Posted by: Matthew Vella on December 4, 2006
Due to a slight backlog in our test drive schedule, I won’t be fully reviewing Volkswagen’s new four-door GTI for several weeks. But, I couldn’t help jotting down a quick preview, having reluctantly handed back the keys this morning. (We have, however, already given the new Rabbit a thorough review.)
Everybody knows that VW’s corporate boardroom has, of late, been the site of more drama than a Desperate Housewives season finale — or would that be Desperate Hausehemann? But, the focus always seems to return to the product, assuming that better-selling, more reliable cars and SUVs are the midwives of less turbulent times.
The launch of the new GTI is an early play in the company’s effort to get back on its feet in the U.S. sales-wise and, image-wise, an opportunity to recapture some of the vim and vigor of its long-gone da da da glory days. The GTI, especially in four-door flavor, is certainly a sign that in terms of packaging, standard equipment, performance, driving experience, and, yes, even pricing VW can still get some things right. Indeed, the model just made Car and Driver’s annual 10 Best list.
So how is it? As a twenty-something, red-blooded male right in the sweet-spot of Volkswagen’s target market for the GTI, I can’t say I much appreciated the ads featuring BFs priggishly dissing their girlfriends in deference to their imaginary fast. I much preferred spots like “Officer” and “Takeout,” comments on the speed freak in all of us. (Read more on the ads.)
Luckily, the driving experience mitigates everything else. The 2 liter, inline-4 drops 200 horses with the smoothest and best-sounding turbo in the price range. Better yet, the engine is light enough to maintain the kind of balance that puts the driver at the center of the driven universe. It’s by no means the fastest or most powerful hot hatch, but it’s the best all-around — less tinny than a MAZDASPEED3 and less, well, Honda-y than a Civic Si.
Prelim. The Good: Great looks, lots of high-class detailing, smoothest turbo this side of the Autobahn, torque is available all across the power band, DSG option, price
Prelim. The Bad: None, seriously
Prelim. The Bottom Line: The original hot hatch idol is back
Editor’s Rating: T.B.D.