The Truth About Cars » volkswagen gti http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 06 Dec 2014 12:59:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » volkswagen gti http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Torque Steer? What’s Torque Steer? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/torque-steer-whats-torque-steer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/torque-steer-whats-torque-steer/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 11:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=868770   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, […]

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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.

Having just driven a 2015 Volkswagen GTI, I was sure that the 210 horsepower/250 lb-ft figure quoted by VW was a bit underrated. Turns out that’s what it really makes at the wheels, which works out to about 241 horsepower and 287 lb-ft of torque. My car didn’t have the Performance Pack and its mechanical LSD, but I didn’t think torque steer was anything to fret about.

But if I got the APR Stage 1 ECU reflash, I’d re-consider that. The 291 horsepower figure is Golf R territory, but the most astonishing number is the 367 lb-ft at the wheels. That’s as much torque as a 2004 Mustang Cobra “Terminator”, arguably one of the fiercest performance cars of the mid 2000’s, was putting down.

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Review: 2015 Volkswagen GTI Performance Pack (Mk7) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/review-2015-volkswagen-gti-performance-pack-mk7/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/review-2015-volkswagen-gti-performance-pack-mk7/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 13:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=835977 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. After the mild update that turned the Mk5 into the lowered-expectations Mk6, this MQB Golf feels the entirely different car that it is. Longer, lower, wider, lighter, more […]

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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.
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After the mild update that turned the Mk5 into the lowered-expectations Mk6, this MQB Golf feels the entirely different car that it is. Longer, lower, wider, lighter, more spacious, better-equipped, but still recognizably a Golf both inside and out. A focus on Mexican production is at least partially responsible for Volkswagen’s ability to offer a $25.215 “S” model that offers slightly more equipment than the Mk6 it replaces. Those of us who remember the Rabbit S as the tape-and-stripe pre-GTI from 1981 will no doubt be slightly confused that there is now a Golf GTI S.

Let’s go over the equipment right quick, straight from the press release:

The Golf GTI S features the following standard equipment: 210-hp 2.0-liter TSI engine; 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; Bluetooth® connectivity; a touchscreen radio; Sirius XM® Satellite radio; a Media Device Interface (MDI) with iPod® integration; a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, handbrake, and shifter knob; VW Car-Net® connected services; ambient and footwell lighting with LED reading lights; cloth sport seats with heritage GTI design; LED foglights; heatable front seats; and a new driving mode selection feature.

The SE starts at $27,395 for the two-door manual transmission model. It adds the following standard equipment: a power tilt and slide sunroof; Keyless access with push-button start; a rearview camera; automatic headlights; rain-sensing windshield wipers; the Fender® Premium Audio System; and leather seating surfaces.

The Autobahn is only available as a four-door model, priced from $29,595 with the manual transmission. This adds navigation, a 12-way power driver’s seat, and automatic air conditioning to the list of standard equipment on the SE.

The GTI S I drove had the Performance Pack, which adds big brakes, an electronically-controlled limited-slip (which I believe to have a mechanical component, not just brake programming) and 10 extra horsepower over the standard 210. It will be available later in the year. Car and Driver‘s Tony Swan could be reliably counted on to write “Know what? We’d wait for it” in regards to this sort of thing, so consider that written. You want a Performance Pack. Even if you don’t care about it, when you go to sell the car in five or ten years from now, each and every email and phone call you get about it will start with “Does it have PP?” As the song says, make it easy on yourself.

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All the first impressions are good: this is a car that follows the same dark-materials-and-shiny-trim playbook as everybody else from Mazda from BMW but the execution is exceptionally good. While the standard Golf perhaps offers a bit more Ikea-chic with its full brushed-metal dashboard and center console (and we’ll cover that car later in the week), the GTI interior does not disappoint and it looks and feels more than a bit above the $25k sticker.

