Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI S

2015 VW GTI S


The Golf GTI has always been synonymous with great driving dynamics, a reasonably low cost of entry, and loads of fun. Volkswagen Golfs with those three letters have always been rewarding to drive; it's been a winning formula for VW since 1976. It's also not a formula that gets messed with much. And frankly, VW knows how to execute the FWD performance hatchback.

2015 VW GTI frascia
For 2015, the seventh-generation Golf GTI is all new. However, like I previously said, VW doesn't mess with success. In fact, there are only slight exterior differences that allow you to tell a 2015 GTI from its previous years' predecessors, such as the headlights and minor changes to the front fascia. There are little cues here and there that are fresh and new, but there will be no mistaking it for anything other than a GTI. And by the way, you can still get the GTI in three-door models! (Don't worry—a five-door is also available.) I've always been a fan of the GTI's styling, and that continues with the MKVII. There are only two things I don't care for: The front corners (ala Audi R8) and the wheels' black accents. I can't wait for this style to go away

Our tester is a GTI S model, which is the entry level trim (there are S and SE models). This means, no moon roof, no navigation, no backup camera, and no Fender audio system. The S model is great for those who want a GTI, but don't need the extras, or the extra weight. What it does come with, however, are 18-inch wheels and tires, a sport-tuned fully independent suspension, a gusty engine, and great driving dynamics. Unlike many boy-racerish sport compact cars, the GTI has a mature feel to it. Not mature as in dowdy, but mature as in classy. Case in point? Look at those seats!

VW GTI plaid seats
In fact, one of my favorite things about our test model are the awesome plaid seats—a throwback to early GTI models—but heated. Not only do they look amazing, they hold you amazingly well. They are well bolstered and supportive. Our only concern is how long those big side bolsters would last after getting in and out of the car for years; they're a bit thin. Regardless, they're awesome now. During our week with the GTI, we had my mother visiting from Wisconsin, so the car regularly had three people in it. Everyone who sat in the rear seat said it was roomy and spacious. We did a lot of shopping while mom was in town, and the GTI's rear cargo area easily held shopping bags and groceries. Of course, that back seat can be folded down for a ton more space. Ah, hatchbacks: so practical! 

2015 VW GTI interior
The '15 GTI is classic VW interior, too. Solid, well put together, minimal and modern. Yes, there were a few bits didn't feel as if they were 100% solid, but overall, things felt pretty stout. If you're more accustomed to being in Japanese or American small cars, you may need a bit of time getting used to the controls, such as wipers, HVAC, mirrors, etc. They're just a little different. If you're VW regular, you'll know where everything's at. If you've had previous GTIs, you'll also enjoy the "golf ball" shift knob and chunky leather-wrapped wheel. Other features include a cooled glove box, ambient interior lighting, illuminated sill plates, an eight-speaker sound system, and 5.8" touchscreen display. Again, no navigation on the S model. However, one thing you won't get on any 2015 GTI models is a USB port. Pretty strange considering there are so many other techy bits. However, I hear that the 2016 models will have the USB port.

VW TSI engine
This GTI is powered by a turbocharged TSI four-cylinder engine making 210 horsepower at 4,500 RPM, and a healthy 258 lbs/ft of torque at a very low 1,500 RPM. This means there's plenty of scoot for around town, but it still moves out all the way up to redline. There are normal and sport modes; I'd be lying if I didn't say I drove 98% of the time in sport. The clutch uptake is high, something that took some getting used to, but is also pretty typical VW. It should be noted that a sport package is available which adds 10 horsepower, a VAQ differential, and upgraded brakes.

All this means that the GTI is quick little hatchback. With all that torque, the car is quick around town, yet still has plenty of thrust on the highway. There were numerous occasions where the front wheels broke loose, but the traction control quickly quells that. And by the way, there is the XDS differential system, so in the corners, the GTI sticks like glue.

2015 VW GTI S driving

Speaking of handling, the GTI continues to live up to its reputation of being a handler. The standard 18x7.5 inch wheels and sticky Bridgestone tires offer tenacious grip. The steering—oh the steering! In a world in which so many cars lack any sort of steering feel, the GTI reminds you that there is life outside of numb, overboosted turning. In terms of front-drivers, the GTI's handling is definitely at the top of the pile. This is a car you just want to fling at every possible moment. It's a damn hoot to drive enthusiastically. It rewards you nearly all the time. The ride is on the firm side, and that's accented by the 40-series tires. You do feel every crack in the pavement.

By the way, our GTI was equipped with a true shift-it-yourself six-speed manual transmission. The very good DSG automatic is also available for for an $1,100 up charge. Fuel economy ratings for our GTI are 25 city, 28 combined, and 34 city on premium fuel. We got about 28 MPG.

If there was one thing I'd like to see changed on the GTI it'd be a twinge louder exhaust note. In fact, any exhaust note would be welcome. Yes, this is easily remedied by the aftermarket, but still. Let's hear this little beasty!

So how much will all this fun run? Our tester stickered at $25,605 including destination, which I think it an extremely fair price of the amount of performance and driving pleasure you get from the GTI. And while rear-wheel drive is all the rage these days, the GTI is still a hot hatch, and is still a kick in der lederhosen.

THE BASICS: 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI S
MSRP As Tested: $25,605
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Horsepower: 210
Torque: 258 lbs/ft
Curb Weight: 2,972 lbs.
Wheelbase: 103.6"
Overall Length: 168"
Suspension: F: Independent front, 24mm sway bar
R: Independent multilink, 20 mm sway bar
Brakes: F: Disc w/ABS
R: Disc w/ABS
Wheels: 18x7.5 alloy 
Tires: 225/40/18
Range & MPG: 21 city, 29 highway, 24 combined

1 comment:

Ducati Scotty said...

I love that they kept the dimpled shift knob and plaid seats, nice nod to heritage. I still remember those from my friend's Rabbit GTI in high school.