By on May 11, 2015

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front

Although GTI sales are on an upward trend, the American hot hatch is a rare breed as there are just three options. We have the aging Ford Focus ST, and a new pair of hatches from Germany: the Volkswagen GTI and the MINI Cooper S. (Yes MINI fans, I’m calling the MINI German.) The last time I reviewed the GTI and Focus ST, the Focus came out on top despite the greater refinement Volkswagen offered. This time we have an all new GTI while Subaru has kicked the 5-door WRX to the curb, BMW has redesigned the MINI Cooper JCW and Ford has “gone Euro” by jamming a 2.3L turbo in the Mustang. Where does that leave the GTI?

Exterior

Although the MK7 GTI looks nearly identical to the outgoing MK6 GTI, park them next to each other and you’ll start to see the differences. This GTI is longer, lower and wider with a significant stretch to the passenger compartment. VW pushed the front wheels 2-inches farther forward and gave the Golf a longer hood for better proportion. The headlamps get an angrier look and the tail lamps ditch the cute round theme for a more aggressive motif.

Sounds like a moderate refresh, right? Wrong. What VW did with the Golf is akin to swapping clothes with a stranger. It may look the same at first glance, but this stranger is different underneath and the clothes fit a little better as well. That’s all possible because this GTI rides on Volkswagen’s new MQB platform which also underpins the 2015 Audi A3. The promise of MQB is to deliver faster product development cycles, lower costs, improve parts sharing and achieve better fuel economy. Indeed, the GTI is lighter than before; however, the weight difference isn’t as dramatic as I was lead to believe at just under 100 pounds. Of course the GTI did get bigger and lighter at the same time, but the top-end 3,086 pound curb weight is about the same as a 2005 GTI.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior-004

Interior

VW was once known as the “discount Audi” in America. But as part of their mission to increase sales on our shores, VW divorced the Passat and Jetta from their Euro twins and started cutting back on their other models. Thankfully, a few models escaped this fate and are still pair-bonded to the model sold in the EU. The Golf is one of them and, as a result, feels a notch above the American Passat in interior quality. From the fabric-covered A-pillars to the soft-touch door panels and dashboard bits, the feel upon entering the Golf in any form is in some ways “more Audi” than the A3. Without a doubt, the Golf has the best interior in this category, which oddly enough applies as much to the $17,995 base Golf as to the $25,095 GTI or $36,595 Golf R. MINI’s recent redesign has seriously improved its interior, but the VW is arguably on par with the JCW model in terms of parts quality despite being $10,000 less in some configurations.

Perhaps the “price” for the interior refinement is a distinct lack of power seating in most models. If you want more adjustability up front, you have to step up to the Autobahn model, which means you also receive leather instead of the attractive GTI tartan fabric. A little known fact about the GTI (and the Golf in general): the three-door and five-door versions are the same length and deliver identical interior dimensions. This means that our seemingly small three-door GTI was able to swallow two 6-foot tall passengers and a skinny third in a pinch. More surprising was the ability to squeeze a rearward facing child seat behind a 6-foot tall passenger up front. That’s different than the MINI which has a cramped back seat and even more cramped cargo hold.

2015_golf_tsi_3989

Infotainment

The redesign of the GTI includes a refresh of VW’s infotainment system. Sadly, this is the one area where revolution would have been preferable to evolution. The VW software lags behind the competition and if you want navigation it is only available in the most expensive trim. All units feature expanded voice commands, finger gestures (like scrolling), and a proximity sensor to clean up the interface when your digits aren’t near the screen. Most of the system’s graphics have been improved and the media interface is more attractive than before (including the elusive navigation software). But, the system still lacks the ability to voice command your media library, and still uses a proprietary VW connector for media devices.

As much heat as MyFord Touch has received over the years, the system in the Focus ST is light-years ahead of this. Since MINI gets BMW’s iDrive on a MINI scale, it takes the top slot in this segment. However, you will have to pay some serious coin as MINI’s options list is long, confusing, and expensive. Volkswagen tells us to expect significant changes “soon” to address the deficiencies, including the VW/Audi proprietary cable.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Engine-001

Drivetrain

As you’d expect from a hot hatch, a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine sits under the GTI’s hood. For 2015, the 2.0L engine has been reworked to deliver 210 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s a slight power bump but a fairly healthy torque increase over the last gen GTI. Thanks to the turbocharger and direct-injection, we get the expected “power plateau” rather than a curve with all 210 ponies pulling from 4,500-6,200 RPM and all the torque available from a low 1,500 RPM to 4,400. If you opt for the $1,495 performance package, peak power rises slightly to 220 hp from 4,700-6,200 while torque remains unchanged at 258 lb-ft but hangs out for 200 more RPM at the top end.

