Yesterday, I traded the most hysterically fun car I have ever owned, a 2008 Honda S2000, for a new 2015 Volkswagen GTI 6-speed manual.
Allow me to explain.
I bought my S2000 two years ago while living in San Diego. It was the perfect car at the perfect place and time. I don’t think I ever drove it with the top up, whether cruising the coast highway or screaming up and down Mt. Palomar. I loved it. Then last fall I took early retirement, thus losing my company car, and moved to Tucson, Arizona.
Once the S2000 became my daily driver, it began to kick my ass. I am getting too old, and am way too tall, to be folding myself in and out of the car numerous times a day. Tucson has perhaps the worst roads in the west and it literally hurt to hit the potholes in the rough riding Honda. My wife and I also wanted something roomy and economical to use on road trips instead of our large SUV. The only car that came to mind that was also fun to drive was the GTI, recent winner of numerous buff book awards. Other “hot hatches” like the Fiesta ST do nothing for me – so GTI it was.
Choosing the GTI was easy; buying it was a challenge due to the infuriating, nonsensical combinations of options and models on the car. (My dealer would later confirm it is as frustrating to them as it is to the consumer). I wanted the $24,785 base model due in part to its cool Clark Plaid cloth seats. I also wanted the $1,495 Performance Package that bumps horsepower up by 10 to 220 and includes upgraded brakes and differential. The MSRP on that combo would be $26,280 but there were none to be found. Most GTIs available had additional options or were the SE model with leather, a sunroof and better sound system and were priced from $29,000 to over $31,000. If you want Navigation, your only choice is to buy the Autobahn model with a base MSRP of $30,045 and is only available as a 4-door. I ended up searching for the admittedly well-equipped base 2-door S model in white, the Official Car Color of the State of Arizona.
You can order a VW to your exact specs and color but you will wait 6 months for delivery.
I posted the S2000 briefly on Craigslist and discovered when you’re selling a specialty car on this site, most folks that respond are dreamers, schemers, scammers and credit criminals. I could have spent a few hundred dollars and listed the Honda on cars.com or autotrader.com and profited a little more than trade-in value from an out-of-state buyer, but that would be after dealing with inspectors, shippers, etc. I was not in the mood.
In Tucson you have the choice of a friendly, local, family-owned Volkswagen store or one owned by a notorious megadealer group from up north. I chose the former but I did respond to an email from the latter that they send to all Craigslist sellers and told them I was in the game for a GTI. They characteristically did not respond.
The preferred retailer had the car I wanted on their lot. A test drive confirmed all the hype: the GTI is zippy, has a cockpit worthy of an Audi, and is a riot to drive. When the store offered a nice discount on the GTI and a trade-in value combined with tax savings that was within $1,900 of what I paid for the Honda in 2013, the deal was done. The transaction was quick and easy, maybe the best car buying experience I’ve ever enjoyed. To their credit, Volkswagen dealers did score above average in the 2014 J. D. Power Sales Satisfaction Index.
This GTI will now be a TTAC long-term test car. We will do some comparos with other vehicles in its category. We will try to obtain a GTI with the Performance Package to find out what I am missing. Most of all, we will find out what the VW is like to live with over the course of a year. The first report will be after a 2,500 mile round-trip run to Yellowstone National Park in a few weeks.
After one day of ownership (and thus I am still under the influence of the New Car Ether) my first impression can be summed up thusly: the Volkswagen GTI is a ton of fun and a terrific value for $25,000. Let’s see how it performs down the road…
Photos by Oscar Alvarado of Chapman Volkswagen.