TTAC commentator tedward writes:
I thought I’d finally throw my hat into the ring as my wife and I are on the hunt for a second family car.
We currently own a ’91 BMW 318is and a ’13 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen 2.5 — both manual, of course. In our previous lives as NYC residents, this was an extravagant stable that required personal sacrifice and demanded constant justification in casual conversation.
On one hand, we find ourselves with one real life car that fits us all; on the other, a relatively unsafe car that shouldn’t be relied upon (at 200,000+ miles) for day-to-day duties.
How quaint it all seems, looking back 10 years and remembering how the enthusiast public was fretting about the Dodge Neon SRT-4 and its half-shaft threatening 250 lb-ft of torque. How could a front-drive car put such twist through the front wheels? Well, now we’re dealing with Fusions and Sonatas putting down similar figures, and the newest crop of turbocharged front-drive hatchbacks are putting down some staggering numbers.
After the first one, the second one, the worst one, and the star-crossed one, we’ve finally arrived at the Mk7 GTI.
Good news: it’s worth the wait.
Joining the Volkswagen GTI and GTD is the new Golf GTE, a performance plug-in hybrid that puts down as much power as a GTI. According to AutoExpress, a prototype they drove last year hit 62 mph in 7.6 seconds while emitting 60 percent less CO2 than a Toyota Prius. Power comes from a 1.4L TSI 4-cylinder engine making 148 horsepower, mated to a 108 horsepower electric motor.
Despite planning to sell 486,000 units in America this year, Volkswagen has trimmed its sales targets to 440,000 units, after shedding market share in the first half of 2013.
If the first half of my automotive life was informed by Honda products, the second half was largely colored by “Sport Compact Car” magazine, which I still consider to be America’s finest automotive print magazine. From the age of 13 onward, I faithfully purchased SCC every month, enthralled by the idea of low-budget import car builds and sweeping California canyon roads. I liked that they took a different tack than most of the other tuner magazines; they weren’t as dogmatic as the other rags were with respect to the “Japan rules, America sux” dichotomy that seemed to pervade the lesser publications. There were no photo spreads of Asian women in flourescent bikinis. Unlike the editorials in Grassroots Motorsports, the budgets for their projects seemed realistic.
One shot that has stuck with me is this shot of an ancient 323 GTX sliding through the dirt; I can’t remember if it was an SCC project car or not, but it encapsulates what I always pictured Southern California to be; an automotive playground free of rust and full of roads that are appropriate for whatever driving conditions you could want. The 323 GTX’s near me are either terminally oxidized or going for absurd amounts of money ($6,000 for a barely running 26 year old Mazda that would amputate my legs in a crash? No thanks) but Mazda was kind enough to lend me a Mazdaspeed3 for my first trip to Los Angeles so I could live out my canyon run fantasies on the Angeles Crest Highway, albeit in front-drive form only. If that wasn’t enough, TTAC contributor Jeff Jablansky brought along his own Volkswagen GTI MKVI for comparison.
When you’ve reviewed over 600 cars, few new ones surprise you. With the polished road manners and granitic structure of a far more expensive car, the 2012 Ford Focus was one of the few. But its 160-horsepower engine, while easily adequate for daily driving, doesn’t provide the thrust many driving enthusiasts demand. For 2013, this should no longer be a problem. A 252-horsepower Ford Focus ST has joined the line.
Yesterday’s coverage was fairly snarky, for the simple reason that none of the product was particularly compelling or exciting. But I love the look of the new VW GTI, especially in this blue hue. In my senior year of high school, my father bought a 2006 Jetta 2.0T with the DSG gearbox; it might be one of the all-time great sleepers, with just enough power to be fun in the city, but not enough to get you in serious trouble. Even on mundane all-season tires, it was one of the better FWD platforms I’ve ever driven. I can’t imagine how much fun the new GTI will be with more power and 200 fewer lbs.
Back for the seventh time, the Volkswagen GTI will be unveiled in person in about 24 hours, once the Paris Auto Show kicks off.
Volkswagen’s GTI Cabriolet debuted today at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show, making the Mazda MX-5 look like Caster Semanya in comparison.