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The control efforts are light but predictable and there’s more than a bit of Audi A4 to the GTI as I pull out for the “Long/Aggressive” drive loop. Time to boot the throttle. Directly prior to getting on the plane, I’d let the leash out on my 2014 Accord V-6 stick-shift for calibration purposes. I’m more than surprised at the way the new turbo engine out-torques the Accord from low revs; with 258 lb-ft across a very broad electronically-managed plateau, it has the twist of an ’83 Mustang five-point-oh delivered at pretty much the same place on the tach.

What a surprise to find that torque steer is mostly absent; the GTI simply runs hard until the small turbo runs out of puff in typical small-turbo style. Now, as the revs approach 6k, is when you’d really prefer to have a big Japanese six under the hood, but instead you get a lot of sound and fury, mostly artificial, signifying that it’s time to shift and ride the torque curve yet again. The net effect is bizarrely like the VR6 MkIII GTI, only played at fast-forward pace.

The Performance Pack suspension, brakes, and rubber all conspire to make the Volkswagen far too capable for our test loop. Letting the engine spin only results in running up more quickly against the next group of tourists or cyclists. What this needs is a track, but surely it would prove to be just as hapless as most Golf-pattern cars in that environment. Suffice it to say that you won’t easily reach the GTI’s limits anywhere that you wouldn’t reach the limits of something like a BMW 328i with the Sport package. This GTI probably runs semi-close to the Scirocco R for raw pace, assuming you select the DSG. As ever with these cars, no matter how many letters you use to describe the platform, the manual shift action is slow and steady at best, so you’ll have to take in satisfaction what you lose in over-the-road speed.

On the move, the GTI starts to feel distinctly mid-sized, particularly with regards to that nearly seventy-one-inch width. Still, visibility is decent enough given the considerable beltline draft. The same kind of dimensional gaps that made the Mk2 feel so much bigger than the Mk1 are at work here as well vis-a-vis the Mk6. Thank goodness the BMW 3er keeps getting bigger, or this Golf would catch it. As wide as an E90 and taller, slathered liberally with cold-to-the-touch metal trim, it’s light-years from the old GTIs. The proportions just keep drifting from the original, and at some point it starts to really matter that the perched-on-the-seat, elbows-on-the-doorsills feeling of the early cars is completely gone. VW did itself no favors bringing the “heritage” cars along, because they remind us of when the Golf was a compact car, not an Accord sans trunk. Why would you get an A3, other than for the rings on the grille and the guarantee that assembly took place without the involvement, direct or indirect, of a drug cartel?

It’s at this point that I want to suggest that you read Jason Cammisa’s review of the same GTI I drove. I want you to do this, not just because I want to prop up Jason’s career in the interest of receiving free drinks from him in the future, but because he’s such an unabashed fan of this car and I want you to hear all the good things about the car from a fan before I talk about it in a less than positive way.

Okay. You’re back? Let’s continue. This new GTI is, by any measure you can objectively apply, the best GTI in history. From the three-dimensional court and spark of the complex and gorgeous steering wheel to the video-game power delivery, from the considered retro chic of the upholstery to the absolutely vice-free way the nose turns even under braking, it is damned near flawless. If you envision the GTI customer base as people who cannot afford an M3 but demand a large subset of that car’s virtues at well under half the price, well… mission accomplished.

You can’t fluster it, not with idiotic midcorner braking, not with lazy shifting choices, not with pitch-and-catch attempts at adjusting its attitude around a turn. It’s effortlessly fast and frankly it would work just fine with a four-speed manual box, or possibly even a three-speed automatic, such is the flexibility and might of the engine.

The only problem with this car is that I’d rather have a Fiesta ST. Imagine that the GTI was slow-roasted until all the joy dripped out of it. Then imagine that all the joy that dripped out was caught in a drip pan. Then imagine that the drip pan was emptied into the Fiesta ST. The Fiesta is everything the Golf isn’t: deliberately unstable at speed, hugely involving, capable of returning vast differentials of pace depending on driver commitment and talent.

