I was lucky enough to be among the first North American auto writers to drive the all-new 2015 Volkswagen GTI. Earlier on in the summer, I was flown to San Francisco for the preview drive for both the new Golf and GTI, and gathered some initial impressions of the cars. While I got to drive some fantastic pieces of history as well as the new GTI with the DSG dual-clutch transmission, I didn’t get as much seat time with the three-pedal model as I would have liked to. Therefore our friendly VW PR team out here was kind enough to lend me a 2015 Volkswagen GTI to play with for a week and see what I think.
Performance-oriented Volkswagens have been known to be driver’s cars. After all, the original GTI from nearly forty years ago initiated the “hot hatch” movement as we know it today. Though the newer cars are given technology such as dual-clutch gearboxes, I’m partial to the conventional manual transmission. My GTI tester came packing this very trait, finished with the historic golf ball-shaped shifter that has been a GTI tradition dating back to 1976.
I hold the Volkswagen GTI to a very high standard. In fact, one of my closest friends has been a GTI nut ever since we were teenagers, and I have been able to live vicariously through his antics over the past decade and a half. Everyone who has driven the new car, built on the MQB platform, insists that it’s the best GTI yet. I adored the DSG model, and the 6-speed manual one was even better. This car is just so agreeable. The 2.0L turbocharged inline 4-cylinder is a familiar (albeit bearing several new components) unit, but it’s been tried and tested. It pumps out 210 horsepower and a healthy 258 lb-ft of torque.
Not straying far from its roots, the new GTI is front-wheel-drive. There is minimal torque steer, and in my opinion this is the perfect amount of power for a front-wheel-drive chassis. The car feels incredibly planted both in a straight line as well as in corners, and is never struggling for breath. Upon quick acceleration with the windows down, you can actually hear the turbocharger spooling as the car takes off. Due to the addition of the third pedal, my test car does not come with the launch control feature that DSG-equipped cars come with.
The most agreeable component of the new GTI is by far this transmission. We’re at a point in the market where the majority of buyers will opt for the automatic, and it’s not unrealistic to say that the manual transmission option on this car will likely vanish in the next decade. For purists like myself, this is a bit depressing. The clutch and shifter relationship in the GTI is so smooth and effortless; it’s almost unbelievable how simple this car is to drive. Whether you’re sitting in rush hour traffic or carving corners in the countryside, the hot Golf will keep up with whatever it is you want it to do.
My test car was equipped with the Autobahn package, which starts at $32,895. It may seem a bit high for a hot hatchback, but it’s important to keep in mind that when looking at competitors such as the Ford Focus ST, the Subaru WRX, and the Honda Civic Si, the Volkswagen is a far more premium option. Materials are nicer, and the car has a more upscale vibe overall. At the base price, the GTI already comes packed with things such as Bluetooth connectivity, a Fender audio system with iPod capability, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a large glass sunroof. My car also had the $695 box for the Technology Package checked off – this adds the navigation system and the Forward Collision Warning system.
I’ve come to like the VW infotainment suite quite a bit. The Fender audio system could use some polishing on the sound quality side of things, but the system works very well. The 5.8” touchscreen now has a proximity sensor, so “buttons” appear as your fingers get close to it. A nice touch that I also appreciate is that for those who don’t like using touch screens (OCD about fingerprints, etc.), there’s the option to browse through lists using a conventional knob and buttons. Volkswagen still requires their proprietary cable to connect to the system regardless of what smartphone or mobile audio device you have.
There wasn’t anything that really stood out to me as being worthy of complaining about after my week with the GTI. When the car is placed in reverse, the Volkswagen logo on the decklid flips open to reveal the rear-view camera. The whole operation is pretty slick, but there’s a noticeable noise when the camera engages. It’s the only thing that sounds/feels less than top-quality, and that’s saying a lot for any car these days. The materials and overall textures around the GTI feel exquisite.
As an unmarried, city-dwelling male in my mid-twenties, I’m the exact target for the new Volkswagen GTI. They’ll sell you a leather interior, but I adore the plaid cloth seats that are another GTI signature item. I love this car. Over my week with it, I continued to comment and rave about how robust, pleasant, and overall smile inducing the car is. For those that can get over the $33,000 sticker for a well-equipped hot hatch, the 2015 Volkswagen GTI would make an excellent addition to any enthusiast’s personal garage.