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DRIVEN: New VW Golf GTD - the accidental offroad adventure

2017-07-21 12:33

Janine Van der Post

Image: Wheels24 / Janine van der Post

Cape Town - Earlier in May 2017, Volkswagen launched its latest Golf range in South Africa with  the new 'Mk 7.5' TSI and GTI variants.

In July, VW adds two more performance versions - the highly-anticipated Golf GTD and Golf R.

Wheels24's Janine Van der Post attended the launch in Hermanus and had a rather adventurous journey behind the wheel of the diesel-powered Golf.

The GTI of diesel-powered hatches

Having driven the Golf GTD in Spain earlier this year at its international launch, I immediately fell in love with it and couldn't wait for the diesel Golf to arrive in South Africa.

It's arrival marks the first time the GTD moniker is used on our shores despite being sold in other markets many years ago.

Volkswagen launches new Golf R and GTD in SA: We have prices, details

In essence, as sporty and thrilling as the GTI is, I'd choose a GTD over its iconic sibling. 

'Same same, but different'

Volkswagen's GTI and GTD share many similar traits but they're two totally different cars under the skin. Overall, the GTD is a lot more refined.

"It's all about the torque, the torque, the torque..." says Volkswagen SA, in short, it's "pure GTI performance in a diesel version."

The automaker reckons the EA28 series engine is more powerful but delivers better efficiency at the same time. The engine is good for 130kW and 350Nm of delicious torque, while fuel consumption is rated at 5.3-litres/100km. It has a claimed top speed of 230km/h and reaches 100km/h in 7.4 seconds. 

The launch was a tad different than the usual media fanfare - motoring journo's gathering for a cuppa, viewing a presentation about the vehicle of the day. This time round, we hopped into a GTD and set off on the route as soon as we arrived.

I was one of the last to arrive, and was adamant to drive on my own. "That's my hood", I told the VW operations guys very smugly, "I know the area like the back of my hand". Little did I know how badly my boast would come to haunt me.

The GTD is even more pleasant to drive at home in SA than it was abroad. It's a solid car and it feels sturdy on the road whether you're cruising on the highway, crawling the traffic or pushing it around the Cape's amazing passes. Due to its progressive steering and XDS, says VW, cornering is a peach and will leave a huge grin on your face. 

As innovative as the new 'Discover Pro' infotainment system is with gesture control for the redesigned 8" screen, the fancy vehicle navigation system was not displaying the way I had wanted. So in turn I used a button I shouldn't have. I know the area yes, but I wasn't sure on which route to take... so I created my own.

The satnav took me on a new route, and I thought "what a great road, why didn't we just use it in the first place?" Little did I know, the sho't left turn I was about to take up ahead, was an incomplete gravel road, in process of being tarred. 

My scenic drive turned into a daunting off-road adventure as I tackled off-road terrain more suited it the Golf's Amarok bakkie sibling. Yet, the shiny, beautiful GTD had enough grunt to push through  gravel and soft clay. An old 4x4 trick - maintain momentum. My trip however was exacerbated by muddy terrain and being stuck behind a huge tractor, slowing me down even further.

I kept my distance but was afraid that if I came to a halt, the GTD would be bogged down in the mud. I also feared for the undercarriage as I avoided huge rocks and potholes. So much for being a smartypants... 

Eventually, I had to stop, and when I needed to move again, I felt the car's tyres dig deep into the soft earth. My nerves were shot. I gave the GTD some throttle and thank goodness for its 350Nm of torque, I got out of there without any hassle. The rest of the 8km road was smooth-sailing, albeit on gravel and smooth clay surfaces. 

I felt horrible because the new aerodynamic bumpers with air-curtains and its 18" Sevilla rims were caked in dirt and the rest of the car covered in a duvet of dust. At the same time I was also thankful for the animated LED tail lights which flickered in the middle of nowhere, warning oncoming bakkies of my out-of-place Golf.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I eventually saw civilisation again, and to my delight, the Volkswagen flags were right there marking the final destination.

At least I had a good 90km drive before the detour, and the GTD doesn't project any sound that its a diesel derivative, in fact it has a subtle grunt that's pleasant to the ear. It's a refined car, like the more sensible, albeit less spirited, big brother to the GTI. 

It's a car for the grown up racerboy- or girl - who still wants to have the same amount of fun without compromising on driving a family vehicle.


VW Golf GTD 2.0-litre 130kW 6-speed DSG - R506 700
VW Golf GTI 169kW 6-speed DSG - R545 800

Cape Town radio personality, DJ and dad, Tyrone Paulsen managed to get a taste of the new GTD and had this to say: "The Golf GTD has the look and feel of a GTI, but with the sensibility of a family car. I love the new size infotainment display. The smooth torque delivery in any gear with very li'l turbo lag makes it a winner for me. If the pricing is cheaper than a GTI, I think this one is going to be a winner!"


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