“But wait a minute,” you say, “the proper competition for the GTI is the Focus ST.” Well, I’m not totally sure I wouldn’t take the Focus. It’s not nearly as good of a car on the road but it has some racetrack desirability to it and I prefer the Rude Ford look to the A3 Lite one. This GTI feels awfully grownup. There have always been two groups of buyers for this car: literature professors slumming it with a campus-friendly rocket and kids looking to start trouble with Daddy’s money or the entire proceeds of their McJob. With the Mk7, Volkswagen has tilted the balance drastically towards the former.

What we really need here is the Renault Megane, which is everything you really want in a front-wheel-drive enthusiast car. The GTI could have been a Megane competitor. Instead, it’s an Audi competitor, which seems odd, because VW owns Audi.

Unto the seventh generation, the sins of the original Golf have been long expiated. The problem is that the virtues, and the character, were dispensed with as well. What’s left is a fast, competent, useful car from which to sit back and watch the Bimmer drivers paying too much for the same experience — and the Fiesta drivers having unadulterated fun.

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“I” Before “E”, Except After “D” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/i-before-e-except-after-d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/i-before-e-except-after-d/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 02:46:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=750841 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 […]

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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.

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Volkswagen Cuts Sales Targets For US Dealers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/volkswagen-cuts-sales-targets-for-us-dealers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/volkswagen-cuts-sales-targets-for-us-dealers/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2013 23:30:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=496971 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. The slowdown is sales has caused Volkswagen to offer aggressive incentives on vehicles, such as 0 percent financing across the board, while workers at its Chattanooga […]

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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.

The slowdown is sales has caused Volkswagen to offer aggressive incentives on vehicles, such as 0 percent financing across the board, while workers at its Chattanooga plant have been laid off. Inventories of VW cars remain high, and have risen to 105 days supply as of July 1st, up from 92 days in June. Dealers are crying out for key products like a mid-size crossover, but so far, Volkswagen has only announced a revival of the failed Phaeton luxury car.

On the dealer side, Volkswagen has been struggling with an unhappy dealer body, which was ranked last in a NADA survey. A reworking of VW’s bonus complicated bonus system for dealers, which ended up undoing some of the changes made in January 2013, helped boost satisfaction levels, but dealers are still facing a tough time after three years of rapid growth.

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Generation Why: California Dreaming – A Hot Hatch Comparison http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/generation-why-california-dreaming-a-hot-hatch-comparison/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/generation-why-california-dreaming-a-hot-hatch-comparison/#comments Thu, 20 Jun 2013 13:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492701 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 […]

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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.

Second Place: Volkswagen GTI

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In 2006, my father traded in his 2003 BMW 530i for a 2007 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T. Stuck in the throes of ornery adolescent male entitlement, I was gobsmacked. How could he trade in the best sports sedan in the world for a lowly Jetta. It was automatic. It wasn’t even a GLI. His answer was a more polite version of “would you like to pay your own way through college?”.

It turns out that the sacrifice he made wasn’t a huge one as far as driving enjoyment went. The E39 was a superlative machine and felt like it was worth every penny of the $65,000 pricetag it commanded in 2003’s Canadian dollars. Except that the Jetta, even on crappy all-seasons, sending its power to the front wheels via an early iteration of VW’s 2.0T/DSG combo, was in some ways more fun. What it lacked in ultimate polish and rear-drive handling dynamics, it made up for in character. The rush of the turbo four, criminally underated at 197 horsepower, was a nice change from the BMW’s Astroglide-smooth six. The DSG was totally new technology at the time and was a revelation compared to the lacsidasical 5-speed auto in the 5er. I couldn’t understand my Dad’s aversion to manuals at the time, but I do now that I have to commute in Manhattan-esque traffic. If I were to get another hot VW, I’d probably opt for it as well.

Jeff’s GTI, also equipped with the DSG, is a generation newer and lacking a set of rear doors, but I felt immediately at home. The tan leather in the old Jetta is replaced by all black components and tartan cloth. The radio is newer and the climate control is digital, unlike the rental-spec manual HVAC and the truly awful audio system in the old Jetta. It looks the business outside as well, with its deep but not-quite-black paint and 18″ “Iron Cross” alloys.

