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Volkswagen Golf GTI 2014 review

In this job, not loving a Golf GTI is a sin akin to a technology writer not instantly being over-awed by a new Apple product.

Confession: I’m among a very small group of motoring hacks who didn’t gush about the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI when it went on sale earlier this year. Well, I call it a group but I’ve only found one other so far who shares my view. In this job, not loving a Golf GTI is a sin akin to a technology writer not instantly being over-awed by a new Apple product. Ostracised much?

I can’t help it if the others got it wrong. I think difference of opinion is healthy. (Smiley face). In my view Volkswagen had dumbed down the Golf GTI slightly, deliberately holding back extra power, bigger brakes and a clever differential -- three key ingredients of a hot hatch. The basic Golf GTI drives so well that, to me, it feels like it has lost some of its character. So the arrival this week of the Volkswagen Golf GTI “Performance” edition was a chance for the car and me to redeem ourselves.


For $48,490 -- an extra $4000 on top of the standard Golf GTI with DSG -- you get 7kW more power, bigger brakes front and rear, 19-inch wheels, and a tricky electronically controlled mechanical diff that acts like an LSD. The GTI “Performance” also comes with bi-xenon headlights, tinted LED tail-lights, tinted rear and side glass, and Alcantara on the side bolsters of the GTI-tartan seats. Leather is a $3150 option. Ouch.

The standard GTI already comes with navigation, a rear view camera and front and rear parking sensors. Tick. Manual transmission, however, is not available at any price on the “Performance” edition because VW Australia was only given one choice, and it opted for the DSG auto which accounts for 80 per cent of the sales mix of the regular GTI.

The price premium for the extra power may be difficult to justify (I challenge anyone to pick the difference of 7kW more power and peak torque arriving at 200rpm lower than before). Indeed, the 0 to 100km/h claim is the same as the regular model: 6.4 seconds. Perhaps that’s because the extra hardware and bigger wheels added 40kg to the GTI’s weight -- but it’s 40kg well worth having.


Unlike mechanical limited-slip differentials (such as those found on the epic Renault Megane RS) which prevent the inside wheel from slipping in tight corners, the VW-designed system sends drive to the outside wheel. It’s technically not a limited-slip diff but the net result is the same: it clambers out of corners with much more grip. So, we welcome wholeheartedly VW’s heavy duty hardware under the nose of the GTI “Performance”.

The other pleasant surprise is that it rides surprisingly well despite having 19-inch wheels and low profile (Pirelli P Zero, superb) tyres. The only downside: they don’t like expansion joins or sharp edges on the road; the suspension quickly runs out of travel and delivers a loud thump. The GTI’s adjustable suspension works a treat though (from comfort, normal, sport to an individual setting which also allows you to adjust steering feel).

I just wish the button was easier to see (it’s obscured by the gear lever) and you didn’t have to take your eyes off the road to change settings (you have to tap the touchscreen). Nevertheless, the GTI and I have made up, although in my opinion the “Performance” pack is the real one. The brakes and the tricky diff alone are worth the $4000 price hike. Can I have my navy blue Apple shirt now, please?

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Joshua Dowling
National Motoring Editor


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