All GTIs start with a standard 6-speed manual transmission including the top end Autobahn trim. Shoppers can add a 6-speed DSG to any trim. In a nod to enthusiasts, the DSG and performance package are neither forcibly bundled nor mutually exclusive. Standard on all models is VW’s XDS system which has caused some confusion among potential shoppers so allow me to explain. XDS is not a true limited slip differential. Instead, it is an advanced software package added to the car’s ABS and Stability Control systems. The software reads yaw, steering angle, wheel slip, etc and uses the vehicle’s brakes to act as both a limited slip differential and a torque vectoring differential depending on the situation. The system will gently brake the inside wheel in a corner to help “vector” torque to the outside wheel and give a more balanced feel to the car. The system also responds to potential torque steer making all GTI models more civilized.

The performance package adds an electronically controlled limited slip differential; although the design is very different than the eLSDs you see in RWD applications, the function is similar. The VAQ system (Vorderachsquersperre in German) uses a multi-plate clutch pack to deliver limited slip, full locking and torque vectoring across the front axle. VAQ does not replace XDS, instead you get both systems working for you at the same time.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Manual Shifter-001

Drive

The GTI we got our hands on for a week was a four-door model without the performance package. I’m glad I was able to test a GTI in this configuration because it allows me to say: get the performance package. Not for the additional ponies, or even the trick eLSD, but for the upgraded brakes and the ability to get the $800 dynamic damper package (DDC). The previous generation GTI was so eager to please, it was easy to overwhelm the standard brakes. Although the new model appears to have improved this on base trims, the upgraded stoppers are worth every penny. The standard suspension can feel a little too firm over broken pavement and at times this causes the rear to get unsettled on a poorly paved corner. The DDC package allows the suspension to deliver a more compliant highway ride and a firmer autocross ride. It also helps settle the GTI’s rear end on rough pavement.

Our best 0-60 run rang in at a 5.75 seconds which is an improvement of nearly a half second over the last generation GTI, 2/10ths faster than the last Focus ST we tested and 4/10ths faster than a dealer provided MINI Cooper JCW. If you opt for the DSG, your 0-60 runs will be a hair slower but much more consistent. Interestingly enough, this is only a hair slower than the EcoBoost Mustang.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Gauges-002

The mission of the hot hatch could not be more different from the pony car. The Mustang is a large coupé with rear wheel drive, sexy lines and V6 and V8 engines that are shared with the F-150 pickup. The hot hatch formula starts with a practical compact hatchback, then you add stiff springs and bolt a turbo charger to a small displacement engine. For 2015, Ford added independent suspension and a 2.3L turbo to the Stang making comparisons more rational.

Obviously, driving dynamics are what separate the GTI from the Mustang, but it’s more about feel than speed around a track. As our friends over at MotorTrend recently discovered, the better balanced rear wheel drive Mustang was actually slower around a figure-eight than the GTI. Although that proclamation surprised some, it didn’t surprise me at all, given the VW weighs nearly 500lbs less. You’ll notice I haven’t said anything about steering feel. That’s because there isn’t any. A wise man once told me to never confuse steering weight with steering feel. The GTI’s tiller is well weighted but the FWD layout and the electric power steering suck all the life out of it.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear1

Part of the reason the GTI did so well is the standard XDS system which nearly eliminates torque steer. In concept it is quite similar to what Ford uses to control the Focus ST’s front end but in the real world the VW system is more effective. Trouble is, half the fun of having a hot hatch is “riding a bull” – where your foot is on the floor and your hands and mind are fully engaged trying to keep the car going in a straight line. (The old Mazdaspeed3 acted like its steering rack was possessed by demons from hell.) MINIs Cooper JCW slots between the GTI and the Focus ST in civility. Add the VAQ eLSD to the GTI and things go to the next level with very little drama when accelerating around sharp corners. While I found the feeling a little artificial at times, I can’t deny it is faster.

