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Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
9
Tim Robson road tests and reviews the Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.

Tim Robson road tests and reviews the Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.

Volkswagen's 40th birthday present to the Golf GTI is way better than cake and balloons.

It would be fair to think that Volkswagen's fleet of galloping Golfs is big enough already, what with the GTI, GTI Performance and R already on the books.

The GTI's big 4-0 is not a birthday to ignore, however, and VW is celebrating in style with the fastest, most powerful GTI it's ever made.

Just 400 DSG and 100 manual models are on their way to Australia, and once they're gone... they're gone.

With the engine and brakes from the R and the chassis tweaks from the Performance, the GTI 40 Years may be awkwardly named, but it promises to be one of the best Golfs ever produced.

The downside? Just 400 DSG and 100 manual models are on their way to Australia, and once they're gone... they're gone.

Design

The five-door Golf 40 Years wears a bespoke body kit that not only sets it apart from the rest of the GTI pack, but also indicates its performance potential.

The front bumper, for example, eschews the regular foglights for large vents that feed cool air across the face of the front wheels, while the rear wing is larger and more pronounced for (admittedly only a little) more aero affect at speed.

The rear bar is new, and the side skirts protrude much further than they do on the regular cars. Black wing mirrors, roof and other details are complemented by '40 Years' decaling that resembles that used on the Mk.1 GTI.

The new 19-inch Ruby rims are an interesting tale in themselves, with Australian GTI owners and enthusiasts voting for them to be fitted to the 40 Years via an online poll. The ruby is, of course, the stone of the 40th anniversary.

The rear bar is a different shape, while the rear taillights have been lifted from the Golf R. The exhaust tips, too, are larger than those on the stock GTIs.

Practicality

The 40 Years differs from its sibling on the inside, as well, with the Alcantara suede-covered wheel the most obvious change. 

The material extends to the door cards and seat bolsters, while the seat centres wear a bespoke honeycomb trim that's echoed on the lower part of the front grille.

It echoes the practical nature of the Mk.VII Golf throughout, with room space for six bottles fore and aft, a USB port up front and a second 12v socket in the cargo area. 

Five people can ride in the Golf, especially if the rear seat passengers are younger. Five grown-ups can get a bit intimate, though four up is a breeze with great head, shoulder and leg room.

Price and features

The limited edition 40 Years sits between the DSG-only GTI Performance and the all-wheel-drive R, kicking off at $46,990 before on-roads in manual guise.

This is $6000 more than a standard GTI, but its level of specification is much higher.

The six-speed DSG equipped version retails at $48,990, $2500 more than the $46,490 Performance – but again, carrying more spec as standard.

VW has included the contents of its optional Driver Assistance Package on the 40 Years, which means the full suite of passive and active safety electronics comes standard on the 40 Years, including emergency city braking, radar cruise control, lane departure and rear cross-traffic alerts.

It's available in three colours; Pure White and Tornado Red are in deference to its MkI origins, while Carbon Steel Metallic grey is also offered as a no-cost option.

In fact, the only option available is an $1800 sunroof.

Engine and transmissions

One of the trump cards for the 40 Years – and something that will see it sought after as a collectible in the years to come – is that it comes standard with the third-generation EA888 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine that's also found under the bonnet of the R.

This version of the engine has been tweaked in key areas – including a stronger cylinder head, hollow exhaust valves and bigger radiator – to better handle the higher boost pressures from its single, larger turbocharger.

It's tuned to churn out 195kW at 5350-6600rpm and 350Nm of torque between 1700-5600rpm in stock form; this is 11kW and 30Nm less than the R, but a healthy 24kW more than the GTI Competition.

It'll do the 0-100km/h dash in 6.3 seconds in DSG guise.

Volkswagen tells us that under "certain conditions" the engine in the 40 Years will overboost and make up to 215kW for a period of ten seconds in gears higher than third.

Using the read-out on the GTI's centre console screen that displays kilowatts in real time, though, we weren't able to post a figure higher than the quoted 195kW, even under track conditions.

