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Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance 2014 review: road test

Let’s just cut to the chase. The new Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance edition is the best GTI ever.

Let’s just cut to the chase. The new Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance edition is the best GTI ever. Not because it has a few more kW above the standard GTI. Not because it looks great. Not even because it stops as well as it starts.

The bottom line is GTI Performance kicks butt where it matters – driving dynamics. Power into a nasty corner and the GTI Performance, being front wheel drive, should show some signs of understeer and head for the bushes on the opposite side of the road. Instead it remains calm, with no tyre squeal, no understeer and powers out of the corner with no torque steer. Remarkable.


While GTI ups the performance ante across the board with an improved 2.0 litre engine, bigger and better brakes, it’s the torque vectoring effect from a new electronically controlled differential that is the star of the show. At $48,490 before on roads, VW have put a $4500 premium on the GTI Performance with DSG auto over the bottom line of a GTI DSG. This may cause a dilemma for GTI buyers – if they also test the GTI Performance.


The Golf GTI Performance has other differences from the garden-variety Golf GTI. The brake package for GTI Performance has been upgraded, to keep pace with the uprated engine output at 169 kW, and the ventilated disc brakes are 28 mm larger at 340 mm on the front while the rear discs are now also ventilated and 10 mm larger at 310 mm. The Golf GTI Performance also comes exclusively – there is no manual option - with a six-speed DSG dual clutch transmission.

Other features include Bi-Xenon headlights, dark tinted LED tail lights, tinted glass and 19-inch "Santiago" alloy wheels, adding to the exterior sporty ambience. The cabin gets sports seats in tartan with alcantara trim on the head rest and side holsters. Under the bonnet the familiar 1984 cc VW and Audi engine that powers Golf GTI among many other models, has been tuned for Golf GTI Performance and offers an extra 7 kW of power. VW state this allows the GTI Performance to cover the 0-100 km/h sprint in 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 248 km/h.


The addition of the electronically controlled locking diff, that is exclusive to the GTI  Performance, marks the clear distinction between the two GTI models. It is also a first for Volkswagen that now joins Focus ST and WRX AWD with similar capability. It’s the GTI Performance’s composure under severe cornering that left us impressed. It simply does not handle like a front wheel drive car.

Assisting the handling is the super-quick new steering with just 2.1 turns lock-to-lock also found in the standard GTI. The feel that comes back through the steering wheel is great – feedback that lets you know exactly what the front end is doing as the technology struts its stuff. Add to that the burble as the DSG does its thing with rapid-fire gear changes. The GTI Performance sets a new benchmark for Golf GTI label.

The technology was first used on Mitsubishi rally cars – and as recently as three weeks ago was launched in Australia on the all-new 2015 Subaru WRX AWD. Many manufacturers now have the technology on their high-performance models. But, they tend to be AWDs that traditionally also have had a reputation for understeer when going fast into corners. In the WRX the transformation has been stunning. It is even more impressive on the Golf GTI Performance because it only has two-wheel drive.

Torque vectoring using the differential lock and the vehicle’s computers allows more torque to be transferred to the outside wheels. This results in asymmetrical drive torque distribution that matches the loads on each wheel. In other words you go around corners with a far more neutral steering with the car not wanting to head to the far side of the road.  


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Range and Specs

118 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $14,700 – 20,680 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 118 TSI Pricing and Specs
103 TSI Highline 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $12,800 – 18,480 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 103 TSI Highline Pricing and Specs
110 TDI Highline 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP $13,200 – 19,140 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 110 TDI Highline Pricing and Specs
90 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $8,000 – 12,430 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 90 TSI Pricing and Specs