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Vrrrphaaa! Golf R, GTI and GTD... Jhb to Bloem in three performance Golfs

2017-12-04 09:37

Image: Charlen Raymond / Wheels24

Charlen Raymond

Bloemfontein - There are a few things South Africans petrolheads will always get excited about, two of those are epic road trips and the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

The GTI remains one of the most popular hot hatches to grace our roads and it has a following that will trump almost any car locally.

It isn’t just the GTI that captured the hearts of the masses; the Golf R is also a fan favourite. Though more powerful and faster than the GTI, the R is every bit as precise to drive as the people’s champ.

Earlier in 2017, Volkswagen brought GTD to the local market. Just in case you were wondering, the GTD is the diesel version of the GTI. It is down on power in terms of kilowatts but it has the same torque of 350Nm.

These three vehicles may be performance cars, but each have their own traits and characteristics, as we were reminded on a recent round road trip from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein.

Gauteng to Parys - Golf R

The first leg of the trip from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein was undertaken behind the wheel of the Golf R; with the first pit stop in Parys.

The R uses the same 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine as the GTI but power has been increased to 213kW/380Nm. Coupled to VW’s all-wheel drive system, 0-100km/h is dispatched in 4.6 seconds, with a claimed top speed of 250km/h. And it feels fast, too! But the R, even with it being the most hardcore of the three cars in question, had no problem tackling the road to Parys.

In Race mode the suspension is hard and steering a lot weightier than in Normal, but it caters to the driver who wants his/her R to be on attack mode, all the time.

Engaging Comfort from the mode selection will see the car adopt a much calmer demeanour. The suspension softens up, steering becomes lighter, and the car is much more manageable as an everyday proposition. And its seven-speed DSG gearbox… bliksem, it’s responsive! Perhaps too responsive at times but the automatic ‘box is one of the best in the business.

Handling on the open road is not too shabbys either. The route covered a few twisty sections where one could explore the dynamism of the R. The car felt planted through sweeping bends and showed no body roll.

One of the great aspects of this drive was that the heavens opened up and a torrential downpour glistened the road. Deliberately putting the R to the test, it continued to offer grip in these less than favourable conditions and remained composed when hints of aquaplaning were detected.

Price: R657 000

Parys to Bloemfontein - Golf GTD

This would be my first time behind the wheel of the new Golf GTD. Much has been said and written about Volkswagen’s diesel GTI and I was eager to get behind the wheel of the hot hatch. 

It was never meant to compete against the GTI and R in terms of the performance but instead the GTD is a great diesel (read: frugal) alternative to its petrol-powered siblings.

Its 130kW would also not see it hold a candle to the others in terms of acceleration.

So why a GTD then, if it can’t perform?! It's simple - to show what's capable from a performance hatch powered by a diesel engine.

If the performance factor is taken out of the equation, the GTD will impress with its great  fuel consumption, stability at high speeds, direct steering and good chassis.

What it lacks, though, is the driving mode selector as found in the R and GTI. One can’t tune the chassis, engine and six-speed gearbox but instead mechanicals is in the hands of the driver. However, the GTD will offer a 7.4sec 0-100km/h time and a 230km/h top speed, all while returning a more than decent fuel economy.

The GTD was also driven on the first leg of the return trip from Bloemfontein to Kroonvaal.

Price: R506 900

Kroonvaal to Gauteng  - Golf GTI

The final stretch to OR International was about 130km, and half of those kms would belong to me. It’s not long enough to get reacquainted with a car I love to hate but it’d have to do.

Once comfortable behind the steering wheel, it felt like shaking hands with someone that always manages to get under your skin, yet it’s always good to see that person. That’s me and the Golf GTI. From the get-go the GTI impresses with the way it handles itself on the road; 0-100km/h sprint in just over six seconds (248km/h top speed).

Keep going!

The N1, with its dreary nature and unimaginative personality, had to make way for the surging GTI. The 2.0-litre engine growling at the front, while at the back the 169kW/350Nm emits that addictive Vrrrphaaa through the exhausts.

In Sport mode the hot hatch became tauter and a tad more intense. It’s hilarious how easy it is to drive and to get the maximum from it. Cruising at national speeds also highlighted just what a well-rounded car this GTI is.

Perfect, actually. Perhaps too perfect… but on this trip, I left no room for too technical thoughts to clamber into my mind. This was my end to the year. And in a car I can criticise for its brilliance to no end.

Price: R545 900

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