Pricing for 2015 starts at $25,095 for the 3-door GTI and tops out at $35,950 for the 5-door Autobahn edition with all the options. Although VW limits navigation to the top-trim, you can add the DSG to any trim for $1,100, Performance Package for $1,495, steering HID headlamps for $995 and for $695 they will tack on front/rear parking sensors and a radar based collision warning system. If you want the $800 DDC (dynamic dampers), you have to start with the SE trim with the Performance Package ($29,280 3-door, $29,880 5-door). In a nice change from the industry norm, the transmission selection doesn’t alter the availability of the other options and the top-end Autobahn doesn’t force you to get the DSG.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear-002

Ford’s Ecoboost Mustang starts $300 higher than the GTI while the Focus ST starts nearly $2,000 lower. The MINI is in a universe all to its own with the JCW starting over $8,000 higher. The ‘Stang gets standard HID lamps in the turbo trim making both Ford models less expensive than the VW when comparably equipped. Unlike VW, Ford also allows you to add navigation to their less expensive trims and the ST gets some seriously comfortable Recaro seats in most trims.

At the end of the week, the GTI’s charms were clear: this is a hot hatch with few compromises. The MINI is cute but slower and much more expensive. The GTI has a more comfortable back seat than the Mustang and, although it’s less fun, it is faster in some situations. The WRX isn’t a hatch anymore and if you want an automatic your only option is a soul-sucking CVT. The Focus gives a more raw and direct experience, but the added weight means it’s no faster than the GTI in just about any situation. The final nail in the coffin for the competition is the GTI SE with the limited slip differential, dynamic suspension and the DSG. For $32,000, a GTI equipped in that way won’t be as much fun as others, but with all that and 28 MPG combined, it may be the best daily driver on sale. Sacrilege you say? Perhaps, but that configuration is the truest to the hot hatch concept: make a daily driver as much fun as possible.

Mission accomplished.

Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.5 Seconds

0-60:5.75 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.31 @ 98 MPH

Average Economy: 29.8 MPG over 675 miles

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65 Comments on “2015 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door Review (With Video)...”


  • avatar
    RideHeight

    The Mitsubishi Mirage will outsell this. What a waste of a great reviewer’s time. And all those pixels!

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I’ll say it, because I am confident others just have to feel the same way-

    – Assuming that this will be anything remotely close to reliable (and VW doesn’t act like a corporate a$$hole in honoring any warranty issues), and that this holds up well in terms of interior non-rattles, suspension non-clunkers and non-burning of oil/non-leaking of fluids, generally speaking –

    – even though I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford a more expensive vehicle –

    – I am soooo tempted by the base Golf, with manual transmission, because it’s a stealth Audi A3, especially if priced around 17k.

    VW, you evil seductress, I have sworn off you without exception so many times before, yet here you are again, temptress of the night, vixen of farfignewton.

    • 0 avatar
      manny_c44

      The base Golf has a very cheap feeling/looking steering wheel and shifter, when you sit in it you will be repulsed. You need at least the non-launch edition, which is around 19k. (Has real wheels too)

      • 0 avatar
        sproc

        Concur, the launch edition makes too many compromises, including it’s only avail in a 2-door. I think the 4-door S is really the value sweet-spot. If I were content with the 1.8T, though, the Sportwagen is really, really appealing. Big utility bump with only about a 100lb penalty.

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          You guys are addressing my question. As an ex-GTI owner (a looong time ago), I’m not all that wowed by the tartan cloth, since VW fabric seems to wear out really really fast. Since the turbo is prone to carbon problems and is frankly a lot faster than necessary, that leaves me intrigued with the nicely trimmed and rather quick base 1.8T Golf as a vastly superior value proposition.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      I am (also) fortunate enough to be able to afford a more expensive vehicle, and was tempted enough by the GTI that I just picked one up. Quite simply, there’s nothing that I wanted that I could get in any of the standard midrange luxury marques but couldn’t get in a fully-loaded GTI other than memory seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and I much preferred the small size, turning radius and lively handling of the GTI to any larger 2- or 4-door I looked at.

      That said, I don’t feel confident that this will be reliable in the long term, or that it will hold up well in terms of interior non-rattles, suspension non-clunkers and non-burning of oil/non-leaking of fluids, generally speaking. So I leased it.

      • 0 avatar
        Mike N.

        I just sold my 2008 Mk5 DSG with 146k miles on it; at the time I sold it the car was still in great shape and had been my daily driver.

        The AC went south after about 5000 miles, the dealer replaced the whole system under warranty. After that, it didn’t have any unplanned expenditures other than a new air intake/engine cover (shop paid for that since it was one of their techs who manhandled it and broke it), cleaning out the carbon in the intake around the time I did the timing belt (115k miles), and coil packs right about the same time too (the bane of VWAG engines, it seems). Otherwise it was just tires and scheduled maintenance (I’ll count the timing belt as scheduled maintenance, even though it was by far the most expensive single expenditure for this car).

