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Driven: VW Golf 6 GTI

2009-06-25 12:17
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Volkswagen
Model GTI
Engine 2.0 TSI
Power 155kW @ 5 100r/min
Torque 280Nm @ 1 800r/min
Transmission Six-speed manual/DSG
Zero To Hundred 6.9 sec
Top Speed 240km/h (238km/h)
Fuel Tank 55l
Fuel Consumption 7.3l/100km
Weight 1 393kg
Boot Size 350l (275l with spare)
ABS Yes, with EDB, ASR, EDL
Airbags Seven
Tyres 225/40R18
Front Suspension McPherson struts
Rear Suspension Multi-link
Service Intervals 15 000km
Service Plan 5 year/90 000km
Warranty 3 year/100 000km
Price R317 300, DSG R331 800
Rivals Focus ST, Megane Sport 2.0 T, A3 2.0 TFSI

Lance Branquinho

VW’s Golf GTI. As an automotive topic of conversation it’s hardly of the “Who won last year’s Idols” inconsequence.

Little wonder then, that everybody has an opinion on the new GTI VI. Buy one and you’ll be fending off comparative detail enquiries between GTI V and VI as a matter of course.

Your mates at work will say it only has 8kW more engine power and carry-over rotational force numbers from the GTI V.

Your grandmother will comment how similar the interior is when you take her back to the old age home after Sunday family lunch.

Your sister’s son will surely have a chirp or two concerning the 18-inch alloy wheels, which have been retained from the predecessor, too.

Don’t even mention the price.

If your significant other even sees the VW dealer documentation, stating an offer to purchase on the wrong side of R300 000, you’ll be spending an equal amount on relationship counselling just to get back to tolerable silent treatment levels.

It begs the question then; has the seminal hot hatch gone lukewarm?

Well, no, not really.

Lights are new, bumper too, with all the front elements horizontally arranged instead of the deep V-shape of the Golf V GTI. Wheels inexplicably unchanged...

New face

GTI VI has taken all the refinement and dynamic ability of its predecessor (a brilliant car in itself) and added a touch here and there. I believe the word is "evolutionary".

Now before you curse your LCD monitor and abuse your keyboard, consider another German performance car icon and the nearly cynical level of continuous improvement it has visited upon enthusiasts.

Porsche’s 911 updates are at times so arcane they necessitate copious amounts of recreational drugs to notice or understand, yet everybody still agrees – the 911 remains a stupefyingly good car. Check the sales figures and you’re left in no doubt.

It’s the same logic VW has applied with the new GTI. It was hardly going to boost the car to 177kW Seat Leon performance levels, and why mess with a formula that was so well received with GTI V?

The changes are minor.

From a styling perspective the horizontal grille design, framed by a new bumper (housing the honeycomb mesh lower fascia) and headlight inners are undoubtedly more successful than those oversized, new rear light clusters.

Framing the lower section of the GTI’s rump is a diffuser, with dual exhaust tips jutting out from under each corner.

The silhouette is very similar to GTI V.

VW’s spectacularly entertaining German-sourced press material served up the quote of the century, dispelling any doubts concerning GTI’s purported styling anonymity. On page 12 it refers to the new GTI as follows: ”This is a genuine GTI that can be recognised as such from five kilometres away.” Through a Canon 1200mm EF telephoto lens perhaps…

Rear diffuser neatly framed by individual exhaust ends. Over sized lights take a lot of getting used too. Have we mentioned they haven't changed the wheels?

So yes, the front looks purposeful, whilst the rear has as much visual tension as yogurt served in a white bowl.

Those wheels too, they might be black lacquered inside, yet it’s absolutely sinful VW carried them over from the previous range.

So prepare to endure your nephew’s chirping – he has a point about the mags.

Inside passengers will be at their wits end to point out significant differences between GTI V and VI.

Unless you let Grandma drive, she’ll never experience the tactile delight of the new flat-bottomed steering wheel – which is devoid of multifunction controls, as befits most local VW products…

Standard cabin appointments include leather Vienna sports seats up (heated, yet the driver’s seat doesn’t adjust low enough) and automatic dual-zone climate control. If you want big sound, SatNav or an electric sunroof you’ll need to budget accordingly and tick those option boxes.

New steering wheel is great, multifunction control R1 100 extra though - a VW characteristic.

What about the dynamics though?

VW says the 2.0 TSI engine is a new unit, yet configuration and architecture are similar to the GTI V mill. This essentially means it has a seamlessly integrated turbocharger, feeds the four cylinders via direct injection and features decidedly stroke (and torque) biased engine architecture.

With only 8kW more on offer, your mates at work might be right though – instead of heating up performance with the latest GTI, VW may inadvertently have left it on defrost in the engine development microwave.

There are new pistons, yet most of the changes are aimed at efficiency, reducing emissions and consumption. Stuff like the regulated oil pump, high pressure fuel pump and mass airflow sensor are all onboard primarily to appease Brussels in its quest for air purifying.

It may be an affront to the GTI badge to quote consumption figures before acceleration times, yet the GTI VI’s 7.3l/100km combined cycle consumption bests the GTI V’s by a tidy 0.7l margin. Drive neatly and this new GTI should cruise 750km between fill ups.

Performance is hardly lethargic though.

Both manual and DSG transmission GTIs are claimed to stop the timer at 6.9 sec from 0-100km/h – yet with the manual you would have to be a Giniel de Villiers of sorts to match the three-pedal GTI’s times.

Kyalami’s undulating layout was the perfect foil to test GTI VI’s capabilities.

Featuring a front axle lowered by 15mm, with the rear multi-link set-up trailing 22mm lower, Golf VI’s suspension goodies (coils, dampers and rear stabilisers) have been fundamentally recalibrated.

Beyond the mechanics, there is a XDS transverse differential lock, which is tidy VW engineering jargon for a standard open front differential with very clever traction control.

Track certified

Around Kyalami’s faster sweeps GTI was awfully forgiving, with outstanding body control and ace cornering neutrality.

The rear axle is benevolently balanced under severe weight transfer when scrubbing off speed into the tighter corners – obviously it goes light when you are being overly adventurous, yet refuses to unnervingly step out of line.

Powering out of Wesbank, or Kyalami’s last corner before the pit straight, the XDS pseudo slippy-diff electronics work a treat too, quelling petulant wheel spin and preventing the nose from washing wide.

Although one should probably not comment on ride quality - considering Kyalami is an immaculately surfaced international quality racetrack - this latest GTI appears to ride awfully well.

The damping characteristics are really golden mean stuff, perfect rebound not to send you bumping through corners if you’re pushing on a bit, yet taut enough to prevent unnerving amounts of body roll.

Considering the cars we piloted at Kyalami did not benefit from the three stage adaptive damping system (optional), dynamics are even more impressive.

It’s good then? Quite.

Of course, when you hear the price, you’ll mumble something about it being rudely expensive.

If you do a rudimentary tabulation of CPI inflation since GTI V was launched five years ago (at R240 000), it means GTI VI could cost R305 000 today. I am no economist, and it’s a very unscientific moving average, yet we are living in a very strong inflationary environment and cars are not commodities beyond the sphere of pricing influence.

GTI VI then, at R317 300, is hardy out of step with the economic reality of the situation, especially considering you’re getting a new car with contemporary technology.

I wish they'd changed the wheels and chucked in a maintenance plan as part of the purchase price though…

In perception then, GTI VI would appear to have gone off the boil.

In reality though - the most influential hot hatch is still very much the 911 of hot hatches.


Manual    R317 300
DSG         R331 800


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