This newest generation of the DSG is an exponential improvement; the previous version wasn’t quite as smooth and still displayed some of the quirks of a manual transmission, like rolling up on a hill or not creeping forward when you let off the brake. In sport or manual mode, shifts are crisp, the throttle is blipped and it does everything better than you ever could.

Unfortunately, the rest of the car lacks that same feedback. The steering is Hyundai-light at first, but builds in effort gradually. The brakes have an alarming amount of travel before you get any engagement. If it weren’t for the fact that this car seems to get better and better the further you push it, I would have written it off within a few minutes of driving it. The fact that it isn’t as rambunctious as the ‘Speed3 is what lets you go really fast. Getting back on the throttle upon corner exit will likely result in wheel-hop or torque steer in the ‘Speed3. In the GTI, you just move forward very rapidly with little drama. Utter competence but not a lot of exuberance or fun. This is the car that seems most appropriate for me at this stage of life; well-made, solid performance, the right badge. But I’d never be satisfied because I’d know that I left some motoring thrills on the table by opting for this car. But for people like my Dad, or Jeff’s folks – who have been known to take this car instead of their E90 M3 or first-gen X5, it’s perfect.

First Place: Mazdaspeed3

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By any rational standards, this car should have lost. It is outdated and a replacement is on the horizon. I can’t stand the way it looks. If the Subaru B9 Tribeca looks like a flying vagina the gaping maw of the Mazdaspeed looks like some kind of gynecological abnormality that needn’t be discussed in a family publication like this one. Other things about the Speed3 I don’t like; the clutch, which is capricious in its engagement and has a pedal feel comparable to the Shelby GT500, the dark, gloomy interior, the red trim on the seats, more appropriate in a bordello than an automobile, the prodigious torque-steer, which seems to necessitate a pair of swiveling headlamps to show you which ditch you’re about to plow into at the top of second-gear.

Anyways, none of it matters. I love this car like I love somebody totally wrong for me. When you’re not grappling the wheel to fight torque steer, the steering is just as sweet as it is on the regular Mazda3, full of feedback and nicely weighted. So is the shifter, which is a model of precision and feel for transverse gearboxes. The Focus ST’s unit should be half as good. In higher gears, the torque steer issue fades away and you can enjoy all 263 horsepower, as the boost pressure builds up in a remarkably linear fashion. There is a bit of turbo lag, but nothing compared to, say, an original WRX. If you listen closely, you can hear the subtle burble of the exhaust, the near-imperceptible woosh and psshhht of the turbo going about its business. The brakes didn’t let up on Angeles Crest or the tighter sections of Latigo Canyon Road closer to Malibu. After driving it for a few days in Los Angeles traffic, I got used to the clutch and the car’s other quirks. The navigation system, borrowed from TomTom, is one of the better units on the market. I could get used to this car, as long as I had some kind of disguise to wear while driving it.

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There is just one problem though. On that last canyon run, Blake Z. Rong of Autoweek brought out his Miata, with Fat Cat Motorsports coilovers, Flyin Miata sways, a tiny Nardi wheel and Cobra bucket seats. It made the MS3 feel like a plodding truck, even though it was hilariously slower than the ‘Speed3. I suppose that’s the price you pay for not having back seats or a usable trunk, which the MS3 does have.  Hey, how much is a turbo kit for an NB anyways…?

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Review: 2013 Ford Focus ST http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/review-2013-ford-focus-st/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/review-2013-ford-focus-st/#comments Thu, 18 Oct 2012 14:22:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=464111 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 […]

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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.

Some people find the exterior of the Focus overdone, but when shod with large five-spoke alloys it’s the most attractive car in the segment to my eye, with an athletic stance, excellent proportions (for a front-drive hatch), and hardly a line out of place. For the ST, Ford has enhanced the egg with a cleaner front fascia with a black grille, a centrally-located exhaust, and a larger spoiler. Big buck AMGs should be this tasteful.

