Almost thirty years since the launch of the original, Volkswagen is showing off their newest Golf GTi. Now in its fifth generation, VW is counting on the new Golf GTi to (re)ignite enthusiasm inside their brand just like the first one did. It couldn’t come at a better time, as being the VW brand in the United States and - to a lesser degree - in Europe is at a bit of a dark period as a result of nagging quality issues, an aging lineup, escalating prices, and increased competition.
As outlined by VW, 93.2 percent of Europeans and 98.5 percent of Germans associate the GTi with the Golf. About as many people associate the Golf with Volkswagen, as it should be, thinking about the Golf is truly the top selling car on the continent. So it is clear the GTi is fitting that need considering VW’s “halo car,” the one to announce to everyone that the brand is back. But does the Golf GTi have what it takes to make the splash VW needs right about now?
Powering the new Golf GTi is going to be an equally new 2. liter turbocharged “FSI” four cylinder engine capable of 200ps and over 205 ft-lbs of torque with direct injection and a high compression ratio of 10.5: 1. When mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission, the newest GTi may go from to 62mph in approximately 7.2 seconds. If you pay extra and get the F1-style DSG transmission (like BMW’s SMG unit), expect 62mph to arrive in less than seven seconds. Not too shabby, but then again the Dodge SRT-4 does is in under six seconds according to most magazine tests.
VW GTi. Courtesy: Volkswagen AG
Underpinning this FWD hatchback legend is a collection of independent MacPherson struts in advance and an all-new fully independent setup out back replacing the old beam suspension. Word is the GTi should be much improved over the current model, which often got panned from the media to be a bit around the soft side. Big 17-inch or 18-inch wheels ought to keep the new GTi planted firmly on the tarmac.
Unlike the MkIV GTi, nobody will be able to confuse the looks on this one with that of your ordinary Golf. Begin with the black grille (with red-painted surround) that dips down up to the lower portions of the bumper, flanked by large inlets below the smoked headlamps. New sideskirts, rear valance, the previously mentioned wheels and tires, dual exhaust tips, and red-painted brake calipers round out the warmed-up look.
VW GTi. Courtesy: Volkswagen AG
Considering that the Volkswagen group is viewed as a leader in automotive interior ambiance, it’s not at all surprising VW added a special touch to the GTi’s cockpit. The seats happen to be designed specially for their use here, with sporty and supportive side bolstering. The leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel, shifter, trim inserts, and pedals are all highlighted with real aluminum accents. The GTi-trademark black headliner rounds out the special equipment.
What was said to be just a limited run of 5,000 models in June 1976 ended up being 1.5 million GTIs and counting. The fifth generation model goes on sale in Europe this fall while drivers in the United States may take one home sometime late 2005 or early 2006.