        Having had a VW in the garage since 1994, it definitely feels weird to be VW-less right now.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        If only they offered European Delivery…

    • 0 avatar

      My neighbor just bought the 17k launch edition, with manual. Local dealer didn’t have any, so I showed him cars.com, the ultimate car porn.

      Damn nice car for 17k. No need to Yaris yourself. Full size, good seats. Hard plastics and a minimalist radio but with bluetooth and streaming. The ergos and handling are built in. TSI motor/manual. Shut lines are impressively small, especially for a two door.

      You get tiny 15 inch tires and no cruise control. Mexico build.

      Best deal ever. Suspension is an easy upgrade when it wears out and wheel/tire combos for this car endless. The 15s will be cheap for snow tires…

      He keeps his cars until they explode. The Fiat 124 never actually ran, but the Focus wagon LTZ was there for years….

  • avatar
    hreardon

    Great review, Alex.

    The new GTI really is an outstanding vehicle. What’s impressive is that VAG has both the A3 and the GTI that share 90% of the same components, have identical leg and shoulder room, identical interior noise levels, engine output, etc. and yet the two cars feel completely unique.

    The A3 feels very buttoned down, comfy if firm, but lacks any real excitement. The GTI on the other hand, shares most of the creature comforts of the A3 (sans all wheel drive) but has immensely greater personality.

    2016 GTIs are slated to receive the upgraded infotainment system with a 6.5″ display, higher resolution screen and faster processor. Canada’s order guide shows them getting the 8″ screen as an option, which probably means the US market will get it as well.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      It’s not just the sheer size and speed of the infotainment that makes it worth waiting for the 2016, it’s the promised inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that should make a huge difference.

      Also agree that the A3 is a very nice car, but driven back-to-back, the GTI was so much more fun to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Agreed, sproc; Forgot about CarPlay, et al. I suspect that CarPlay and Android Auto are going to really throw a wrench into the works for automakers trying to push their OEM Navigation systems. My gut tells me that what VW will do to upsell is to make the 6.5″ system standard in the S and SE models and toss the 8.0″ screen into the Autobahn and “R” models.

        And yes, I agree completely on the driving dynamics. The A3 is a very nice car that does a lot of things well. Personally, I like the minimalist dash, HVAC controls and pop-up screen. Looks polished and slick. Plus, I think the A3 is a nice, tidy, handsome if not conservative look. I prefer it, design-wise, over the GTI.

        Now, ask me which car I’d rather have in my driveway (transmission limitations on the A3 not withstanding), and it will be GTI everyday, all day.

    • 0 avatar

      I hope so. The base system (pictured here) is called “Discovery”. My 2015 Golf SportWagen has it—with navigation—and I am so *not* impressed. Of course, I knew that when I drove it off the lot, but still… The nicer system, which is already in the Euro-market cars, is called “Discovery Pro.”

      • 0 avatar
        sproc

        For this reason, I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would spend another $1600 for the Autobahn edition over the SE GTI, or even more of a difference in the SE vs. SEL Sportwagon. Are there other items on the spec sheet that you’ve found worth the premium?

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          sproc –

          Agreed, the Autobahn isn’t a great leap forward, including:
          – Navigation
          – Dual zone climate control
          – Power driver’s seat w/lumbar

          That said, my wife has grown accustomed to dual zone climate control and I’m a fan of the greater adjustability of the power seats over the standard manual controlled ones.

          My suggestion to VoA is to make the lighting package standard on Autobahn trim cars as well. Then again, $40,000 BMWs don’t even include xenons standard, so what do I know?

        • 0 avatar

          The bi-xenon HID/AFLS lighting package certainly was, especially for the cornering lights. I also like the fully-powered driver’s seat—something my Jetta SportWagen wasn’t available with—since I suffer from constantly needing to adjust my seat (always have). And the SEL comes with a better seat to begin with, with slightly more bolstering and small thigh extensions. Really, though, the Golf SportWagen S and SE trims just have a lot more content than their equivalent trims on the Jetta SportWagen…and that makes the SEL a lot less of an interesting proposition unless you really want those extra features.

  • avatar
    Speed3

    Yawn…wake me up when the 2016 Mazdaspeed3 gets here.

