As my personal GTI is powered by gasoline, you might think this will be the first Volkswagen story you have read in the past three months that doesn’t mention Dieselgate.
You’d be wrong.
When Volkswagen admitted that their emission rigging scandal went beyond diesels — that there were “irregularities” with the reported CO2 emissions on some of their gas-powered vehicles in Europe — I became somewhat nervous. After all, my six-speed manual GTI zips to 60 mph in 5.75 seconds, hits 106 mph in third gear, has a 152 mph top speed, and yet gets over 30 mpg. Is that actually possible in a car with a 210 horsepower motor and clean exhaust? I feared that I would receive a letter like this from Volkswagen:
Your 2015 GTI has been identified as one needing minor modifications to its engine and emission system to meet EPA and CARB standards. Some owners may notice a small decrease in performance after the turbocharger is removed, but you will get to keep the cool wheels and GTI badges so no one will notice. Until your appointment, please do not allow your car to idle for prolonged periods of time near small children or pets.
It’s no fun being a Volkswagen car owner right now. I’ve had two friends look at my car and say, “That ain’t a diesel, is it? HAR-HAR!” But, then again, I’m in the auto journo biz and devour every story about the scandal. Perhaps most Volkswagen owners with gas engines have no such cares.
This 2015 two-door “S” model is the least expensive GTI available with an MSRP of $25,605. If you want leather, sunroof or navigation, you have to opt for the Autobahn model — then the price tops $30,000. In the odd world of Volkswagen option and trim packages, only the base model includes the cool cloth tartan plaid interior, one of the GTI’s signature features.
I hate to sound like all other auto writers slobbering over the GTI, but the little 210 horsepower hatchback is an amazing combination of performance and practicality. My wife and I have done 800-mile days in the car in total comfort with nary a complaint from our backs. With the rear seats folded down, we can haul almost anything our mid-sized SUV can, so we no longer have to drive to Lowe’s while staring at a fuel economy display reporting 17 mpg. Racing up and down the curvy Catalina Highway on Mount Lemmon in the GTI is a hoot, even when the hatch is stuffed with gardening implements.
The stick shift GTI is EPA rated at 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. After 10,150 miles, we’ve averaged 31.1 mpg with 70 percent of our driving spent on the highway, typically at 5 to 10 mph over the speed limit. In 100-percent local driving, we see around 27 mpg.
In my first long-term report, I noted some clunkiness in the transmission. Coming out of a Honda S2000, I knew no other gearbox could measure up to its slick six-speed manual, but there was definitely something wrong with the GTI’s 5-to-6 shifts. Fortunately, the transmission must have just needed breaking in because the issue disappeared at around 5,000 miles. The recalcitrant driver’s seat belt also seemed to fix itself.
Living in Tucson with its terrible roads, I thought we would see some pothole-induced squeaks and rattles by now, but the GTI is as solid as Day One. There are some minor imperfections in the paint and the car does seem much more susceptible to picking up paint chips than our other vehicles, however.
There is a fly in the infotainment: The iPod interface often has a mind of its own. Initially, I had zero connectivity and had to replace the dead proprietary VW MDI cable. Now it defaults to the first song alphabetically in the device upon restarting the system, no matter what song was playing when I last turned it off. I have thus had to listen to the first few bars of “Adios Mexico” about a hundred times. Bluetooth connectivity works flawlessly on all of our phones and devices.
For the recently released 2016 GTI, Volkswagen may have fixed this issue with the addition of an all-new infotainment center with universal USB connectivity along with a larger 6.5-inch touchscreen and standard rearview camera. Another change for 2016 is an upgrade to the optional Driver Assistance Package to include blind spot monitoring and parking assist. VW increased 2016 GTI pricing from between $90 and $210, depending on trim. It’s also pledged to increase availability of the hot hatch in 2016.
In November, Volkswagen offered its U.S. dealers a $2,000 “Don’t Panic, This Will All Blow Over” loyalty incentive on all models. Even though the GTI was in short supply, Volkswagen dealers were selling out of fear at the time and most therefore passed the trunk money directly to their eligible customers. You could find 2015 “S” models like mine with an MSRP of $25,605 being advertised in the low $22,000 range, a tremendous deal. (Though, here in Arizona, the actual asking price would be about $2,000 higher after adding the $499 documentation fee, a “Desert Protection Package,” nitrogen-infused tires and other useless items designed to clog up the negotiation process. Perhaps one positive side of the emission scandal may be that some crappy Volkswagen dealers will go away.)
You might think that the bad publicity combined with the incentive offer would suppress the resale value of GTIs — but that doesn’t appear to be the case. A look at Autotrader shows that mine would likely fetch around $21,000. That’s not too shabby after eight months and 10,000 miles. Recent Manheim wholesale auction reports show 2015 GTIs in above average condition are bringing between $19,800 and $24,570, the higher priced ones being the upscale SE and Autobahn editions.
As Volkswagen suffers, the GTI keeps soldering along as one of the best, all-around sporty car values out there. It would be a shame if the company’s current crisis would somehow impact the content or future of this fun vehicle.