San Francisco: Imagine
you're an engineer at Volkswagen. You've been working on one of the
world's greatest luxury cars, the VW Phaeton. You've contributed to the
awesome, four-wheel-drive Touareg SUV. You've also helped create the
most expensive, most powerful and fastest production car in the world,
the Bugatti Veyron. And then one day your boss walks in and says, "I
need your help with the new VW Golf, our little compact car. Remember
Yawn. There were probably more engineers
eager to design the lug nuts on the Bugatti than there were on the
entire Golf project.
Thus Volkswagen birthed the new Golf - known
as the Rabbit and GTI here in America - and gave us a car that teeters
between brilliant and disappointing depending on your perspective.
On one side, this new car is technically
superior to virtually everything else on the road. Its handling dynamics
and high-speed stability are second to none, especially in its lowly
price class. It has a remarkably stiff chassis, robust engine and
unmistakably German feel.
The high-performance GTI that I tested is a
blast to drive. No matter where you go - around town, on the Interstate
or on winding roads - it likes to be driven hard, almost begging to be
It's also available with an amazing,
high-tech, dual-clutch automatic transmission that's like nothing you've
ever driven. There aren't words to describe how cool this transmission
When you drive a normal transmission, either
automatic or manual, there's always a split second when the engine
disengages from one gear and engages with another. Not only does this
create a slight jerk when shifting gears under acceleration, but it also
means there is a short period of time when your engine isn't pulling the
car. That's inefficient and bad for performance.
With Volkswagen's fancy dual-clutch
transmission, one clutch engages at the same time another one
disengages, so there's always a clutch transferring torque from the
engine during a shift. There's no pause, no jerky feeling. Just smooth,
seamless, nonstop acceleration while it shifts automatically.
From that perspective, the new GTI shows off
what Volkswagen's engineers learned on the Phaeton and Bugatti. It's a
very modern, advanced automobile.
It's futuristic. It's also a letdown.
The previous generation Golf was socialism
on wheels. Even though you might pay only $15,000 for your Golf, you got
the same quality of fit and finish that people expect in a $70,000
Lexus. It was incredible, almost too good to be true.
With this latest version, though, fit and
finish have taken a noticeable dip. You can tell the engineers were
mailing it in on this economy car, just waiting for the next
jet-powered, carbon-fiber supercar project to come along.
On my test car, one of the window controls
didn't work right. When you wanted that window to go down, it went up.
When you wanted it to go up, it went down. So it was just like children.
When I slammed the door shut, I expected it
to have that solid, bank-vault feeling you normally get with German
cars. It wasn't there. It felt like it was made of crusty Cheez Whiz.
The quality of interior materials was
similarly disappointing. While the last Golf looked like its interior
would last for centuries, the new one feels slightly spongy and chintzy,
like a padded seat in McDonald's.
All in all, the GTI is a great car, one
that's as sophisticated as it is fun and practical.
It just makes you wonder how much better it
could have been if Volkswagen didn't spend so much time designing
expensive ego boosters.
What was tested? The 2007 Volkswagen
GTI Four-Door Automatic with a base price of $23,675. Options: Luxury
package ($3,160), DVD navigation system ($1,800). Price as tested
(including $630 destination charge): $29,265.
Why avoid it? It's pricey for a small
car, and the quality of fit and finish has been lowered compared with
the old Golf. It's disappointing to see the quality of the GTI's
interior drop. The previous version of this car set the benchmark for
fit and finish, but the new one doesn't quite match its predecessor's
Why buy it? It's a showcase of
cutting-edge technology, and it's incredibly fun to drive. With a
four-door GTI available, you can have high performance and a practical
cabin. Volkswagen's new GTI is actually bigger than it looks. Now
available with four doors, this fun-to-drive VW can route 200 horsepower
through a high-tech, dual-clutch automatic transmission. By
Derek Price © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
VW Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
Column Name: VW's experiments help and hurt compact cars
2007 Volkswagen GTI
Word Count: 815
Photo Caption: The 2007 Volkswagen GTI
Volkswagen Internet Media
Series #: 2007 - 03
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2007 VW GTI
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2007 VW GTI