    • 0 avatar
      bludragon

      I’m thinking the same thing. I test drove a couple of these back in 2008 and even though I admired the solidity and comfort just could not feel a connection and ended up buying a civic si, having not tested the speed3 at the time. After all the reviews of this latest one, I drove one back to back with a new mazda3 2.5. The GTI was mighty impressive, but the Mazda was the car that made me smile. It was perhaps a slightly unfair comparison, since the mazda3 was a manual, while the golf was a dsg, but even with that equalized, I think I would still prefer the light feel and instant response of the mazda rather than the weighty but numb controls in the GTI along with it’s more powerful, but laggier motor.

      I’m now waiting for the speed3 at which point I will reevaluate…

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Wow. This thing gets the same gas mileage as my 1.8L Civic with 150% more power and twice the torque. I will have to see how reliability fares as I can’t lease but this thing is really making a strong case to buy.

    Its only flaw may be easily fixed… there are various companies that make drop in head units that look OEM but have aftermarket capabilities. The biggest plus of this is you can bypass the OEM crap interface and just mirror your phone up to the big screen. That’s right, you can have Waze, Google Maps, Instagram, whatever in your console. It’s a real mystery as to why OEMs haven’t adopted this already. I def want to look at replacing wifey’s Rabbit with a GSW 1.8T once she crosses over 150K. Probably gonna be in the next 2-3 years after I can see how the 1.8T holds up.

  • avatar
    vtnoah

    This will most definitely be my next ride once my 13 yr old truck gives up the ghost and I pay off my student loans in 2 years. Regarding the WRX and it’s CVT, has any reviewer actually driven it? The same CVT is in the Turbo Forester and it’s been universally praised. Seems like an ideal transmission for a turbocharged vehicle as it will keep the engine in the RPM sweetspot for maximum boost. Would love to see someone take one for the team and review the “Bad” WRX.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    Kind of porky… moves away from the lightweight, tossable ideal in my book. Is the faux exhaust note piped in?

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      Sadly, yes, though you can disable it in about 90 seconds and the car sounds great without it.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The GTI hasn’t been lightweight and tossable for awhile. I don’t know much about the MkIII GTI, but I don’t think many people would refer to the MkIV and on GTI/Golf as either of those things.

      • 0 avatar
        GeneralMalaise

        so more of a GT than a “hot hatch”? A nice car, but a “hot hatch” that weighs over 1.5 tons? Meh.

        • 0 avatar
          Mike N.

          A lightly optioned Mk7 GTI 2 door is under 3000lbs. Other than the MINI (which is really Polo/Fiesta sized, not Golf sized), what other hot/warm hatch can you buy that weighs less and has higher performance? The ST weighs about 150lbs more.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I agree, but that doesn’t make it “tossable” or “lighweight”. It’s a very good car that I view as a GT hatchback. The Focus ST is the same. The Polo GTI and Fiesta ST are more of the tossable/lightweight type of vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            GeneralMalaise

            My point is they’ve all grown past what my (at least) criteria is for a “hot hatch”: light, easily tossable, small, reasonably good performance and – most importantly – FUN TO DRIVE. Fiesta ST, Mini and the Abarth (last was choice I made back in Spring of 2012) come closest now. I bought a 2004 Honda Civic Si new, a great deal back then, and that was a very competent car, but it lacked the FUN factor.

        • 0 avatar
          manny_c44

          I guess every sporty VAG car is more gt than sports car.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Porky? Only car in its segment that is lighter is the Civic Si, which is only like 20lb lighter and way down on performance out of the box. Fiesta ST is 200lb lighter but much much smaller. Whens the last time you shopped for a hot hatch, 1994? Lol.

      • 0 avatar
        GeneralMalaise

        2012 was the last time. I bought a new 2004 Honda Civic Si, it was a very good car, very competent, but not that engaging to drive. I sold that and bought a new ’07 350Z – a fast car (to me), but not that fun to drive – which I owned until selling and buying the Abarth in 2012. Based on the negative experiences of my VW-owning friends and a good acquaintance who is a VW service mgr, I would be hesitant to lease, let alone buy, any VW product.

