It has now been just under a year since the all-new Volkswagen GTI was launched into the Canadian market, and we have driven nearly every configuration available. We hope we have addressed most questions that have arose through our discussion forum and social media platforms, because we do understand just how important this car is to the enthusiast community. The GTI is the quintessential hot hatch, the one that started it all a few decades ago, and has therefore been the inspiration for this increasingly popular segment. It’s only appropriate then for us to experience the latest addition to the line; the 2015 Volkswagen GTI Performance Package.
From the outside, it’s nearly impossible to differentiate the Performance Package from the regular GTI; the wheels, body finish and all visual cues are identical to the regular car. The styling of the top-tier Golf (at least until the new Golf R arrives later this summer) is unmistakable, and definitely one of the more handsome designs in the Volkswagen lineup. This test car is, of course, the 5-door model – a 3-door Performance Package is available for a few dollars less. One of the biggest giveaways of this unique model, which will only be noticeable to the most keen passerby, is the addition of bigger brakes; the front vented disc brakes are upped from 12.3 inches to 13.4. Out back, the rotors have grown from 10.7 to 12.2 inches. The calipers are painted red and have the “GTI” name scripted on them.
In usual Volkswagen fashion, there are other subtle cues throughout the GTI Performance to tell it apart. For instance, the “GTI” badging on the front grille is red as opposed to regular chrome badging. Otherwise, nearly everything including the rear diffuser and dual exhaust is identical. This trim level, other than the bigger brakes, add an electronically controlled limited-slip differential that’s also torque sensing. This is a first for a front-wheel-drive car, and it’s definitely good on Volkswagen to stick with this setup, as it’s worked so well for them in the past. This differential is capable of shifting 100% of the torque to either of the front wheels, thus minimizing understeer as well as torque steer. The MQB platform the Golf is based on is shared with more premium offerings such as the Audi A3 – it really is a darned good chassis.
Power in the Performance Package GTI is sourced from the same 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder that has been a staple in the Volkswagen lineup for quite some time now. Rather than 210 in the regular car, horsepower has risen to 220, and peak torque at 258 lb-ft is held longer through the power band. We didn’t use any machinery to test these numbers, but this hot Golf certainly feels considerably peppier than its ‘lesser’ siblings. A six-speed manual transmission is available, but the GTI has been tested to be a better performer when equipped with the 6-speed Direct Shift Gearbox, a dual-clutch setup. Shifts are lightning quick and the car emits a nice growl from the exhaust on both upshifts and downshifts. There is also a launch control setting for those who intend to take their GTI to the track.
The Adaptive Chassis Control (DCC) helps the suspension adjust according to road conditions, as well as provide added customizability to the driver. There are three preset configurations; “Normal”, “Comfort”, and “Sport”, as well as an “Individual” setting that can be set up. Within the adjustments for “Individual”, the user can tweak suspension, steering, engine response, shift points, and a few others. Predictably, “Sport” is the most aggressive and fun, and there really is a noticeable difference in responsiveness from the car as you cycle between the three setups. I chose to leave the car in “Comfort” during longer highway trips for the sake of my back, as the ride is quite a bit firmer when the DCC is set to sportier settings. The dampers are very, very good.
There are a few reasons the Volkswagen GTI has had so much success, but by far the most significant is the handling. For many years, the GTI has been considered amongst the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars on the market. We’ve been partial to other hot hatches such as the Mini Cooper S and most recently, the Ford Fiesta ST, but the hot Golf still remains on our favourites list. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is perfectly weighted and is extremely responsive. Though electronically assisted, there is still a decent amount of feedback that’s fed into the driver’s hands, making hooning through the back roads particularly satisfying. I will say though that the Toyobaru twins, the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S’ steering is more pure-feeling than that of the GTI.
Seeing as the engine is largely the same as in the regular GTI as well as other Volkswagen Group applications, fuel mileage was pretty predictable. In two combined cycles, we averaged 8.7L/100km on premium fuel. Of course, the mileage starts to get considerably worse as the right foot becomes more spirited, but I’ve seen GTIs sip as little as 6.5L/100km on the highway. The relatively small (by Volkswagen’s standards when comparing to the 70L or more on some diesel models) fuel tank can hold up to 50L of premium fuel.
The 5-door GTI Performance Package starts at $35,190, seemingly a rather steep sum for an ‘affordable’ hot hatchback. However, it’s important to consider that the Performance Pack model is virtually loaded; there are very few options that can be tacked on. For starters, our test car ($37,285) came equipped with the $1,400 DSG transmission; this amount can be saved by those willing to row their own gears. There is a Leather Package which swaps out the legendary GTI plaid cloth seats for leather upholstery, which I personally would be perfectly happy forgoing. The only other option that Volkswagen offers here is the $695 Technology Package, which adds a navigation system with 5.8” touchscreen and a forward collision warning system.
Everything from HID headlights, fog lights, a large glass sunroof (that has thankfully done away with the Volkswagen corporate rotary knob to open/close), dual exhaust, and a proximity key is standard on the Performance Package. I wish there was a differentiated key fob for cars with the intelligent key system, because this GTI has the same Volkswagen switchblade key as the regular Golf, but such is life. The plaid seats are fantastic and provide excellent support, and the tilt/telescopic steering wheel features red stitching and feels great in your hands.
Volkswagen’s infotainment system is quick to react and decent to use, but it’s starting to show its age. For instance, the navigation system is two-dimensional and the graphics are rather low resolution and cartoonish when compared to competitors like Ford, Nissan, and Chrysler. It’s not significantly worse than others in the class, but we’ve always considered VW to be a trendy, hip option that’s popular among the younger crowd. If anything, the GTI is the perfect car that fits the bill for many young people, so the infotainment system should be given a facelift that brings it up to par with the rest of the car. Additionally, the latest reveals from the Audi family show that they are finally doing away with the proprietary iPod/mobile device cable in favour of traditional USB ports, so this should trickle into the VW lineup rather soon.
There is a plethora of reasons to opt for the 2015 Volkswagen GTI over the likes of its competitors. Build quality is something I take very seriously, and the one good thing I see with every Volkswagen product I evaluate is that they all feel exceptionally solid. Every door closes with a solid “thunk” to remind you of its German precision and engineering, and every single panel on the interior lines up perfectly. Everything is easy to find, there are no hidden surprises, and the driving position is simply bang on. There’s absolutely no nonsense here, because “das auto” will happily take care of you for as long as you take care of it.
2015 Volkswagen GTI Performance Package Gallery