Sitting across the table from Porsche AG CEO Matthias Mueller once, we asked why the 911 had changed so little in its design over time. He answered simply: you don't mess with what works. Corporate groupmate Volkswagen holds to the same philosophy with its Golf, and the Mark VII model is very close to its predecessor -- at least visually. The all-new GTI brings several important upgrades, however -- and very closely mirrors the concept shown in Paris last year.
Most obvious is the upgrade in power from the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder to the new GTI's 162kW at 4500 rpm. Torque is now 350Nm at just 1500 rpm. An optional factory performance pack -- a first for VW -- can boost that to 169kW, and adds a torque-sensing limited-slip differential plus upgraded performance brakes, with larger vented rotors on all four wheels (13.4-inch in front, 12.2-in at the back).
A six-speed manual transmission is still standard, and a six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission is also available with either power configuration. With the manual, the 0-100km/h run takes 6.5 seconds (or 6.4 with the performance pack) and top speed is 264km/h (250km/hh with the performance pack). Performance figures for the DSG version haven't yet been released.
A new start-stop system give around an 18 per cent improvement in efficiency, and enables both to reach combined fuel economy of 6.0 L/100km with the manual transmission, while the DSG scores a bit worse at 6.4L and 6.5L for the Performance Pack. Curb weight for the base GTI is 1351kg.
Other standard equipment includes 17-inch "Brooklyn" GTI wheels shod with 225/45 tires, red-painted brake calipers, twin chrome tailpipes, and, of course, a lowered, tauter GTI-tuned suspension. Aesthetic differences from the standard Golf include special aerodynamics at the front, sides, and rear of the car; and smoked LED tail lights.
Inside, the new GTI gets "Clark" tartan pattern on the seats; a black headliner; red ambient lighting; a sport steering wheel; GTI-badged shifter knob and instrument cluster; special trim inserts; and stainless steel pedals.
All GTIs will also include a "progressive" steering system, automatic climate control, park assist, touchscreen infotainment system, and a winter pack with heated front seats. Three colors are available for the GTI: "Tornado Red," "Black," and "Pure White."
The new GTI hits Germany in May, with deliveries to other markets -- including Australia -- starting sometime later this year. There's no firm word yet on local prices, but don't expect it to stray too far from the current model's starting price of $38,990.