Inside, Recaro buckets included with either option package are the most noteworthy upgrade (the base ST is fitted with the supportive buckets from the regular Focus). With the ST3 Package, the seating surfaces are entirely covered with charcoal leather. I prefer the partial leather seats in the ST2 Package, as their center panels are covered in a niftily textured fabric and their bolsters inject some much needed color (yellow, blue, or silver). With either option the Recaros provide both excellent lateral support and long-distance comfort (unless you’re too broad for them). The ST also gains some auxiliary gauges atop the center stack. As in other upper trim Foci, interior materials appear of high quality and feel solid.

My least favorite aspects of the regular Focus cannot be altered without a major redesign of the car. The instrument panel remains tall and deep beneath a severely raked windshield. A more open view over a more compact instrument panel would make for a more engaging driving experience. The center console is also more intrusive than most, but this doesn’t bother me like it does some people. If you like a lot of room behind the wheel, the Focus isn’t the car for you.

Move to the back seat, and if you or the driver is much over 5’9″ you’ll wish you hadn’t. Legroom remains short of the segment average. If you aren’t very tall, though, you’ll likely find the rear seat comfortable.

While the regular Focus is available as a sedan and a hatch, in North America the ST is available only in the latter body style. This does make for a practical car, if not as practical as the wagon offered in Europe.

The engine in the Focus ST is no low-volume bespoke mill. It’s also available beneath the hood of most other Ford models, in the larger cars serving not as the high-performance option but as the high-MPG option. For the ST it does kick out another 12 horsepower, for a total of 252 at 5,500 rpm, but this is entirely due to a less restrictive intake and exhaust. The engine itself is physically unchanged. Good things follow. First, as we’ll discuss in more detail below, Ford charges surprisingly little for the ST upgrades. Second, refinement is worthy of a mainstream $30,000+ car. Third, fuel economy is much better than with the most direct competitor. The MazdaSpeed3 has EPA ratings of 18 mpg city, 25 highway. The Focus ST does far better, with guilt-free EPA ratings of 23/32. (These estimates aren’t hard to replicate in the real world if you go easy on the gas.)

As it often does, refinement cuts both ways. There no kick or even a solid shove as boost kicks in. Instead, thrust builds very smoothly, and before you know it, the car is traveling well over 80 mph. Ford fitted a “sound symposer” to pipe intake noise into the cabin at high rpm. Nevertheless, the engine remains sufficiently quiet that a few times while powering out of a turn I felt the engine go limp, briefly wondered if a safety nanny had kicked in, then noticed that I was riding the 6,800-rpm rev limiter. It’s not easy to time shifts without keeping a close eye on the tach. First tops out very quickly. Between this and the tires’ inability to transfer all the engine’s torque to the pavement at low speeds, and ideally first would be a little taller.

While the ST’s peak power figure is actually a little low for a boosted 2.0-liter (likely due to its mainstream role), the engine excels in the midrange, with peak torque of 270 pound-feet at 2,700 rpm. An overboost function unique to this application plumps out the midrange another eight percent for up to 15 seconds. With this much torque channeled entirely through the front wheels, the question isn’t whether there’s torque steer, but how much. Well, there’s enough to mildly tug the steering wheel this way and that during hard acceleration, but not nearly enough that you have to fight to keep the car on your desired line. Hard shifts from first to second also effect a little wheel hop. The shifter and clutch for the mandatory six-speed manual transmission aren’t the best–you’ll read no rifle bolt analogies here–but they commit no notable sins.

There’s enough thrust that hard acceleration provides thrills despite the wet blanket of refinement and the family sedan-like 3,223-pound curb weight. But Ford offers the Mustang for those seeking straight line kicks. The Focus ST is really about handling. Even the regular Focus tackles curvy roads with aplomb. For the ST, Ford has added a variable-ratio steering rack, lowered the suspension a centimeter, firmed up the springs and dampers, totally revised the rear stabilizer bar, enhanced the suspension electronics, and fitted Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric three-season tires (in the same 235/40R18 size also offered on the Titanium). Thanks to these upgrades, the hatch’s handling goes from surprisingly good to amazing. The feel is much the same, with the body control of a much more expensive car, just taken up another couple notches. Between the tires’ extremely high limits, the revised suspension hardware, and the electronic torque vectoring, you’ll have to push the car harder than I was willing to push it on public roads to encounter more than a hint of understeer. On the other hand, lift off the gas at corner entry and the rear end slides outward enough to help the car through the turn (but not so much as to be scary). The Focus ST’s steering doesn’t provide nuanced feedback, partly because it uses an electric power steering system and partly because the tires simply aren’t slipping much. But thanks to its tuning and variable-ratio rack this system manages to feel both very solid on center and very responsive when the wheel is turned.

