Volkswagen Golf TSI SE
Still Good Fun
By Ron Amadon
DAMASCUS, MD – There was simply no way that I could get into the driver’s seat of this “Tornado Red” Golf without remembering my first cross country road trip back in the 70’s, New Hampshire to California via Phoenix and back.
It was in a non-air conditioned Rabbit that economically and comfortably took me west, the only downer being the lack of air conditioning in Phoenix when the temperature rose to 110 the first day I was there to 112 the second day. Undaunted, I left the city and drove across the desert to SoCal with all windows open. A week later I was in Vail, Colorado, and woke up to a June snow storm.
And a few hundred miles later, I just missed seeing my first tornado as I motored across rural Kansas and the sky ahead of me was dark, VERY dark. “Oh yes, let me take you out back and you can see where it just missed us out in the field,” the woman who ran an exit ramp motel told me. There were no other twisters on the TV radar threatening the town so the smart thing to do was get a room for the night.
It was a great education to see what this land of ours was like from a small farming town with a dirt main street where my New Hampshire plates raised lots of eyebrows to a shopworn diner full of Native Americans who worked on nearby ranches and were hungry.
I finally got one to relate to me what his life was like working on a ranch that also had employed his ancestors. It was nothing like you would see on the silver screen and nothing like what I envisioned. It was all hard work but they still rode horses to the more remote areas of the land.
Through it all, the Golf predecessor Rabbit just chugged along delivering somewhere around 30 mpg and comfortable as all hell.
Those thoughts and many more raced through my memory bank as I fired up the present day Golf for its first test drive.
Before going much further, I should point out that the test car really was an IWNAD model, for “It Was Not a Diesel.” Instead, under the hood was, to use its full name, a 1.8-liter, TSI DOHC 16v Turbo 4-cylinder Direct Injection Engine, a name that I think was bigger than the gas powered power plant.
Its 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque was mated to a six speed automatic that delivered lively performance, but I still yearned for a six speed stick. I am guesstimating that the 0-60 run would come in under the eight second mark. That makes it one of the livelier performers in its class.
The combination is EPA rated at 25 mpg city, 36 highway for a combined 29 mpg. With lots of interstate travel, I came in at 31.
Where my original Golf-Rabbit, which was traded for a Colorado bound Sirocco, was a bare bones base model the test SE ranked second in the three model VW lineup. That brought the automatic tranny and a sunroof along with 17 inch wheels, automatic headlights, fog lights, automatic wipers, keyless ignition and entry, heated front seats and a nine speaker Fender audio system.
For 2016 VW did away with the proprietary cable in favor of a normal USB port like the rest of the world, along with a 6.5 inch touchscreen that talks to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A nice touch was the standard equipment rear view camera.
Untouched from my early model was the crisp handling that made back roads a lot of fun even with the “Servotronic Electro- Mechanical Power Steering. Where do they get these names?
The automatic was quick to downshift when merging on to interstates, interior noise was well disposed of, while interior fit and finish was what I would expect from a German design and an improvement over my earlier model where window winders kept falling off.
The leatherette covered buckets up front were comfortable but the manual adjustments were hard to reach. The seat recliner was powered. Visibility was excellent in all directions thanks to the traditional hatchback style, and the rear seats still fold to create extra hauling space.
In the safety department, a $1,495 Driver Assistance Package brought Forward Collision and Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and Park Distance Control. A Lighting Package for $995 brightened things up.
Add in $820 for delivery, and the test Golf went for $28,535 that I call a bargain in today’s market.
The 2016 was a vast improvement over its predecessor, as it should be many decades later, and I would, without hesitation, take it west maybe this time to Seattle for a great cup of coffee.