Volkswagen Golf GTI is back where it belongs with the seventh generation range headlined by the ‘GTI Performance’ model which is the best GTI to date. The GTI Performance isn’t a ‘wheels-up’ re-do but the technical and styling upgrades highlight the brilliance of the team in Wolfsburg, Germany…these people know cars.
For decades the benchmark European hot-hatchback, critics say the Volkswagen Golf GTI may have lost its edge in previous generations and despite your carshowroom.com.au correspondent owning a few GTIs over the years we reckon there is some validity to those claims. But not anymore.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Overview
At $48,490, the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance adds $7,000 to the price of the entry-level GTI but boasts a significantly higher level of specification, is only sold with the six-speed DSG transmission and includes detailed technical upgrades which make it the GTI for true enthusiasts. Those upgrades include extra power, significantly bigger brakes (with GTI logos on the front calipers) and an electronically controlled mechanical differential lock.
Typical Volkswagen – subtle but effective changes which bring a smile whenever you tackle your favourite twisty road.
An extra $3,500 gains you entry to the awesome Volkswagen Golf R with even more power…but that’s a different story.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Engine
Volkswagen Golf GTI is powered by the third generation of Volkswagen’s EA888 turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine. As you expect from the team in the engine department in Wolfsburg, it’s a technical masterpiece with the turbocharger fully integrated in the cylinder head with its own water-cooled exhaust gas circulation loop.
Over the regular GTI, the GTI Performance gains and additional 7kW of power – up to 169kW. So we have 169kW of power between 4700-6200rpm and peak torque of 350Nm from 1500-4600rpm.
Drive is to the front wheels via Volkswagen’s marvelous six-speed DSG transmission with steering wheel paddle-shifters for sequential manual changes.
That extra power lifts top speed by 10km/h to 248km/h however the zero to 100km/h time of 6.4 seconds is identical to the regular GTI with DSG.
Combined-cycle fuel consumption is rated at 6.6l/100kms (also the same as the regular GTI with DSG).
Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance The Interior
As we know the interior styling and extra space have been headline-grabbers for the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf and the GTI model has been praised for its return to the original model’s hallmark tartan trim. Fact is in recent years Volkswagen has significantly bolstered the personnel in the styling department in Wolfsburg with some crucial acquisitions from rival companies…and the results are obvious.
So, open the door of the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance and you’re greeted by the hallmark leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel, top-notch instrumentation and the superb seats trimmed in ‘Clark’ tartan. But the GTI Performance gains seat side panels and head restraints trimmed in sporty Alcantara (you can opt for ‘Vienna leather as an alternative).
Other GTI-specific elements include the instrument cluster, stainless steel pedals and red ambience lighting.
That steering wheel adjusts for rake/reach and combines with height adjustment for the drivers’ seat to deliver a perfectly sporting driving position. Audio is an eight-speaker system with the usual connectivity and a 5.8-inch colour screen which doubles as the satellite navigation and reversing camera image.
Rear seat space is where the seventh generation Volkswagen Golf has really stepped-up and is at the top of the segment in this regard.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Exterior And Styling
Our Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance was painted red and – maybe because a couple of the GTIs we’ve owned were red – we reckon it’s the best GTI colour. Combined with unique black 19-inch alloy wheels, our Golf GTI Performance certainly look the part.
Specific for the Performance model are Bi-Xenon headlights with DRLs and cornering function which look neat with the hallmark red GTI strip which flows from the front grille. Also unique are the GTI letters on the front brake calipers.
And rounding-out the changes for the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance are dark tinting for the rear windows and LED tail-lights plus an LED lights for the rear number plate.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance On The Road
The seventh generation Volkswagen Golf GTI debuted several technical advancements such as an updated XDL dynamics system, progressive steering and the Driver Fatigue Detection System. But the GTI Performance ramps things up even more thanks to that electronically controlled mechanical differential lock (unique in a front-wheel-drive vehicle), bigger brakes (340mm front/319mm rear) and even more direct steering ratios.
The electronic differential lock takes input from multiple sensors and, when accelerating out of a corner, torque is increased to the outside front wheel (the so-called ‘Torque Vectoring Effect’) and, if necessary, 100 per-cent of torque can be transferred to just one wheel. It’s all about reducing understeer.
Drivers of high-performance vehicles with adjustable this-and-that can probably name some cars where selecting the ‘Sport’ setting produces driveline/dynamics changes which are virtually undetectable. The Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance is not one of those cars.
Dial-up the ‘Sport’ setting in the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance and the changes are massive and immediately noticeable – particularly in the firmer-feeling and crispier response in the steering but also in the suspension. Of course it helps that the GTI Performance, like the regular GTI, runs the full gamut of Volkswagen’s wizardry – XDL (extended differential lock), electronic stability control and anti-slip regulation.
Sure the extra 7.0kW under the bonnet is harder to detect - but never mind because Volkswagen’s turbocharged 2.0-litre combine with snappy cog swaps from the DSG, in either manual or automatic, is a very juicy package. The crackling and burbling from the exhaust on over-run and gear changes adds to the sporty overture.
Golf GTI and GTI Performance both run Volkswagen’s sophisticated suspension package of a front MacPherson strut layout and four-link rear end. Both have lower ride heights that regular Golfs and firmer springs/dampers.
So over our high-speed mountain roads test loop, the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance gave an account which ranks amongst the best of any front-wheel-drive vehicle. In fact for turn-in we can’t think of a front-driver which is better and for mid-turn balance and response it’s every bit as good as the Renault Megane RS and Ford Focus ST.
Around town, in the comfort setting, the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance is a happy camper – trundling along with the smoothness and refinement of...well, like any other Golf really. The standard reversing camera and small 10.9-metre turning circle make for easy work of even the tightest of car-parks.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Issues
We wouldn’t change a thing about the Volkswagen Golf GTI. OK some previous generation GTIs weren’t worthy of the badge, but the GTI Performance is a beauty.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Verdict
In many ways the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance epitomizes why Volkswagen is one of the world’s best-selling automotive brands (and the one most-watched by rivals). Heaps of technology loaded into a smartly-styled European hatchback and bundled together for a price which you would not have hoped for in a Volkswagen product only a few years ago.
And the quality – which starts in the design studio and moves to the production line – is astonishing.
Good as the standard Volkswagen Golf GTI is, if you’re an enthusiast driver, the GTI Performance is the Golf to buy. We’d buy one in a heartbeat.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance The Competition
Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta QV is a Car Showroom Favourite, but its turbocharged 1.7-litre engine with 173kW/360Nm is outgunned by the Golf GTI Performance. Terrific to drive and gorgeously styled, the Giulietta QV brings Italian style to the argument and is great value at $39,150.
Ford Focus ST packs a punch with its 184kW/360Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre engine and is quite a bargain at $38,290. The German origin Focus ST is also a Car Showroom Favourite without doubt but, by a very small margins, isn’t quite as sharp as the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance in the twisty stuff, not quite as refined and, as this generation Focus is getting on in years, not quite as stylish inside. The $10K price differential to the Golf can’t be overlooked however.
And the other Car Showroom Favourite is the Renault Megane RS 265. There’s quite a range of RS 265 models priced from $37,990 to $51,640 and all are powered by the sweet 195kW/360Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre engine. For driving dynamics and looks you can file the Renault RS 265 under ‘A’ for ‘awesome’ – in that department this dynamo is the one the others must beat.