Test Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI
The all-new GTI has one thing in common with its previous six generations: it's still some of the most fun driving around
The Golf has been a favorite in its segment since its debut in 1974, selling more than 30 million cars worldwide. The latest generation—its seventh—is finally arriving in the US after a year in other markets. It’s worth the wait. A wider, longer, lower, lighter, faster, more powerful ride comes with the added benefit of increased fuel efficiency and storage space.
We’ve always been partial to the GTI, though those who don’t desire the extra performance have five other strong options: the TSI range includes multiple trim levels (the two door, five-speed manual “Launch” edition starts at $18,000 and you can upgrade through the various two and four-door S, SE and SEL editions); the four-door TDI offers increased fuel efficiency and diesel dependability (and is also available in S, SE and SEL trim levels); the four-door e-Golf (VW’s first electric model available in the US) arrives in late 2014; both the Sportwagon and the R, the Golf’s top-of-the-line sport edition, arrive in the US in early 2015. Just about everyone and anyone can find a model and trim level suited to their needs, desires and budget—a hallmark of the Golf line.
All models share a new platform based on VW’s new MQB chassis architecture, and feature an upgraded interior that feels more upscale than the Golf’s price. Also new to all models of the seventh generation Golf family is a 5.8” capacitive touch display, updated infotainment system, a very impressive variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering system and a safety feature—a first in any car, the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System—which engages the brakes after any impact to stop the car from moving and causing more damage or secondary impact. Optional equipment (included with some of the trim packages) includes automatic AC and a Fender audio system.
The Golf’s new profile is enhanced further with the GTI’s styling—a very visibly different front featuring a red stripe between the lights and mesh grill, a fascia with LED fog lights and sporty strakes, sport bumpers, a roof spoiler, dual tip exhaust tips, GTI-specific wheels, red brake calipers, red contrast stitching and more. But the upgrade isn’t only visual, and this vehicle certainly doesn't disappoint. The 2015 GTI outperforms its predecessor and most of its competitors, proving that it’s still some of the most fun you can have driving a car that’s truly accessible.
A new, though somewhat limited, feature is the driving mode selector which is accessible through the touchscreen and allows the driver to adjust the car’s suspension, throttle and steering. A more exciting option is the DCC adaptive damping system, available on top of the Performance package. The additional $2500 for both kicks power, handling, braking and ride up substantially, and includes a torque-sensing electronic limited-slip differential, ensuring that the front-wheel-drive car sticks when pushed.
Our only major complaint is that the the exterior colors are limited to a fairly generic set of white, black, silver grays, a blue and a red. VW would benefit by stepping this up a notch—especially as a car this great deserves a few more color options.
Pricing, packages and options vary by market. The configuration tool isn’t yet active on the VW USA site, but the CH spec would be a blue GTI SE two-door manual transmission (which includes a lot of features, such as the sunroof, Fender audio system and more) with the Performance and DCC adaptive damping system packages for improved handling and performance. This spec comes in at $29,690.
Photos by Evan Orensten