Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn
By Ron Amadon
DAMASCUS, MD. – Here is darn near perfection on a treasured back road.
A turbocharged ever so willing four cylinder, a sport suspension, a Sport” drive mode, and no traffic on a sunny summer afternoon.
An A/C system related to an iceberg on a day the Weather Service is issuing heat advisories of over 100.
Seats that keep my bod in place, fast acting paddle shifts, and sensory feedback from the car that says, “Let’s go have some fun.”
And that is why the Volks GTI for ages has won praise from road testers and enthusiasts from Seattle to Stuttgart.
Under the short hood is a turbo charged four good for 220 hp @ 4,500 rpm with 258 lb-ft of torque @1,500 rpm. Look for a 0-60 in about six seconds flat with the automatic.
Aiding the fun level in the top trim level Autobahn is a larger rear stabilizer bar, 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, and adaptive suspension dampers. It manages the suspension’s rebound and compression rate individually helping to improve vehicle dynamics and is available only on the Autobahn edition.
On roads that really are just paved over old wagon trails, the GTI hung in there extremely well and the turbo four was quick to respond to a request for more power when getting around a very slow moving AMC Pacer. (I’m not kidding.)
Non-enthusiasts may wonder about the stiff ride but that can be mitigated to some degree by selecting something other than the Sport mode.
There was some turbo lag when not in Sport mode, and I did wish for a six speed manual even though the automatic equated itself rather well and calmed things down nicely on interstates. Well it should since this was the Autobahn model!
The test model also came with a $1,095 Driver Assist Package that included an automated parallel parking assist, with front and rear parking sensors. This car is just 168 inches long and 71 wide and left me wondering why anyone would need the assisted parking systems.
EPA? 24 city, 32 highway for a combined 27 mpg which was my average for the week. Premium for full performance.
Standard equipment included a rather quiet sunroof when open, the expected safety equipment, summer tires that stuck rather nicely in turns, but also mean that if you live in the snow belt you will go shopping for tires in late fall.
The info screen was located rather low in the center dash, meaning you have to take your gaze off the road to check it. A center top of the dash position is much better. Standard is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. The navi system was not the greatest, but one can overlook that with those two standard items.
Two adults will find ample space in the rear seats, while up front there is also ample room even with the sunroof. But the multi-adjustable driver’s seat was not as comfortable as others on a long day’s drive.
While the GTI sits low to the ground getting in and out was a snap for both row passengers thanks to the hatchback design. Fold the second row 60/40 seats down, and one can stash away an abundant supply of stuff given the available 52.7 cubic feet of space created.
But it is on your favorite back road where the GTI (Great Touring Indeed) sparkles. The suspension, steering, engine and tranny are all in perfect harmony, like a Bavarian Band playing during Octoberfest. (You have to experience one in Germany before you die.)
The price for all this fun in a very well equipped hatch came to $37,110 that some might feel is a bit much to pay for a VW Golf. But do not despair.
A base model GTI with a stick shift can be had for $25,595. A more desirable Sport model starts at $29,995 and brings to the party the Performance Package with torque-sensing limited slip differential. You want that.
Coming for 2018 will be standard LED taillights, LED daytime running lights, an 8 inch-infotainment screen on SE and SEL trims, and a Digital Cockpit customizable dashboard on the Golf R.