  • avatar
    blueflame6

    I wonder if it’s just a generational thing where older people running car companies infotainment systems as some pointless thing they reluctantly agree to put into their vehicles, so they don’t give a crap about how bad they are. Something like the way european cars always had the world’s worst cupholders because screw you, you shouldn’t be drinking coffee in your car anyway. On the other hand, I’m apparently young enough that a crappy infotainment system is literally a deal killer and a really good one can elevate an also-ran into a serious contender. I like VWs, possibly against my better judgement, but I absolutely would not buy one right now knowing that much better infotainment is on the way. Same with Ford.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    VW has me shaking my head. I haven’t driven the GTI, but I was able to drive the 2015 Golf TSI in 5-door and wagon forms, and that car is brilliant to drive – plenty quick, and amazingly refined. I couldn’t believe I was driving a $22,000 car. The interiors were by far the best I’ve seen in this class.

    So why am I shaking my head? Because the Golf, as great as it is, won’t be a volume seller in this country – it’s a hatchback, and Americans don’t buy them. That leaves the bland-mobile Jetta as the volume seller, and the Golf embarrasses it in every way.

    At one point, the Jetta was a Golf with a trunk, and I have absolutely no idea why VW doesn’t go back to that. If they could sell a Jetta sedan based on the Golf, they’d have a massive hit on their hands. Anyone know if that’s in the works?

    • 0 avatar
      Mike N.

      It’s apparently all strategery. The USA market Jetta and Passat were value sized (as in they literally got larger) to chase market share, while corners were cut in the interior to chase margins (for a while the Jetta even went back to the old torsion beam rear suspension). I’m not alone in thinking they feel rental car cheap, especially compared with the GTI and the CC (which is the closest we still have to the Euro Passat).

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        The current NA Jetta and Passat were designed during the economic crunch ’08-’11 when a lot of people thought that a global deflationary/depression was going to set in. At the same time, Volkswagen was struggling to even break even on North American operations and get a better handle on the NA market demands. The result was the less expensive, larger, cushier, simpler, more reliable (stop laughing), boring as all heck Jetta and Passat.

        Volkswagen whiffed. The market recovered more quickly than expected, Americans, who love credit, started buying cars again, and the competition caught up and surpassed Volkswagen.

        Here’s the difference in corporate culture: Honda did the same thing as Volkswagen with the Civic. It was so widely panned that Honda launched a crash course redesign to fix the perceived flaws and within 18 months had a virtually brand new product on the market. Volkswagen, on the other hand, stubbornly stuck to its guns (read: financial targets) and while they experienced a short upturn due to pent up demand, have watched those gains quickly slide back into losses.

        In light of this, the Golf+GTI+Sportwagen really are shining beacons of awesomeness. They’re competitively priced, very well packaged and practical cars. If only Volkswagen had its MQB kit back in 2009 I think things would look much better for them here in the US. The new Golf is a really good sign of where Volkswagen is headed – they’re just not getting there fast enough.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          That’s good info, hreaardon, and it makes good sense. If VW could stretch the MQB platform a bit and make a Jetta from it, I think it’d do wonders for their U.S. sales.

          Otherwise, the cheapo interior is a deal killer for me in the current Jetta.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          VW is the #2/#3 car maker in the world. They don’t NEED to rush in the US market, they will get where they need/want to be here eventually, or they won’t. Doesn’t really make much difference other than to their bragging rights. It’s not like they can charge enough here to help their margins.

          If I had a tighter budget, they already sell two cars here I would buy in a heartbeat (I’d be perfectly happy with a Golf wagon and a GTI in the garage), so what they do with the Jetta and Passat (or CUVs, blech) makes no difference to me at all.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s worth noting that VW put a torsion-beam rear suspension on the Mk7 Golf/Golf SportWagen TDI “in order to account for the AdBlue tank”. But coming from the Jetta SportWagen, which had an independent rear suspension, I haven’t noticed the difference in the Golf SportWagen.

        Also, the Passat mainly skimps on features and wears somewhat anodyne styling, but it’s certainly a well-built, quality car. The problem is, it mainly looks good against the previous generation of cars. When your choice was a 2012 Accord or a 2012 Passat, the Passat looked pretty good. A 2015 Passat vs a 2015 (soon to be refreshed for 2016) Accord? Not so much. Since we probably won’t get a new Passat until calendar-year 2018 or so, if Volkswagen bestows it with a renaissance similar to that of the 2015 Camry, it will become a lot more of a competitive vehicle.

        The Jetta? I really can’t make any excuses for the Jetta, and in my opinion, even Volkswagen’s recent 2015 refresh on that car didn’t do enough to scrub the cheap from it.