A bevy of electronic controls supplement the suspension hardware. Unlike in the regular Focus, the stability control can be switched to a sport mode or disabled entirely. As with any well-designed front-wheel-drive chassis, it’s not much needed. Ultimately, at some point I failed to reach, the front tires are going to scrub, and then backing off the throttle will safely reduce speed. When the stability control is disabled, curve control (which modulates the throttle and brakes to maintain a safe speed and line through turns) is also disabled. Curve control arguably doesn’t belong in the ST to begin with, but even when enabled it’s less of a nuisance than in models more likely to need it. Torque vectoring, which modulates the brakes to counteract understeer, is never disabled. As noted above, it’s quite successful in its mission. But it’s not entirely transparent. You can feel the brakes at work, forcing the chassis to take a different line than it inherently would. As a result, the Focus ST’s handling doesn’t feel entirely natural, and your control of the car seems less direct. Cars with balanced weight distributions retain an advantage here.

Some people find the ride of the regular Focus to be overly firm, but I find it nearly perfect, with precisely damped body motions over imperfect pavement. Despite its firmer suspension, the Focus ST didn’t seem to ride significantly worse than the regular Focus. I say “seem,” because the route prescribed by Ford didn’t contain any awful roads. During my first mile in the driver’s seat I thought the ride felt a bit busy, with some small sharp reactions, but this thought never entered my mind in the hours that followed. Even based on this limited experience, the Focus ST’s ride is clearly much more livable than that of a truly hardcore machine like the Evo, or even a VW Jetta GLI, Scion FR-S, or Genesis Coupe R-Spec. On top of this, noise levels from all three sources (wind, road, engine) are so low when cruising that the Focus ST feels like it’s traveling 20, even 30 mph below its actual velocity.

The sticker price on a regular Focus can exceed $27,000. So how could Ford possibly add a turbocharged engine, sport suspension, and Recaro seats without pricing the car out of reach? Well, they have. Run a Focus Titanium and a Focus ST through TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool (with both loaded up to make their content as similar as possible), and you’ll find that the latter’s unique features only add about $2,100, a shockingly small amount given what you get in return.

Consequently, the Ford Focus ST starts at a very reasonable $24,495. For the Recaros in partial leather, Sony premium audio, and the MyFord Touch interface, add the $2,385 ST2 Package. Nav adds another $795, a sunroof (not on the tested car) another $895. The “tangerine scream” tri-coat paint on the tested car (more orange and dynamic in person than it appears in these photos) costs $495. Don’t believe in paying extra for paint? The “performance blue” resembles my favorite shade on the 2002-2005 Focus SVT.

Compared to the ST2, a MazdaSpeed3 is $1,885 less before adjusting for feature differences and about $1,100 less afterwards. The Mazda provides a somewhat more visceral driving experience but looks and feels like a far less expensive car. A Volkswagen GTI costs about the same as a similarly-equipped Focus ST, but doesn’t perform or handle nearly as well. Very much comparing an apple with an orange, the rawer, far less livable, and far less practical—but rear-wheel-drive and inherently balanced—Scion FR-S costs $460 more before adjusting for feature differences and about $2,300 more afterwards.

You can buy a more thrilling car than the Focus ST. You can also buy a more stylish car, a smoother car, or a more practical car. But if you’re seeking style, performance, handling, refinement, and everyday practicality all in same car, the Focus ST hatchback isn’t approached by anything else under $30,000 (as long as the wagon isn’t offered west of the Atlantic) and it isn’t often matched above this level. The stratospheric prices of Audis, BMWs, and Mercedes have never seemed less justified. If (like me) you’ve been thinking that the Focus ST might be the car for you, it is.

