Words: James Tagle
Photos: James Tagle
Jack Of All Trades
In the old days if you wanted a small, fast cheap and reliable car the VW Golf GTI was the grand daddy of hot hatches. It was small, light-weight, and most importantly, very fast. Now, fast forward to 2016, you might think cars today are far off complicated to operate compared to their older models- no traction control, no power steering, just raw driving experience and always puts that idiotic smile on your face every time you get behind the wheel of one. That’s what I’ve been looking for, that sense of excitement and clown around in. Those are the things missing in new cars today. Yes, they are more practical, fuel-efficient, and more technical but what’s the point of all those if you don’t enjoy what you drive?
This is where the new Golf GTI comes along. Finally, a car that feels and sounds like the old days. Immediately when you get inside the Golf, you will be welcomed with those flashy red lights on the doors, the doors sills and those are just the things that makes me have that tingly feeling I will enjoy this car. Then those amazing bucket seats! Oh how they feel so snug and supportive. Plus, it has alcantara bolster inserts. The interior doesn’t have those cheap plastic feels you get in other rivals, everything feels so premium and refined.
The stats, compared to the old mk. 6, it’s got an extra 10 hp, which makes 220 hp. Over 50 lb ft more torque to make 258 lb ft (350 Nm), it uses less fuel (47.1 mpg or around 16.6 km/l on paper), accelerates faster to 100 kph in 6.5 secs and goes faster with a top speed of 152 mph (244 kph). The price? Just a little over P2M. No revolutions so far, but this Golf GTI is stuffed with more driving gadgets than ever. This particular car we’re in is fitted with Adaptive Chassis Control, it allows you to pick your preferred settings for the gear change, steering weight, damper settings and throttle control. But the most impressive option in this car is VW’s Performance package. Now that not only gives you extra 10 hp but perhaps more importantly it provides you with the Golf’s secret weapon. An electronically controlled, mechanical limited slip differential. What this clever differential does is send just the right amount of torque to each of the two front wheels before either if them start losing grip and spinning your power away. It’s a sort of advanced traction control system that means you get the maximum grip from your front wheels all the time. Despite all that, when you’re just actually cruising along, you could be in any Golf to be honest. There’s no real induction sound to excite me, no sudden stiff suspension that feels like I’m in the GTI. But that’s the good thing. People who will buy this car will want to just relax and when the time comes, push that sport button and you’re all set.
So what’s it like to drive fast? Turn in a tight corner at 2nd gear, full throttle and it grips immensely well. No torque steer, no tug of the wheel. You can feel the whole car being pulled towards the apex. I’d never felt anything like it! Plus, the way the Golf changes gear is absolutely brilliant! Change up a gear, you get this lovely pop which sounds like a small explosion in the exhaust what Audi did to it’s RS5, and change down a gear, you get this brutal gargling noise in the over run. What I want to do is disable the Golf’s electronic safety systems. By the way, you can only do that in controlled environments, not in public roads. By turning them off, you can feel much better how the car moves around the limit. But this car is a control freak! Though it has let me disable its traction control, the gadget that stops wheel spin, the stability control cannot be fully disabled which is very frustrating when you’re say, having fun on the track. Turning the traction off allows me to better enjoy this brilliant differential. I can modulate that traction the way that makes the most of the diff working for me. But what I can’t forgive the Golf for is not being able to turn all the ESC off because it’s taken away completely any of that lovely, magical lift off oversteer mid corner. There are 3 driving modes, but the only way to drive this is in Sport mode, that way you could tell you’re driving a very special bit of kit. This is a user friendly car, anyone can drive. You find out a lot about a car’s character when you drive it to the limits, but as soon as I get the limits of the Golf, it’s electronics cut the power and apply the brakes which is pretty annoying when you’re at the track, but very useful on the roads. Many enthusiasts always thought that this car is just too boring to wear the “GTI” badge, but I disagree with that. This car is quite a simple car but it’s one with a complicated history and a complicated set of responsibilities. On the one hand it’s the car that should be everything to all people. Its the classless performance car that does everything in all the time for all people. But on the other hand, its an enthusiasts object. People like me lusted after, and then it became a car people like me, slightly laughed at and more recently again it became the car that we respect. But I think a lot of people who know a lot about cars, quietly respect the Golf GTI and if given to choose to own a car year round, I’m sure they’d think long and hard for one of these. Now the main problem with this car? The Golf GTI is NOT available in the Philippines with a manual transmission.
Yes, the DSG double clutch transmission is flawless and very very convenient, but true enthusiasts would want that raw sense of driving perfection.
What about the rivals? Should you be worried? Well, even though the Golf is brimming with latest innovations and safety measures, it doesn’t quite stack up to the new kids on the block. But Volkswagen reckons they’ve added some abnormal stuff to this car. They’ve bought in people from other projects, lets say within the VW group. A man who was involved with the Porsche GT3RS 3.8L version the 2nd generation that was absolutely lovely. Now that’s one way of bragging this car to your colleagues. Steering is also now electric and doesn’t have any great sense of connection to it but they’re getting good at this. I think we’re goanna be in a point fairly soon where they can replicate the feel of hydraulic steering. It’s a kind if car that you enjoy driving fast but it’s not that kind that makes you want to grow horns and drive too hard, however if you do its competence comes through. You can tell VW has spent so much time to get out all the performance they can out of this car. Overall, the Golf GTI is an absolute beast of a hatchback. Driving one gives you that special feeling and brings back that idiotic smiles in your face thinking you we’re back in the old days. Would I get one over it’s main rivals, say the BMW M135i or the Mercedes A45 AMG? No questions asked, YES!!! This little German machine won me over.
Special thanks to Iconic Dealership, Inc. Volkswagen Alabang for providing us with the lovely test car and most especially their most accommodating team with Mr. Manny Daez who kindly offered their most outstanding services.
For more inquiries and if you wanna check this out in the flesh, come by VW Alabang located at Unit 4, Molito Lifestyle Bldg., Commerce corner, Madrigal Ave., Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Quality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money:★★★☆☆
Overall: 4 out of 5