    • 0 avatar
      manny_c44

      The knock against the jetta concerns interior material quality, and if you opt for higher trims it is a moot point; you get a soft dash and otherwise the plastics are all the same Puebla sourced stuff. Only the top of the door is harder in a jetta, which is a pretty minor gripe.

      IMO the last gen jetta was ugly, they were right to separate the two cars.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Right, manny, but you don’t have to buy a more expensive Corolla or Civic to get nicer dash materials.

        • 0 avatar
          manny_c44

          2011 Accords didn’t even have soft touch dash material as an option! The might have some bib or bob on the dash that’s soft, but the vast majority of it is hard cheap plastic. I admit I haven’t been in a new Corolla, but having been in other Toyotas, to suggest its interior is anything but agricultural stretches credulity.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Do the north American models not get LED tailamps?

    In Germany the GTI gets fantastic looking rear led. Really looks great at night.

    Photos above it appears this car doesn’t have it. Do you have to get xenon? Or just not available?

    Had an 07 I loved. But I had to sell it much earlier than I wanted, so never had any bad experiences other than rattles, which drove me nuts. But loved that car. Sometimes consider this again.

    • 0 avatar
      palincss

      @Jerome10 American models don’t get LED tail lamps because they don’t meet US federal standards, which predate the invention of LEDs.

    • 0 avatar

      Interestingly, I can see on my Golf SportWagen a thin clear strip on each lighting pod which, on the Euro-spec models, is probably where the amber indicator lamp would be. But they probably don’t meet the U.S. requirement in terms of indicator surface area, so rather than redesigning the lighting pods, Volkswagen just elects not to use the clear portion and makes a whole portion of the red lamp blink with the indicators. This is not the first car on which they have elected to go that route.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        It’s a pet peeve of mine that German makes in particular are now widely using red turn signals in North America. You’re right about VW doing it because the amber LEDs don’t meet DOT requirements for surface area. Why Mercedes and BMW are using red LEDs/bulbs instead of the same-size orange ones they use in Europe is beyond me, however.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    “…attractive GTI tartan fabric”? Oh please!

    I realize this is VW’s nod to the tradition started by the Mk1 GTI, but just say no. Leave the tartan to Bagpipe bands and Sir Jackie Stewart.

    Re replacing the lackluster stock infotainment system with aftermarket: not going to happen. Like BMW’s iDrive or M-B’s Kommand, the stock system is heavily integrated with managing every aspect of the MkVII Golf.

    Re LED tail lights, no, the US Golf doesn’t get them. Federal motor vehicle regulations specify certain minimum square inches of illumination for the turn signals and other lamps, based on the light intensity of traditional incandescent bulbs. LEDs are much brighter and so don’t need to cover as much area, but the regs don’t yet allow for this and VW’s don’t satisfy the regs. So until either the regs are updated, or VW decides to design US market specific LED tails, that’s it. (BTW, in the VW world there’s a thriving business in fitting Euro LED tails, despite the cost.)

    • 0 avatar

      The other Volkswagens (save for the Touareg) all have what appear to be double-DIN radios that can be replaced with aftermarket solutions. But you’re right. In the Mk.7—like most new cars—the faceplate on the dashboard only includes the screen and buttons. The actual radio/nav unit, in my car, is in the top portion of the glovebox. It includes two SD card slots, one of which is used for the navigation map card.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You can get aftermarket setups for modern BMWs. They relocate the controls for the HVAC and the buttons below it. Given the demand for folks to modify VWs, there will certainly be similar options available. Won’t be cheap. Also I have no doubt the upgrade path to the upcoming better head units will be figured out too.

      Why anyone in 2015 wants factory Nav baffles me. Even Luddite me has mostly stopped using my TomTom in favor of Google Maps on my phone, and my TomToms (I have three of various generations)were better than any factory system I have ever used. The upcoming screen mirroring tech is much more interesting, but I bet it will be buggy as all get out for a good while.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Because built in 8″ moving map. I may not use the “navigation” fuction that often, but I like the map.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          A valid point for sure, but they are just so out of date, so fast. And updates tend to be stupidly expensive.

          I can use my Nexus 7 LTE table for navigation just as easily as my Nexus 5 phone. And the map is always up to date. Amazingly so, I have found. Built-in, not so much. And now Google Maps is using the Waze traffic data – THAT is killer when in areas with multiple possible routes. Saved me a pile of time in NJ and CA recently. My latest TomTom has traffic and traffic based rerouting but Google Maps absolutely blows it away. I do still keep my TomTom in my travel bag for emergencies though.

