The 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI
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 Tue, Dec 2, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Ever since the original high performance hatchback emerged in 1976, Volkswagen has been honing the GTI to pocket rocket perfection. For 2015, Volkswagen introduces the seventh generation GTI, raising the bar once again. But it’s not just the performance that impresses, the craftsmanship in the new GTI easily surpasses anything else in its class. Editor-at-Large Zoran Segina reports.
By Zoran Segina
I met Steve in the racing school at Willow Springs International Raceway many years ago. A dedicated pupil, Steve brought his own car—a used, but race-ready Golf GTI with a manual transmission. When driven fast around tight corners, the GTI would lift its inside rear wheel off the ground. This was a well-known feature which provided some great photo footage. In right corners, however, Steve's GTI would get its wheel up in the air much more than in the left corners - an effect of its driver tipping the scales at close to three hundred pounds.
At lunch Steve lamented about lack of performance in his GTI, and the money he had to spend on racing parts to improve the car. As we all helped ourselves generously to sandwiches and cookies, one could see a common thought forming, which we could not share with Steve: A serious diet would dramatically improve power-to-weight ratio in his GTI, and save him a lot of money.
I remembered Steve while testing the all new 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE. The new model is eighty-two pounds lighter than its predecessor. It is a modern racing car that in spare time passes, quite successfully, for a passenger hatchback.
The dashboard is geared toward racing. The multi-control buttons on the ergonomic leather and brushed aluminum wheel are just at the right place. The 2015 GTI was conceived with an idea to spend money on performance, not flash. The leather covered seats, with partial mechanical adjustment, have inside parts made out of cloth. There is no (standard) satellite navigation, but there is an oil temperature gauge and a comprehensive lap timer with the last and the fastest lap times easily recorded. Above the driver sits a huge glass roof with mesh covering. The GTI has a remote start system. The console also has a built-in charger for an iPhone. On the tested model, however, it worked intermittently.
The biggest surprise awaits as I step on the metal-and-rubber gas pedal. The specifications state that this GTI is powered by a 210 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. But the insane acceleration as the car darts through the traffic belies the facts on the paper. What is under the hood? The EA888 engine in the 2015 GTI should be renumbered 666. This much power can only be a result of black magic conceived by the warlocks and witches of Wolfsburg—no wonder it means the Wolf Castle. One feels the spirit of Innocent VIII, dusting off his 1484 papal bull, and calling for appropriate inquisition measures in Germany.
The magic in the GTI power plant stems from the 258 pound-feet of torque that spans an incredible range—1500 to 4500 rpm. The six speed automatic floor shifter transfers this torque through three basic positions—drive, sport and manu-matic. A gentle tug on the shifter will switch it to the sport mode and change engine mapping. A press toward the right engages manu-matic which can be also achieved by pressing paddle shifters at any time.
At that point, a sensible commute turns into skipping from one open traffic spot to the next. The GTI's acceleration, handling and phenomenal braking capability (a subject onto itself), will get me out of any potential problem with plenty of margin for safety. A visible sign of the engineering wizardry under the hood is the tachometer needle which jumps, within a fraction of a second, from one position to the next. It resembles the old racing cars tachometers which were connected directly to the crankshaft rather than to a distributor cap. This made them darty, but more precise.
A long freeway trip, however, raises the fuel consumption to 23 mpg. It involves having the Tall Girl as a co-pilot which significantly civilizes my driving style. Her principal complaint, besides my driving, is that the deep bucket seats pull her pants down, an unladylike consequence of their intended design. Insertion of a small pillow alleviates the problem somewhat.
The GTI marries two almost incompatible concepts: A tremendous amount of torque at relatively low engine revolutions. It should not be possible, and yet is it here for me to use. A violent straight-line acceleration in a front wheel car should bring a torque steer, but it doesn't. A thirty grand hatchback should not have brakes that stop a ton-and-a-half of mass within distances so short that passengers beg for mercy. Yet the red calipers on the GTI repeatedly do, with no fade, and no drama.
Women taking part in spirited test drives in the GTI get weak in the knees. Not so much from the ruggedly good looks of the test driver but the fact that sudden changes of speed and direction make them nauseous. Rosie, while claiming that the test drive left her hair stand on end, appreciates deep bucket seats which, reportedly, massage her obliques. In another test drive through tight curves, Joy invokes the deity of her choice. Even with the Tall Girl who wants a quiet drive, the low-end torque makes accelerating in freeway traffic jerky, as the GTI switches into lower gear.
