I held the power of the cult in my hand, handed down through six generations. It was hard for me to restrain myself from going overboard but the GTI seemed to be more composed than ever. Even though what began as a mere 110 hp in the first generation has now grown to exactly twice as powerful. The new GTI promised me a great ride, and with 350 Nm, the 7th generation GTI can certainly tell between talk and torque.
UPSIDE: Responsive drivetrain, Sounds great, Nicely appointed cabin, Thoughtful storage, Cult value
FLIPSIDE: Firm ride, Cabin noise, Lower headroom, Radio troubles, Restricted convenience options
THE PRICE: GTI SE – AED 115,900, GTI SEL – AED 122,900, GTI Sport – AED 133,900
The initial surge of excitement in the new GTI was followed by a steady climb of exhilaration – never going beyond itself or tripping on its own power handle. The acceleration is so sure and seamless, that the feeling of being pressed against your bucket seat and dragged on along the flight, is priceless. The new GTI is very quick to react, with surprising control even amidst urgency and rush. Breaking through the rim of a turn, the GTI held its stead and even corrected its path to a certain extent.
The sound effects are tuned to entertain you with pop, bang and sputter, at the signal from your right foot. The sport button adds to the fireworks.
I seriously wonder how sporty cars, especially the GTI, put up with the monostrosity of sissy handbrakes, activated by nothing more than a touch, taking the pleasure out of a nice, old-style skidding handiwork. But that’s not to say there aren’t other ways to have fun with the Golf GTI. The torque is so immense that letting it loose with a firm hand on the steering alone takes the hot hatch hither and thither, yet only where you want it to go.
My drive came with a DSG clutch which flaunted those three letters atop its leather bob-head. Nice to hold on to. The DSG six-speed gear box creates such a systematically synthesised graph of acceleration that effortlessly continues till around 4,500 cycles before downshifting with a marked trough in the mapping. But I have a feeling the cult fans will find that just a pause for breath before the next stroke.
The smallish, flat bottom steering is as sporty as you would like it with short paddle shifts behind – in fact too short and far in place to make me feel at ease instantly. Eventually when it did, it turned out to be a very meaningful addition to the GTI dyamics. You can have a lot of fun with it and it responds implicitly even if you swiftly downshift by the double.
Fuel efficiency is something the GTI doesn’t let you grudge. The fuel meter showed close to 9.8 litres per 100kms (10.2 km/L), which is way more impressive than half-as-sporty cars.
While the design variations aren’t that pronounced – the cult appeal is so strong that VW wouln’t want to toy with it – the rear seems to have been chopped and chiselled but maintains the signature GTI style with the top spoiler, and the five-spoke alloys. The red rear lights with their dark framing now adds more bling.
The new GTI cabin carries its plastics well with a nice touch of carbon fibre finish. The leather seats in matt black with their red double-stitch linings impressively blend sporty with subtle. Running all the way on the lower bumpers, the red lines of the Golf GTI light up the sporty side, just as the glowing door inserts inside do – they reminded me of those Chinese fluorescent strips that lure children at fair grounds.
Cabin and Controls
While stopped at signals, the silence was so pronounced that I almost thought the new GTI came with a start-stop mode. But then, idling is perhaps the only time the Golf GTI edges on silence. Actually, the cabin is exactly the opposite of insulated but this leaves you privy to the sound of the GTI, which is as invigorating as ever. You would have heard a large dose of ambient noise as well if it weren’t drowned by the sound of the car itself!
The graphically assisted surround parking sensors and the rear view camera which gives a clear, well-lit picture on the 5.5” screen, as though captured on an SLR camera, are all you need to guide you through any parking challenges.
The bluetooth telephony inside the cabin is straightforward, with clear speech and easy contact sharing. The touch controls on the screen look a bit jaded but do their job alright. Surprisingly though, there is no navigation option.
Doubling up as the family Golf, the storage is practically laid out in the performance-oriented GTI. Besides the door side pits, a sunglasses holder on the lamp pod above, cup holders and a decently-sized cubby hole under the armrest, there is press-open deep pocket too, that could hold a whole CD collection!
The music system in the GTI is rather decent for a sports car but can’t say the same about the radio. Disruptions were frequent on many of the stations. Balancing the equalizer wasn’t a very engaging thing too, especially because it brings about hardly noiceable results. Incidentally, the CD box sits inside the glove box but doesn’t eat into the space because it’s sensibly sticks to the top.
Somehow, the ride felt firmer than before and could be a bit too bouncy for those in the rear, with almost the same amount of body roll as ever.
The Essential Golf GTI 7th Generation
In the marketplace replete with sporty competition, and imitation, the Golf GTI stands alone. Not just because of its unquestionable power but also due to its absolutely confident handling while weaving in and out of streaming traffic. The only thing is that the speedier it gets, the bumpier it gets. But you will be too busy having fun to actually notice the disgruntled faces in your rearview mirror.
Drive Courtesy: Audi Volkswagen Middle East
Picture courtesy: Sudeep Koshy