GTI, this are possibly the most famous and most evocative three letters in motoring. The Volkswagen Golf GTI, which is a high-performance version of the iconic VW Golf hatchback, first debuted back in 1976, and since then, it has improved with each successive generation, earning praise from automotive enthusiasts and automotive critics alike, with its combination of playful performance and hatchback versatility. Ever since the first car’s launch, the Golf GTI has held up as the benchmark in the hot hatch sector. The sport compact market however, owes a lot to the Volkswagen Golf GTI originally introduced in mid-2006 following Volkswagen’s successful 20th anniversary.
Although the entire Volkswagen Golf lineup has a lot to offer the modern driver, the Golf GTI stands apart from the crowd in more ways than one. Under the hood sits the venerable 2.0L turbocharged, in-line four-cylinder with Aluminum alloy forged cylinder heads and a cast iron cylinder block, that has been a VW staple for years. This still remains to be one of the greatest engines, developed by the German automaker. The 2008 model comes with FSI direct injection and drive-by-wire throttle, similar to the fly by wire computer system fitted in aircrafts, for maximum efficiency evident in the vehicles performance. The 16-valve turbo churns out a whapping 200 Hp at 5100 rpm and 197 bhp /207 lb-ft of torque from 1800 rpm up to 5000rpm, with a 6500-rpm redline. All that boosted power gets you from knot to 100 Kph in just 6.0 sec and a quarter mile of 14.5 sec at 150 Kph putting down all the power it’s got, down really well. Its 197 Bhp peak is enough to make it brisk but not too much to overwhelm the front axle. Now there are another three important letters with this car; that is, DSG, found engraved on the aluminum back of the gear shift lever. Another engineering terminology? Not so. The Direct Shift Gearbox makes it an automatic that really isn’t an automatic because it’s got two clutches. One clutch holding the current gear being driven while the second clutch pre selects the next gear, meaning super quick shifting and makes for instantaneous, perfect and accurate gear changes up and down the gear box, just perfect for the GTI’s strong turbocharged engine. The DSG gearbox rifles off super-quick gear changes with either the paddles or the gear selector. Some my however opt to let sport mode take care of it, with launch control for more aggressive quick off the line starts. The power is smooth and strong, not jerky and hesitant and if automatic isn’t your style, a slick, short-shifting six-speed manual gearbox is available for you to row yourself.
The GTI’s transmission puts to shame the its fellow German competitors, as BMW and Mercedes are only just getting the grips of the DSG Gearbox while Volkswagen had its transmission unlike no other since time immemorial. The car fuel-economy numbers barely change between the manual and DSG boxes. The manual will net you 9/12 km/l city/highway, while the auto pulls a slightly better 10/12 km/l. Not too bad for the 2.0 L Turbocharged engine.
Keeping this pocket rocket on the road is a fully independent, sport-tuned suspension featuring independent MacPherson struts up front and a multilink setup out back. The new rear end separates the shocks and springs for better suspension tuning. The GTI’s handling is enhanced by a number of revisions that include a new strut-type axle that helps create a more direct steering ratio and reduces body roll tendency in tight turns. As cornering speeds build, you’ll uncover more and more about a finely balanced chassis that works both axles. Unlike other performance cars, the GTI’s firm suspension isn’t a compromise on comfort because the suspension is so supple it soaks up all the bumps. Up front, a new electromechanical power-steering system generates more precise steering and better feedback.
The GTI continues to impress as a driver’s car, with handling precision achieved using a new electromechanical power rack-and-pinion steering system.
This solution offers an extremely good “center feel” and contributes to confident straight-line stability while delivering a desirable, connected-to-the-road feel. At the same time, it provides the added capability of active-return steering and straight-ahead driving correction assistance. It is safe to say that the GTI is all about the driving experience. Large disc brakes are nestled behind each wheel and are shod with red-painted calipers. The GTI rolls on large eye-catching aggressively styled 18-inch Monza alloy wheels, coupled with low-profile performance rubber, giving the car a fancy, yet badass look.
