I’d love to provide a full and proper accounting of the next generation Volkswagen Golf GTI (version seven, if you’re keeping score), the latest variant of the original hot hatch that went on sale in Europe in late 2012. It’d be great to recount my impressions of this firecracker of a car after days (or at least several hours) of blasting around twisty mountain roads in California wine country, near misses with local law enforcement and all.
Alas, I can’t – at least not yet.
You see, dear reader, my time spent in this amusement park ride of a car lasted for only 10 minutes. That’s right, all I could get is ten very short minutes on a rather pedestrian loop of a drive route set up by Volkswagen as part of its 2014 full line presentation, a lineup which also includes a couple of European-market special guests like a tomato red GTI and a royal blue Scirocco (which I was unfortunately unable to drive).
Ten minutes is an appallingly short amount of seat time for a car as joy-inducing as the GTI Mark VII, but at this gathering Volkswagen’s U.S. and Canadian subsidiaries were much more interested in getting people like me driving models that will be arriving on our shores in the near future (i.e. 2014s that are already landing in dealerships).
The presence of the GTI (and the Scirocco) at this event were just as ‘special European treats’, meant to be enjoyed sparingly, but not too much you understand, lest they serve as a distraction from the main course of Jettas, Passats and Tiguans. Hence V-Dub personnel insisting that anyone who elects to drive these Euro dandies must not deviate from the prescribed 10-minute loop.
Despite the restriction, there’s no way I’m passing up a chance to drive this car, especially after learning Canada’s allotment won’t begin to arrive until mid-2014 (as 2015s). Hey, 10 minutes in heaven is better than zero minutes, right? Exactly.
So with that in mind, I’ll relate my thumbnail of the GTI Mark VII with a promise that I will perform a more thorough evaluation of it in a future issue of PRN Ignition.
Upon zooming off for my short jaunt on two-lane roads near St. Helena, California, I’m initially struck by a couple of things. First off, why on earth couldn’t VW of America get one with a manual transmission? Don’t get me wrong, the DSG automatic works just fine and I made good use of the paddle shifters, but come on – to really get the most out of this package, a manual transmission is a must.
The second thing that sticks in my mind is how similar the Mark VII is to its predecessor in terms of aesthetics. Yes, the new model has slightly revised front and rear ends and more angular headlamps and tail lights, but telling it apart from the outgoing model requires close examination. With that said, I’m told the new car is slightly bigger, yet lighter with a lower ride height than the outgoing car. Keeping the general design theme more or less unchanged is likely a good thing insofar as it retains a handsome profile which should appeal to both GTI traditionalists and new converts alike.
Same goes for the inside, which is swathed in soft-touch plastics, tasteful leather-covered surfaces and ample amounts of red stitching. The amenities are plentiful and laid out in a functional, straightforward manner. Much like the exterior, the interior is nearly indistinguishable from the current car, which suits me just fine and I suspect the somewhat conservative design ethic won’t upset many.
As for the really important stuff, VW’s venerable 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder mill (the EA888, for those into internal engine codes), is carried over to power the Mark VII. This engine, which likely pumps out about 210 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque in North American spec, remains as lively and willing as ever. These numbers represent a slight gain in horsepower (10) and an even bigger jump in the torque number (51), which really cranks up the fun factor.
The outgoing car will accelerate from 0-60 mph (0-96 km/h) in 6.8 seconds which the Mark VII figures to improve upon. Based on my brief time with it, I can attest the throttle response is hair-trigger which makes darting through traffic a spine-tinglingly joyous experience.
As one might expect, the ride was firm but not harsh and come with ample levels of grip, due in part to 18” wheels and stickier Dunlop SP Sport summer tires. Given my short time with it, I choose not to fiddle with the various electronic nannies the Mark VII comes with, so the impact doing so may have on performance is left for a future date when I have more time to play.
The fact that this is a European-spec car that will likely have some mechanical differences from Canadian models is also something I take into consideration. Pricing isn’t yet available, but expect it to be similar to the current car which starts at just under $30,000.
In sum, the Golf GTI Mark VII is a handsome, well-engineered and blazingly fast package of German mischief. Even though my time in it was far too short, let’s just say it’s ten minutes well spent.
2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mark VII
Base price (3-door): $29,375 (2013)
Engine: 2.0 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower / Torque: 210 / 258 (est.)
Transmission: 6-speed manual / automatic
Fuel Economy Ratings: TBA