          Screen mirroring is probably the ideal solution ultimately.

          I’m getting Nav in my M235i, but only because I want the OTHER stuff bundled with it in the Tech Pkg (oh, the Germans and their packages). I doubt I will ever use it once I am out of Europe.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Yeah, the built in maps are out of date pretty quick. My wife’s Lincoln has this problem because when it was built, I75 near the Ambassador bridge was closed completely. Everytime we drive to Ohio, the nav will tell use to get off of 75 and take surface streets.

            I think eventually the in car tech will be to that level. Apple, Android, and WiFi updates to infotainment systems will make this happen.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    A fast, fun, sporty and good looking hatch which manages to get nearly 30mpg. It’ll hold value well (they always do), and has street cred among enthusiasts, yet doesn’t look childish/tunery.

    This is how you do it.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I agree. However, I think the Golf R is too restrained looking and looks too similar to a GTI. If I’m spending $40K for a hot hatch, it better at least come in colors that burn retinas. As much as I bag on the Focus RS, I hope they sell it in those insano colors from teh last version.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I think the R has to be considered separately – it’s a ridiculous exercise for people who have no limit on how much they’ll spend on an R. For those who really want AWD but refuse to buy an Audi, I guess.

        I think the GTI is as far north on the Golf scale as I would ever consider going. Any more, and I’ll start checking out little allroad wagons.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I really like the GTI. I like it enough to have purchased one (and a MkV GTI with a trunk). Jeremy Clarkson, while full of hyperbole and bluster, was right about the MkV and on GTI: it is all things to all people. It’s the vehicle that, I think, at least comes closest.

          I do think that once you cross that $30K mark, it’s took expensive. V8 Mustang transaction prices hover much too closely for me to buy a $32K hatchback.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    I had exactly the opposite reaction to the new R, which is why I just bought one. It’s hooligan fast, yet stealthy and very comfortable on long trips (I drove it 1200 miles home).

    I do agree that they could have offered some more interesting/modern colours, although I wouldn’t have chosen one of them for myself.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Different strokes for different folks I suppose. I owned an MKV R32, so I understand the draw of the Golf R. It’s an excellent GT vehicle that is spiced up with some hot hatch. My R32 was the go to roadtrip vehicle for my wife and I.

      I’m at a point now that if I am going to buy a $40K hatchback, I want crazy. But again, $40K of crazy looks better to me with a 5.0L, black wheels, and a pony badge.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    The new Golf R is surprisingly refined — and yes, it’s not cheap. The mechanically equivalent Audi S3 is significantly more expensive (although more discounted), and is a longer, three box car. I also haven’t been thrilled with Audi styling since they went with the giant snout look a few years back. Although it wasn’t really a factor in my buying decision, the limited production Golf R series has tended to hold its value pretty well.

    I wanted a car with compact dimensions, and would in any case never in a million years consider a Mustang (or its traditional rival). I also have no difficulty believing that most Mustang owners would never in a million years consider a Golf R!

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I may be the lone data point in the overalapping area of that venn diagram. I’ve considered purchasing both. More than likely, my next two cars will be used Lincolns. CPO Navigator and Continental.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    I am impressed, sir, at your potential willingness to swing both ways.

    It’s not that I wouldn’t drive a flashy looking car, but if I did it would have to come with a prancing horse badge on it. And that, alas, isn’t in the cards. Maybe in the lottery tickets?

  • avatar
    Svoboda123

    I bought one and really enjoy it. It’s just enough car for me, in every respect. Seats 4 adults in comfort. Compact dimensions and weight. Good power, excellent grip, great brakes. Got 36MPG cruising at 75. LOVE not having to swap cars with the wife to get anything bigger than a suitcase home.

    I’ve owned a lot of fun cars- Scirocco 16V, Integra GSR, 335i, S4, etc. The S4 Avant stick is the only one I would take over it, barely, at nearly twice the price, and Audi killed it in the U.S. so I can’t get it.

    The article is also wrong (as were many sources) on availability of the Performance Package and the adjustable dampers: They WERE available on the S Trim. Mine is an S Trim with PP, Lighting and DDC- $27.9k

    When the warranty is up (maybe sooner ;-) )I’ll put an APR tune in it to test that LSD with 305HP and 370TQ. With sticky rubber and the dampers set to sport, that should be a wicked drive.

    My Tesla-owning buddy loves it. The teenagers on the block love it. How many cars have that wide of appeal?

    Oh, and tartan rocks!

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