Stuart attended the North American debut of the VW GTI at the LA Auto show today and learned that the original pocket rocket is about two weeks away from officially arriving on our shores.

The new GTI gets the same 2.0L turbo-four producing 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque that we mentioned earlier would be the base engine for the new Eos. The motor also has VW’s FSI direct injection technology and gets inputs via a drive-by-wire throttle system. A six speed manual is standard or you could opt for the (yay!) DSG transmission.

The new hot hatch is more solid than ever, with a 15- and 35-percent bump in its dynamic and torsional rigidity, respectively. The fifth-gen GTI also gets a multi-link independent rear suspension for the first time that helps free up useable interior space as well as provide a better balance of ride and handling. A few of the car mags that have driven the car, however, note that the U.S. GTI's suspension has been raised 15 mm to meet federal bumper regulations. The extra clearance in between the tire and fender gives our GTI a bouncy Baja look the Euro spec version lacks.

Official pics, full press release and specs after the jump…

The German automaker revealed—for the first time at a North American press conference—U.S. production versions of its famous GTI model, whose distinct styling and more aggressive character mark a return to the purity of Volkswagen’s sports car hatchback concept. This new GTI, which goes on sale this month, was built from the beginning for the true Volkswagen purist and promises the brand’s faithful a modern and dynamic technological extension of the automaker’s original hot-hatch approach--one that essentially spurred a new car class in the early 1980s.
Enthusiasts of the first real “pocket rocket” update only need to wait about two weeks before the 2006 all-new GTI hits showrooms.

Originally, Volkswagen launched the GTI nearly 30 years ago in Europe and, finally, with drivers spreading the news across the Atlantic Ocean, it brought the original “pocket rocket” to U.S. shores in 1983. Purists of the GTI concept have anticipated this fifth generation since its critically acclaimed European launch in mid-year 2005, with rejuvenated sports credentials that include the high-tech, 200 horsepower 2.0T four-cylinder engine, a new fully independent, sports-tuned suspension—a first for the GTI—a standard six-speed manual transmission, and an understated but dynamically aggressive style inside and out.

The new GTI is a solid and aggressive sports model with a unique optional automatic manual DSG transmission that utilizes the inherent efficiencies of direct manual shifting that can automatically engage the points or take shifting orders at the driver’s whim. Still, the GTI is all about purity, and for those who accept only the added driver’s control of a clutch, the all-new GTI comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission. Top speed is electronically governed at 130 miles per hour in the U.S.

The true Volkswagen GTI driver knows the strong foundation of his or her decision. The GTI is based wholly on one of the world’s most popular and enduring models—the Volkswagen Golf. This fifth-generation Golf platform is renowned for its solidity and sophistication that make it one of the best-selling models in the world. It is built in Wolfsburg, Germany, the home of Volkswagen.

With the heart and soul of a Golf, the new GTI records double-digit improvements in its dynamic and torsional rigidity—15 percent and 35 percent, respectively, to be exact. This is German engineering at its foundation and partially achieved through the use of more high-strength body panels, and Volkswagen’s world-class design and production processes that only use the most advanced laser-welding systems and check points. The result is a dramatic increase in precise laser-welded seams, normally reserved for cars in much higher segments of the market. The net benefit of such a laser-bonding process is a class-leading fit and finish, heightened body strength, crash protection, dialed-in driving dynamics, and reduced interior noise—all key components that set the GTI far above its hatchback competitors.

The performance heart of the new 2006 GTI is Volkswagen’s new and highly regarded 2.0T turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 200 hp at 5,100 to 6,000 revolutions per minute and 207 ft.-lbs. of torque from 1,800 to 5,000 rpm.
This transverse, front-mounted engine incorporates dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and maintenance-free hydraulic lifters for smooth, worry-free operation. A fully electronic engine management system includes drive-by-wire throttle control and FSI direct injection for optimal fuel delivery.

