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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Thu, Jul 20, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


Let's just cut to the chase: I love this car. If California didn't give out those stickers to allow certain hybrids to ride the carpool lanes without a carpool, this GTI would be my choice as the car to navigate the streets and highways of Los Angeles in rush-hour traffic.

The reasons why this car is so ideally suited are many: It's short, stubby exterior, relatively tall sitting position, and all-around good visibility make it an easy car to park and change lanes in. The torquey 2.0-liter direct-injection turbocharged engine exhibits virtually no lag in motion. Couple this with the extraordinary DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) six-speed automatic transmission and sporty new suspension, and you have a recipe for the perfect machine to zip in and out of traffic. Let's put it another way: There are things you can safely do with the GTI that most sane people will never try in a lesser vehicle. If urban driving is sometimes akin to entering a war zone, then the GTI is your Strategic Defense Initiative. But the GTI is more than a defense initiative. It's a thoroughly entertaining ride. It can turn some of the most mundane routes into avenues of entertainment. Much of the credit goes to the optional DSG transmission - surely the most advanced automatic transmission currently on the market. Like all manu-matics, the DSG allows you to shift manually and stay in your preferred gear. Unlike most other manu-matics, however, the shifts are lightning-quick under brisk acceleration.

If that isn't enough, the DSG has a "sport" mode that is truly sporty. The "S" mode manages to be in just the right gear for spirited driving as well as for stop-and-go high-density traffic situations. An added benefit are the crazy flipper fingers on the F1-style steering wheel, allowing you to automatically upshift or downshift manually without having to take your hands off the wheel (it goes back into "S" mode after extended non-use of the flippers or when the car comes to a stop). Last, but not least, the DSG is so efficient that it actually returns better acceleration times and city gas mileage figures than the standard six-speed manual transmission-equipped GTI. Inside Report A word on the interior: One has to marvel at the designers, engineers, and autoworkers responsible for Volkswagen (and sister company Audi) interiors. The integration of soft and hard plastics, brushed and chrome metals, and fabrics come together in fabulous fashion. The press photos don't do it justice; you really have to sit down in this car to fully appreciate the interior execution.

Battle Lines This past year, there has been no car comparison test more popular that pitting the new GTI against the new Honda Civic Si. Both are outstanding sport compact cars. Just about every enthusiast magazine has published the comparison, and the winner - more often than not - depended on how the GTI was equipped. You can have your GTI with either the standard 17-inch Classic X 14-spoke wheels or the optional 18-inch Hufeisen five-spoke wheels. Either can be had with summer performance tires or optional (no extra charge) all-season tires. The winning combination (at least for comparison test purposes) seems to be the 18-inch wheels with summer tires, on a GTI equipped with the quicker shifting DSG transmission. 007 For model year 2007, there are even more goodies in store for the GTI. The most anticipated one is the addition of a four-door model - just like the ones sold in Europe. VW announced that it'll cost $500 more than the two-door coupe. Good news for enthusiasts: The four-door model is just as short and stubby as the two-door, and weighs but a mere 60 pounds more.

Another worthy feature expected for 2007 is something called Launch Control for DSG automatic transmission-equipped vehicles. Launch Control allows the DSG to make jack rabbit-like, high rpm launches from a standing start. It should be good for shaving a few tenths of a second off your 0-60 and quarter-mile acceleration times. Last, but not least, there's a running change to the 2007 GTI to lower it back down to European specs. The 2006 USA model had been raised slightly to conform to domestic bumper standards. It's not clear how the 2007 model gets around this issue, but enthusiasts are more than happy to have the GTI's center of gravity lowered for cornering purposes. Assets & Liabilities Aside from being easy to zip in and out of traffic, easy to park and being an absolute blast to drive, the GTI is easy on your gas bills for such a high performing vehicle. The EPA rates the DSG-equipped car at 31 miles per gallon on the highway and 25 in the city. Of course, your mileage will vary - and don't expect to get these great figures if you leave the DSG in sport mode all the time. Premium gas is recommended, by the way, but not required.

Like most Volkswagens, the GTI has a short turning radius. This makes it a good getaway car for those L.A. moments when you want to be the subject of the evening's car chase news. Following that train of thought, the GTI is also quite roomy - and its hatchback design means you can stash a lot of loot in the boot. There's not a whole lot to say on the debit side. The sound system kind of sucks (harsh upper midrange and no extended bass) - surprising, since this is the same automaker that brings us the state-of-the-art Phaeton sound system and the exemplary DynAudio system in the new Passat. Of course, if you don't like the sound from the speakers, you can turn them off and listen to the sound of the motor. The GTI has one of the best-sounding four-bangers around - rivaling that of the MX5 and some of Honda's high-revving screamers. A few owners of the 2006 model have complained about rattles from the sunroof. There's an easy fix for this: Don't order the sunroof. From an enthusiast's perspective, it merely raises the price of the options list, not to mention raises the center-of-gravity of the car.

Parting Shots For a car that retails for only $22,000, the GTI offers a lot of bang for the buck It also offers lots of room, versatility, and economy. Try to avoid going crazy on the options - they can add up fast. Other than the DSG transmission - and maybe the optional wheels and satellite radio - there's not much more you need. SUMMARY JUDGMENT It's not just the perfect urban guerrilla - the GTI is more fun than a barrow of monkeys. Do you want a GTI with a trunk? Read the LA Car review of the GLI. For more information about Volkswagen products, go to

SPECIFICATIONS Name of Vehicle: 2006 VW GTI Price of vehicle: $21,990 (plus destination charges) $27,615 (as tested, includes navigation system, six-CD changer, power sunroof, 18-inch wheels, and satellite radio) Engine type: 2.0-liter in-line, direct-injection four-cylinder turbocharged/intercooled, with a cast iron block and aluminum heads Horsepower: 200 bhp at 5,500 rpm Torque: 207 pound-feet at 1,800-4,700 rpm Drive configuration: Front-wheel-drive Transmission type: Six-speed manual or optional DSG six-speed semi-automatic Front suspension: MacPherson struts with lower wishbones, aluminum subframe, tubular anti-roll bar, track stabilizing steering roll radius Rear suspension: Four-link with separate springs/shock absorber arrangement, subframe, and a tubular anti-roll bar Wheels/tires: 7.5x18 aluminum alloy wheels with 225/40R18 summer performance tires Brakes: Front: 11.9 inch vented discs with dual-piston calipers Rear: 11.6 inch solid discs with single-piston calipers Power assisted, ABS, EBD, BA and electronic differential lock Overall length: 165.8 inches Overall width: 69.3 inches Overall height: 58.4 inches Curb weight: 3308 pounds (3352 automatic). EPA mileage specs: 23 mpg/city, 32 mpg/highway (six-speed manual) 25 mpg/city, 31 mpg/highway (six-speed automatic)  

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