Ford provided insured, fueled cars along with lunch at a media event.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online source of car reliability and pricing information.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Focus ST front, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST front quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST side, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST rear quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST performance blue, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST interior, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST instrument panel, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST seats, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST view forward, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST rear seat, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST cargo area, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST engine, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST engine undressed, picture courtesy Michael Karesh

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Volkswagen GTI MK 7 – Best In Show So Far?: Paris 2012 Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/volkswagen-gti-mk-7-best-in-show-so-far-paris-2012-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/volkswagen-gti-mk-7-best-in-show-so-far-paris-2012-live-shots/#comments Fri, 28 Sep 2012 14:06:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=462107   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 […]

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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.

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Volkswagen GTI, Back In Plaid For The Seventh Time http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/volkswagen-gti-back-in-plaid-for-the-seventh-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/volkswagen-gti-back-in-plaid-for-the-seventh-time/#comments Wed, 26 Sep 2012 14:26:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=461724 Back for the seventh time, the Volkswagen GTI will be unveiled in person in about 24 hours, once the Paris Auto Show kicks off. The GTI will keep its 2.0L turbocharged 4 cylinder, making 217 horsepower. While it may seem like a modest figure, the current GTI is no slowpoke, and with the new one […]

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Back for the seventh time, the Volkswagen GTI will be unveiled in person in about 24 hours, once the Paris Auto Show kicks off.

The GTI will keep its 2.0L turbocharged 4 cylinder, making 217 horsepower. While it may seem like a modest figure, the current GTI is no slowpoke, and with the new one shedding a couple hundred pounds, it should be even better to drive. The plaid interior stays as well. We’ll have to wait another day for full details.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail vw-golf-gti-interior Volkswagen GTI MK7. Photo courtesy AutoExpress.

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Geneva 2012: Volkswagen GTI Cabriolet Proves Girls Just Wanna Go Fast http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/geneva-2012-volkswagen-gti-cabriolet-proves-girls-just-wanna-go-fast/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/geneva-2012-volkswagen-gti-cabriolet-proves-girls-just-wanna-go-fast/#comments Tue, 06 Mar 2012 16:15:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=433984 Volkswagen’s GTI Cabriolet debuted today at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show, making the Mazda MX-5 look like Caster Semanya in comparison. In Europe, Volkswagen not only gets the Eos, but a Golf Cabriolet as well. The big differences is the Golf has a cloth top, and now it gets a GTI variant. Mechanically, nothing has […]

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Volkswagen’s GTI Cabriolet debuted today at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show, making the Mazda MX-5 look like Caster Semanya in comparison.

In Europe, Volkswagen not only gets the Eos, but a Golf Cabriolet as well. The big differences is the Golf has a cloth top, and now it gets a GTI variant. Mechanically, nothing has really changed between the GTI and the GTI Cabriolet – same 2.0T engine, 6-speed manual or DSG gearbox, same Iron Cross-esque wheels, same honeycomb grille. The only difference is that while you may be ridiculed while driving a GTI, you will be ridiculed while driving this thing. Also, the plaid interior is just so on trend for Spring/Summer 2012…err, that’s what my girlfriend tells me, at least!

2013-Volkswagen-GTI-Cabriolet-07 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail 2013 Volkswagen GTI Cabriolet. Photo courtesy AutoGuide.com 2013-Volkswagen-GTI-Cabriolet-02 2013-Volkswagen-GTI-Cabriolet-03 2013-Volkswagen-GTI-Cabriolet-04 2013-Volkswagen-GTI-Cabriolet-05 2013-Volkswagen-GTI-Cabriolet-06 2013-Volkswagen-GTI-Cabriolet-07 2013-Volkswagen-GTI-Cabriolet-10 2013-Volkswagen-GTI-Cabriolet-11 2013-Volkswagen-GTI-Cabriolet-12 2013-Volkswagen-GTI-Cabriolet-13

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