If the already firm suspension will not suffice, a button next to the shifter calls on the Sport mode. The suspension and steering stiffen. The S mode is automatically engaged, but it the car works best with paddle shifters.
The electronics within the GTI do show quirks at times. In the short week it is impossible to check all available individualized settings. The remote door lock first works fine, then stops for few days, and then comes back. A resetting of the fuel consumption gauge brings a false low tire pressure warning, until the VW technician finds the correct reset sequence on the computer. I find the resolution of the rear view camera too dark.
During one of the neck-snapping accelerations, Jim recalls full military power feature of the WWII planes. When needed, the pilot could push the throttle and dramatically increase the power. Repeated strain on the engines would destroy them, so the gas lever was blocked by a wire to prevent accidental engagement. The GTI's version of military power, however, can be brought at any time. Without consequences.
That is not entirely true. Forty dollars of premium gas pushes the needle from empty to almost full, but continued aggressive driving in the Sport mode sucks the gas out of the tank like there is a hole in it. Average consumption drops to 15 mpg, and can even get lower. After a while, tearing through traffic becomes exhausting. I shift into the standard drive to keep the revs low and the fuel consumption reasonable. Knowing that all this power is available at any time, allows me to be benevolent.
With the digital display turned off, a classy analog version of the clock appears on the screen. Less logical is a reminder that by rolling the windows up I can save gas. Negotiating a tight corner in the sport mode with 4000 rpm in the third gear, this is perhaps not my biggest concern. With the open windows at freeway speed, the passenger seat belt bangs against the B pillar.
The design of the new GTI follows the shape we all grew to love over the years. The front fascia has functional opening for the rotating front lights which illuminate the corners. Front end will scrape against any raised driveway, but this is a small price to pay for outstanding aerodynamics. And the front light bezels, surrounded by square LEDs, just look beautiful. Flare lines above the wheels bring focus on five-spoke brushed aluminum wheels with red brake calipers peeking from behind. The roofline is accentuated by a winglet in the rear, and the rear end is complemented by two chromed exhaust pipes. Tips of the rear view mirror housings are illuminated. Two glowing thin red lines on the doors and doorsills warn the inexperienced that this is may be danger-laden zone. The 2015 GTI resembles an old crush who, while away, underwent a very good plastic surgery. Her familiar appealing features are still here; they just look fresher.
The back of the GTI caters to the practical. The longer chassis allows for better accommodation. The center elbow rest can be lowered to open space for long items. There are reading lights, and cup holders, and - a necessary item - grab handles for all occupants.
Despite the practical aspects, the 2015 GTI is a racer. If only my everyday commute and errands involved racetracks. The GTI would feel at home because that environment lies at the center of its genetics; the car feels most alive when pushed to the edge of its performance. In the Southern California freeway traffic, such driving probably does not make the commute any shorter, but, oh, does it make it fun. There were times when the race cars arrived to the track under their own power. The racers would take off the fenders, compete, and after the race was over, make the cars street legal, and went home. A 2015 GTI, with a racing cage, five-point seatbelt harness, fire extinguisher, the main electrical switch on the hood, and a good driver may even win a race, and still remain civilized enough to take the winner home. Steve, are you there? For more information about Volkswagen products, go to www.vw.com SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2015 Volkswagen GTI SE Price: $24,395 (base) $30,910 (as tested) SE Package includes: Power tilting/sliding panoramic sunroof Rearview camera Fender® Premium Audio System with 8 speakers including subwoofer Keyless access with push-button start Ambient door trim accent lighting Leather seating surfaces with red stitching EPA mileage estimates City/Highway: 25/33 mpg LA Car observed: 19.8 mpg Engine type: Turbocharged gasoline in-line four cylinder 2.0 liter DOHC 16-valves with hydraulic lifters, intercooled TSI, variable intake and exhaust timing Horsepower: 210 @ 4500 rpm Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm Drive configuration: Front wheel drive Transmission type: 6-speed automatic with DSG electronic Tiptronic with Sport mode an paddle shifters Steering: Rack and pinion, electric power assist Suspension Front: Strut type with lower control arms, telescopic dampers and 24 mm diameter anti-roll bar. Rear: Multilink, coil springs, telescopic dampers, 20 mm diameter anti-roll bar Wheels: 18-inch x 8J aluminum alloy wheels with Bridgestone Potenza 225/40R18 92Y tires Brakes Front: 12.3 x 1.2 inch power-assisted dual circuit vented discs Rear: 10.7 x 0.4 in. sold rear discs Weight: 3,086 pounds