Cape Town - There's that one kid from high school that couldn't do anything wrong. He or she was smart, athletic, charming and loved by all the teachers. You secretly hated that person.
In the motoring world, that's the Golf GTI.
Breakfast runs don't get better than this
The GTI is well-built, frugal (at least compared to its rivals), comfortable, practical and fast enough to excite your senses. Given its sales, it's the perfect real-world performance hatch; a car you drive home after a long day at work that pins your head back as you enjoy the sensation of driving fast.
What about the rest of the VW hot hatch stable? Are they as annoyingly good as the standard GTI?
I rose early on Sunday morning and joined Volkswagen for a day to sample the Golf GTI Performance Pack, Golf R and Scirocco R.
Golf GTI Performance Pack
I had my first taste of the GTI Performance Pack (PP) and I have to admit was pleasantly surprised. It looks like a normal GTI sans for a red badge on its derriere, GTI-emablazoned front-brake callipers and larger brakes: 340mm at the front, 310mm at the rear.
Power is up from 162kW to 169kW though torque remains at 350Nm.
The PP's unique selling point is that VW has fitted it with an electronic front differential lock. The differential lock works out what type of corner the driver is heading into and adjusts to put down 100% of the power onto the road. Added to that it features 'torque vectoring' which channels torque at the wheel on the outside of the bend and negates all understeer when power is applied.
I've driven very few cars that feel that neutral when tackling fast, sweeping corners. The GTI PP is enthralling to drive.
The level of grip is astounding and in many ways the PP is a "sleeper car", not in being terribly fast but the fact that it can be driven hard through corners not so much as tremble from its chassis.
Definitely one of the best car I've driven in a long time. Well done PP.
2.0 TSI 169kW DSG - R482 600
Watch the GTI Performance Pack in action below:
Hurtling along the R43 in Wolselely, which is hugged by the Breërivier on its right and the majestic Winterberg mountain range on the left. The weather is calm, a tad chilly but the seat warmers keep my toosh toasty.
The Golf R, is under my reigns. I've nestled myself into the large, comfortable seats, tuned in the perfect seating position and I'm gunning it.
VW has festooned the R with a myriad of electronics to aid traction at all times and improve handling.
Admittedly, the steering is not as accurate as its performance siblings but the R is supremely comfortable, thanks to its optional adaptive dampers.
Gear changes in the R, are orchestrated by a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, complete with a satisfying thump from the diff each time I tug at the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
The R works as a great cross-country car. It's practical and supremely rapid due to its 206kW/380Nm on tap. But ultimately it lacks the engagement factor that I garnered when driving the Performance Pack.
2.0 TSI 206kW Manual - R575 800
2.0 TSI 206kW DSG - R591 800
The iconic Scirocco's R, launched in 2010, is long in the tooth compared to its siblings. Heck, it still uses the MkIV GTi's EA888 engine which generates 188kW/350Nm.
Eager to give the two-door hatch an update, the Scirocco in 2016 features new head and tail lights, a new bumper and interior tweaks. The addition of cool LEDs certainly make the Scirocco more modern and in-line with its siblings.
Inside, the cabin is a bit of the throwback, with dials and fonts familiar to MKIV owners. Volkswagen says its updated the dashboard with new-look dials and an auxiliary instrument cluster above the centre console featuring: a chronometer, charge pressure and oil temperature gauges – a tribute to the 1974 model.
Back to the driving...
The Scirocco certainly looks purposeful; it's low, wide, smothered in a darkish blue and has 'black shoe polish' on its wheels. Activating the push/button ignition, the 2.0-litre fires-up sharply. While the Golf R is four-wheel drive, the Scirocco is front-wheel based.
With Sport mode engaged, the adaptive dampers in their hardest setting I meander the front-wheel drive hatch in the direction of Houwhoek pass.
The Scirocco scythes through the pass with the poise and balance of French football star Paul Pogba. The reason for its control on the road? The coupe has been afforded a bespoke sports chassis setup and is equipped with a front-axle differential-lock XDS.
The XDS moves the goalposts forward from the electronic differential lock (EDS), integrated with the electronic stability control programme. It tries its utmost to eradicate traction loss.
It genuinely feels inspiring to drive and I whisked through the pass with its wide track, 1569mm (front) and 1575mm at the rear, adds to its hunkered-down feel.
For me, the Scirocco R portrays itself as a fire-spitting coupe but in reality its a great Grand Tourer (GT). It might be 'old' but the Scirocco R still has a lot going for it.
2.0 TSI 188kW R DSG - R546 100
Check out our impression of the GTI Clubsport here.