The front engine, FWD, 4-5-pass, 5 door hatchback boasts, seats designed to offer maximum comfort with the best possible side bolsters and sporty looks. Inside are five seats with plenty of room, as well as lots of cargo space. Eight-way, manual sport fabric seats are trimmed standard in a fabric reminiscent of the original GTI, and do a good job of lifting the otherwise dark ambience with adjustable head restraints in all seating positions. To keep you entertained, with 400 watts of power there’s a 10-speaker quality sound system. In recent years VW has built up a deserved reputation for building cars boasting clear, well laid out cabins and controls. The Mk5 Golf’s instruments are exactly as you’d expect easy to use and all in sensible locations. The 2008 GTI has a standard three-spoke steering wheel, with aluminum trim, covered with perforated leather for a perfect grip. Aluminum also is highlighted on the gearshift knob, the trim inserts and the pedal cluster. Sporty brushed-metal accents surround the A/C controls and stereo unit, and the instrument panel gauges are aluminum and black with a chrome surround. Given how smoothly balanced all of the GTI’s components are, all GTIs get VW’s Electronic Stabilization Program standard as well as driver and passenger front and side airbags and side-curtain airbags standard.
The Golf is no longer just a VW model but an important brand in its own. The fundamental hatchback concept has served the Golf well over the years, and the Mk5 continues the trend. At first glance, the car boasts a striking, confident appearance like every generation of the GTI. The stunning honeycomb design of the grille is carried to the lower front fascia doubling up as an air intake and radiator grille. With a distinct red lining on the lower parts of the grille. Higher up at the hood and fender intersection, the light design in the new Golf GTI has nothing to hide, and you can choose from several attractive versions. The headlight housings incorporate high-intensity gas-discharged headlamps (Xenon) as well as halogen fog lights to add some extra styling. Distinctive front and rear bumpers, widened black sill panels and darkened headlight housings all add to the exterior appeal. Being the flagship Golf model, the rear of the car is characterized by high-quality tail lights and a clear design vocabulary. The iconic VW logo seats well in the center of the boot doubling up as a tailgate boot lid. The car comes with a limited five color option. You can have your choice of Candy White, Tornado Red, Black Magic Metallic, United Gray Metallic or Reflex Silver Metallic.
As with all Volkswagen’s, the GTI comes loaded with a tone of the best and greatest tech the German automobile manufacturer has to offer. With Front Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Mirror Sensors, Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution, Electronic Differential Lock, Electronic Differential Lock and even a Tire Pressure Monitoring System. The list goes on and on and we could spend the whole day listing the wide array of the cars tech specs.
However, the car despite its great attributes has a few flaws, not to say it’s a disaster but as with any great machine, some few things escaped the eye of the German automaker. Anyone expecting a raucous, rough-edged, boy racer-style performance from the Mk5 Golf GTI will be disappointed.
The base price isn’t cheap, pushing the GTI above some key rivals. The front seats, while supportive, might prove too narrow for some and has a slightly loftier driving position than its predecessors. Are just but the very few corks of the vehicle to say the least. Some GTIs have been tuned to incredible levels, and with after-market parts available nothing is impossible.
As we sign off on this episode of the 2008 GTI MkV, it’s imperative to note that, every component of the GTI plays perfectly off the next. Each control throttle, brake, gearbox, steering asks of no greater effort than the rest, so all of your inputs are smooth from the off. That’s an underrated but deeply satisfying facet in a car ultimately keeping it a cut above the rest in its class. If you’re looking for something that needs nothing, looks dynamite and doesn’t cost a lot of money. The Volkswagen GTI MkV fits the bill…not just for the college grad but also his dad.
In the end, the GTI is a strong all-around performer. It’s quick, comfortable, it’s roomy and it handles like proper sports car. Whether you prefer to work one clutch yourself or let the transmission work two of them, the GTI MkV is a solid bang for proposition.
by Leone Tsuma (Daimlar Motorsports Kenya)