2010 VW GTI: Sporty icon is a fun drive
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Introduced 27 years ago, the Volkswagen GTI has become a VW icon as a vehicle that is sporty, economical, versatile, hip, aggressive and fun to drive. Now in its sixth generation, the GTI has added stylish and elegant design cues to its “hot hatch” reputation.
Car enthusiasts commonly believe GTI means either Grand Touring International or Grand Touring Injected, but VW has taken no stance on the meaning. The vehicle began as a trim level for the Golf, with such intialese as GLS, GLX and GTI, the performance trim. Under any meaning, it impresses in 2010 with a fully redesigned exterior and interior upgrades, while maintaining a cost-attractive price starting at about $24,000.
GTI’s aggressive front end, clean side profile and sleek hatch area is sporty and a performance and style canvas that can stand stylishly on its own, or serve to be a foundation for airbrushed graphics, side panels or other tricked-out enhancements.
Measuring and easy to maneuver and friendly to park 165.8 inches long, 70 inches wide and 57.8 inches high on a 101.5-inch wheelbase with 5 inches of ground clearance, GTI’s exterior is complemented by new Bi-Xenon headlamps with AFS, rood-mounted fin-type satellite radio antenna, blacked-out lower front fascia cooling duct and a completely redesigned interior. Borrowing from the look and feel of the original GTI Mk 1 the 2010 version is vital and shouts out its fun-to-drive personality with center-mounted brake lights that sits high up in the rear spoiler, body-colored bumpers, dual exhaust tips, anti-intrusion side door beams, body-color door handles, black front grille with honeycomb mesh and red surrounding strip, dual-tone horns, dual-deflector halogen headlamps, headlights-on warning tone, side blinkers integrated into side mirrors, power glass sunroof, rear spoiler, heated windshield washer nozzles, fully galvanized, anti-corrosive sheet metal and crash-optimized front end.
The streamlined, 3210-lb. ride comes standard with 17 x 7-inch alloy wheels wrapped in all-season performance tires, and can be upgraded to larger 18 x 7.5-inch versions
with either all-season or summer performance tires to match.
It wouldn’t be a performance and style vehicle without muscle, and GTI’s brawn is provided by a 2.0-liter, 200-hp, 207 lbs.-ft. torque, in-line 4-cylinder, 16-valve DOHC engine. Turbocharged and intercooled, the FSI direct-fuel injection set-up is mated to a six-speed manual transmission (automatic is an option) and is accentuated by maintenance-free hydraulic lifters. The engine features an advanced, fully-electronic management system that combines drive-by-wire throttle control and FSI direct fuel injection to cut back on emissions while increasing overall fuel efficiency and power.
Bred for speed and economy, the system is EPA rated at 24mpg in the city and 32mpg on the highway. Seven days of testing covering nearly 500 miles of mixed-use driving in my test car achieved an average of 26.7mpg.
Acceleration wasn’t heart-pounding, but it was formidable, with a best-time of zero-to-60mph sprints accomplished in a tick under 7 seconds. My best quarter-mile time pushed 15 and change.
On the highway, the GTI assaults the situation when called upon. Passing is confident and smooth, electro mechanical variable assisted rack and pinion steering is compliant and highway bumps are absorbed seamlessly by independent front MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and rear fully independent four-link suspension with coil springs. Also helping smooth the ride are a telescopic sport suspension, traction control, brake assist and electronic stabilization program.
Inside, the GTI is roomy, considering its compact niche. You get 39.3 inches of front headroom and 38.5 in row two; 41.2 inches of front leg room with 35.5 behind and shoulder room measures 54.7 and 54.6.
The cabin is decked out as well as vehicles costing thousands more with a new touch screen radio, Premium VIII AM/FM radio with in-dish CD player, MP3 readable, satellite radio compatible, MDI, 10 speakers, theft-deterrent warning light and cooling system.
GTI also offers an instrument cluster that includes brake pad wear indicator, outside temperature, coolant temperature, speedo and tach, multi-function trip computer, folding keys with remote, auto locking feature, CFC-free single-zone air conditioning, silicone dampened-return assist handles (2 front and 2 rear), cruise control and electric rear window defroster.
Like all Volkswagens, the GTI includes the Prevent and Preserve
Safety System, consisting of 40 standard safety features, both active and passive safety items that include driver and front passenger front airbag supplemental restraint system, driver and front passenger side thorax airbag system, side curtain protection, rear passenger side thorax bags, optimized head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system, 3-channel anti-lock brake system, anti-slip regulation, electronic differential lock, engine braking assist and electronic stabilization program.
Priced aggressively, the base 2-door turbo direct injection GTI starts at $23,664 (the automatic goes for $24,070). My test vehicle was outfitted with several cool options: Autobahn package -- leather seating surfaces, power sunroof, front sport seats with lumbar for $2815; DVD Navi/Dynaudio -- touch screen radio navigation system includes an internal 30GB hard disk to manage the navigation, radio, and CD and MP3 players for $1750. Destination charges of $750 brought a priced-as-tested bottom line of $28,979.
Regardless of what GTI means, at under $30,000 it is one fun and sporty ride.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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Journalist note: Information about the Carlisle Events Group, its event listings, auction offerings and expo center is available to journalists by phone:
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