://www.zmetro.com/?p=5345

    While eating away at Audi territory presents an intramural conflict, it would seem that VW has an opportunity to offer a “value” German product.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I believe VW is bringing out a Golf convertible. I would be most pleased and interested if they GTI’d it.

  • avatar
    vbofw

    Am I the only one jazzed-up about that 8″ infotainment system? For that edition, VW is apparently doing the same underlying system from Golf to A8 or RS7. A good step to restoring (aspects of) VW to semi-premium status.

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    Great review. One small correction – we Europeans aren’t pretending the Civic doesn’t exist. We know its a good car but Honda prices it at such a ridiculously high level (Golf/A3/1-series level), we’d rather buy a BMW, VW, or Audi.

    10 years ago, Honda priced its cars more realistically (halfway between mainstream Ford/Opel and premium BMW/Audi) and they sold plenty in Europe.

    Honda seems to have given up on Europe in favour of focussing on North America. Understandable given the shrinking European car market.

  • avatar
    mkeenly

    I was hoping to stay with the GTI when I wanted to replace my 2003 VW GTI 20th Anniversary this year.

    Unfortunately, the Focus ST comes with so much more for the price. Sure, the GTI is more refined, but for a real enthusiast, the GTI screams BORING!!

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Call me crazy but as nice as this car is I’d rather have a RWD hatch like one of the BMW 1 series. VW does about as well as you can with FWD but ultimately you can’t beat physics.

    America really needs to get hip to hatches. The drawback of not having a trunk is pretty darn small – compared to what you get out of a hatch.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      You’re crazy!

      The 1 series has less space and questionable styling. I have not sat in a 1 hatchback, but the interiors of BMW’s lower end models have not impressed. The real killer is if they sold it in the US, it would likely be $5k more expensive than a GTI. For $5k, I think I will take the better looking and more practical car and get used to FWD.

      I also don’t get the obsession with hatches. The drawbacks are added NVH, more likely to squeak/rattle, more expensive, no cargo security, and little cargo space with the rear seats in use (at least with previous GTIs). What do you get in exchange? The ability to carry bulky items with the rear seats down? Buy a truck, van, or even a CUV if that’s important.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        “The ability to carry bulky items with the rear seats down? Buy a truck, van, or even a CUV if that’s important.”

        The best way to occasionally carry large items is to always drive a tall vehicle with poor handling and fuel economy?

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          If carrying large items is important to you, that probably means you do it more than occasionally. Tall, poor handling vehicles with terrible fuel economy are often better suited to carrying crap.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        One can fit a 100 lb dog, 3 adults, and a weeks worth of camping gear in the back of my GTI. One can move a decent sized dresser without any hassle. Trim on par with $50-60k luxury cars. $22.5k out the door in 2010. Now that it’s chipped, zero to sixty in 6.0.

        In many ways my affinity to my vehicle can be considered an obsession, I prefer to consider it awareness of the privilege of owning a vehicle that one can say the first paragraph about. If there are other vehicles with anywhere near the same qualities, I haven’t seen it.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Those three adults must pack light!

          I haven’t lived with one, maybe they are bigger than they look, but they certainly don’t look like they can hold much.

  • avatar
    racerxlilbro

    I want to love GTIs. Really. I do.

    But, of the two dozen or so cars I’ve owned in my life, the 2001 GTI VR6 was the single most miserable ownership experience I’ve ever had. A leftover that I bought new in 2002, my car needed wheel bearings at 350 miles, had kamikaze window regulators (which were, in turn, replaced by more kamikaze window regulators), a steering wheel installed off-center, a rearview mirrow surround which would not stay attached, an ABS unit which failed, as well as a number of other trim pieces which would randomly fall off.

    Forgetting the sweet sounds of the VR6 engine, the sublime brakes and sweet handling was very easy. All I had to do was think about getting wet in the rain, all of the “quality time” I got to spend with my service advisor, and the stinging loss I took when I bailed out of the car eleven short months later.

  • avatar
    dmw

    “Everything you touch feels expensive and bespoke and thoroughly interesting. The steering wheel wouldn’t be out of place in a fully-optioned Porsche 911. ….This is easily the nicest Golf yet and if it ends up costing thirty grand you won’t feel cheated when you take delivery of yours. ”

    So somebody in Herndon needs to print that on a big posterboard and put in the lobby. This is how VW must prosper. Sell a 33K car by making it feel expensive and expressing quality throughout the UX. Make the working man feel like he has a right to have Nice Things. Do not try to sell a 33K car by loading it up with features and making it super-sized. This is why I’ve bought VWs (and suffered through the eternal CEL with one of them). This is the anti-B7. Long live it.

    • 0 avatar
      mkeenly

      33K for a GTI?! I’m sorry, that just doesn’t fly with most buyers.
      Pricing the car over $30K puts it into a different class of vehicle where there are a lot of other choices. The reason why VW is lagging right now is that buyers are selecting other choices, including me.

      Yes, the build quality and the touch surfaces are beautiful, but the car screams boring. I just saw a Golf R on my way to work this morning. I can’t believe how much it looks like the plain-jane Golf. At least my 2003 20th Anniversary GTI was unique. There is a huge demand (and a $2000 price premium) for these vehicles on the used market due to their nice set of options / differentiators over the standard GTI.


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