  • 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years at the track. 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years at the track.
  • 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years at the track. 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years at the track.
  • 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years at the track. 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years at the track.
  • 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years at the track. 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years at the track.

Given how strongly the engine performs, we'd suggest the engine is doing exactly as it says on the tin, but there is no other way to determine the veracity of the figure without strapping it to a dyno.

There are no changes to either the six-speed DSG or six-speed manual, while the four-stage Drive Mode Select and XD Performance limited slip diff make it over to the 40 Years.

Fuel consumption

Rated at 7.1L/100km in DSG guise, our short road test of the 40 Years saw figures of around 7.8L/100km.

The 40 Years' tank is 50 litres in capacity, and 98RON is suggested as a minimum requirement.

Driving

It's quickly apparent that the 12 per cent power gain over the stock GTI Performance is not insignificant; the 40 Years strains at the leash even under light throttle, displaying an urgency and a brightness not shown in the GTIs, and dulled by the R's all-wheel-drive and extra weight.

The 40 Years is eye-openingly, cussword-inducingly fast around a circuit.

The 1357kg car scores its bigger brakes from the heavier R, along with the three-stage adaptive dampers and lowered, stiffer springs from the GTI Performance, all bolted to the vault door-stiff MQB platform that underpins all Mk.VII Golfs.

It all adds up to a driving experience that exceeds the already impressive capabilities of the standard cars, adding a depth of muscle and machismo that's quite intoxicating. The GTI and GTI Performance are fast, sure, but the unfussed, clinical way they go about the job can lack inspiration. 

The 40 Years is eye-openingly, cussword-inducingly fast around a circuit, and possesses a cross-country turn of pace that would give the R a fright in the right conditions.

The R-derived exhaust is louder and sounds more natural in the cabin than even the R itself, while the racecar-spec Alcantara steering wheel is thinner in diameter than the stock cars and gives the car a genuinely special air.

We only tested the DSG version, which worked in complete, quick-shifting harmony with the rest of the package, but the manual model – if you can find one – would be even more fun to drive point to point.

Safety

The 40 Years benefits from all of the safety systems available on the Golf platform, including seven airbags, rear view camera, ESP and post-collision braking. 

Adaptive cruise control, front assist with city emergency brake function, a blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, and a proactive occupant protection system is also standard. 

Ownership

A three-year unlimited kilometre warranty is standard on the German-made Golf GTI 40 Years, while service intervals of 15,000km or 12 months are suggested. 

Capped price servicing is available for six years, peaking at $1082 for a 60,000km/four-year service and totaling $3162. Pollen filters and brake fluid costs aren't included.

Verdict

If you're in the market right now for a Golf GTI, and you can stretch the repayments to cover the 40 Years – and if you can find one – then stop what you're doing and go grab one. Now. 

Volkswagen claims it's the best Golf GTI it's made in 40 years, and it's not an unreasonable claim. The 40 Years scores the very best drivetrain from all three siblings, along with a great interior and bespoke exterior; if the best things come to those who wait, then the time is now for the GTI 40 Years. It's a belter of a car.

In fact, it's an instant collectible, and a car that will be highly sought after by hot hatch aficionados in the years to come.

Is the Golf GTI 40 Years your ultimate birthday present? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Volkswagen Golf pricing and spec info.

Pricing guides

$20,990
Based on 405 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$13,487
Highest Price
$41,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
118 TSI Exclusive 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $20,900 – 28,380 2016 Volkswagen Golf 2016 118 TSI Exclusive Pricing and Specs
110 TDI Highline 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP $19,000 – 26,510 2016 Volkswagen Golf 2016 110 TDI Highline Pricing and Specs
110 TSI Highline 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $18,200 – 25,410 2016 Volkswagen Golf 2016 110 TSI Highline Pricing and Specs
92 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $11,500 – 16,830 2016 Volkswagen Golf 2016 92 TSI Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
9
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

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