Known for being a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” the new 2006 GTI shows a bit more fang with its distinctly, pleasantly aggressive, sports-car styling. More than ever, it is distinguished from its rock solid sibling, the new-generation Golf, including the most striking front end ever. The new GTI’s front offers no confusion with the upcoming Golf, employing a black honeycomb design with a decisive red frame strip outlining the radiator portion. This same honeycomb design carries to the lower grille sections, which hosts standard halogen fog lights, and resemble extra air intakes that flow powerfully to the integrated front spoiler. The driving intensity of the front is accentuated by the eyes of the car, the headlight housings, which use a very clear, tech-looking case to show off high-intensity gas-discharged headlamps (Xenon). This system includes a well-disguised headlight washer system that cleanses the chip-resistant polycarbonate lenses. Completing the look is the GTI’s famous badge that sits proudly at the front of the car on the passenger’s side.

The GTI plays devilishly with the famous silhouette of the new Golf. At profile, one immediately notes the new GTI’s striking roof spoiler, lower profile and use of aggressive black valances and side window moldings. Standard on the new GTI are low profile summer performance tires (all-season available) that wrap large 17-inch alloy wheels, with an option to fill the wheel area even further with a new dynamic 18-inch alloy. Distinct red brake calipers nestle tastefully behind each wheel choice.

At the rear, the GTI badge, aligning to the driver’s side, is attached to the hatch door; dual chrome tail pipes add more evidence to the car’s performance intentions along with the aggressive swath of the rear spoiler with an integrated, highly visible rear brake light, bumper valance and sophisticated, jewel-like round rear tail lamps.

GTI enthusiasts should feel at home behind the wheel of the new GTI, which again advances the purity of the GTI concept but in a modern and sophisticated execution. GTI-exclusive interior treatments include special alloy treatments throughout, from the interior door sills, to the door handles to the distinct treatments for the pedals (including dead pedal with the DSG transmission), to mention a few. Inside, sporty brushed-metal accents abound, and the instrument panel gauges are aluminum and black with a chrome surround.

The new GTI’s driving environment begins with its unique three-spoke, leather- wrapped multi-function sport steering wheel with audio and telephone controls that, as found in all Volkswagens, is adjustable and telescoping for optimal driving positioning. This sporty driver’s tool adds paddle shifters on both sides of the wheel when the optional DSG transmission is added.

Seats, as one expects in a model with this pedigree, are sports designed with ample bolsters for the demands of more spirited driving, with adjustable lumbar support in both front seats. Eight-way, manual sport fabric seats are standard with adjustable head restraints for all seating positions.

The standard stereo system in the new GTI befits its road manners with a premium 10-speaker AM/FM radio sound system with in-dash single CD player, MP3 format readable, satellite radio compatible for either XM® or SIRIUS™ and theft deterrence.

Two basic GTI option packages are available. The first adds a power sunroof, and satellite radio for a choice of XM or SIRIUS service. The second option package includes Climatronic™ dual-zone automatic climate control, top-level front sport seats with leather seating surfaces and power lumbar support adjustment, heated front seats, and heated windshield washer nozzles.

While employing the basic tried-and-true independent McPherson strut architecture, the new GTI handling is enhanced by a number of revisions that include a new strut-type set-up that helps create a more direct steering ratio; higher transversal axle rigidity and a lowered tendency to exhibit body roll on tight turns. This new architecture also uses separate mountings of springs and dampers and allows for improved lower track control arm mounting points, and the use of twin-sleeve shock absorbers.

At the rear, for the first time, the new GTI comes equipped with an advanced multi-link independent rear suspension. This feature promises not only to improve the GTI’s handling characteristics but also helps improve the balance of offering sporty driving dynamics and ride sophistication. This fully independent four-link suspension, with coil springs, telescopic shocks and stabilizer bar, also allowed the designers and engineers to create more space and practicality into the GTI.
As seen on nearly all new Volkswagens, handling performance is honed to perfection by a new electro-mechanical power rack-and-pinion steering system, one which offers an extremely good "center feel" and contributes significantly to the new car’s confident straight-line stability. The GTI driver gets that special German connected-to-the-road feel but also the added handling confidence of active-return steering and straight-ahead driving correction assistance.

Additionally the list of technologically advanced standard equipment on the new GTI includes: next-generation Electronic Stabilization Program; and a multi-function trip computer with compass and instant calculations for elapsed time and distance and fuel usage, to mention a few. In addition to its active safety features, the GTI comes standard with a host of passive safety equipment: driver and front passenger front airbags, driver and front passenger side thorax airbags, Side Curtain Protection® supplemental restraint systems; crash active front headrests; and Daytime Running Lights.

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