2006 GTI New Car Test Drive
Remember all the buzz a few years ago over Fahrfignugen? Well, that sheer enjoyment of the dynamic driving experience was born with the GTI.
Launched in mid 1970s in Europe, the Volkswagen GTI made its American debut a few years later and became the original pocket rocket, a nimble, dynamic, compact vehicle that did for imports what muscle cars had done for Detroit a decade earlier.
Using the then brand-new VW Golf as their platform (at first, the Golf was sold as the Rabbit in the United States), a group of Volkswagen engineers, working on their own and without formal corporate approval, hot-rodded the replacement for the original Beetle into an exciting performance car that went into production wearing GTI designation. VW executives hoped to sell as many as 5000 of these sporty hatchbacks; over the next 25 years enthusiastic drivers would buy more than 1.4 million of them.
However, even Volkswagen admits that with ensuing generations it didn't stay as true as it might have to the original spirit of the GTI. So when it came time to launch the all-new and fifth generation of the company's Golf hatchback, one of the engineering team's assignments was to produce a true successor to the original GTI, and in so doing to make it a car that would stand as a counterpoint to the big-winged sport compact cars with their coffee can exhausts and their flamboyant paint jobs.
The 2006 GTI is full of Teutonic subtlety, but it also is fast. Volkswagen is positioning it as being already prepared. No tuning necessary.
The GTI draws its energy from Volkswagen's smaller and lighter 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which has been turbocharged to boost its output to 200 horsepower and to 207 pound-feet of torque, with peak torque holding steady all the way from 1800 to 5000 rpm.
Volkswagen notes that the GTI can rocket from a standing start to 60 miles per hour in just 6.8 seconds, but notes, too, that the car is rated at 23 miles per gallon in town and 32 on the highway with the manual transmission and at 25 and 31, respectively, with the Direct Shift Gearbox, which can be left in a fully automatic mode or can be manually manipulated by racing-style paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.
We delighted in the car's quick and precise steering. We appreciated the support and design of the Interlagos plaid seating surfaces and the versatility of its hatchback design.
The 2006 Volkswagen GTI comes as a two-door hatchback, with a choice of six-speed manual transmission ($21,990) or the six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox, or DSG ($23,065).
(A four-door version of the GTI will be offered when the 2007 models are introduced. Other versions of the fifth-generation Golf will be launched into the American market at the same time. Those Golfs will be powered by Volkswagen's 150-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine already being used in the New Beetle and Jetta.)
The GTI comes with an extensive list of standard equipment and only a limited number of options are offered. All GTIs come with air conditioning, well-bolstered seats with Interlagos plaid cloth insets, eight-way adjustable front seats with East Entry access to the 40/60 split folding rear seat, blue-tinted glass, xenon high-intensity gas-discharge headlamps with washers, halogen fog lamps, turn signal lights on the exterior rearview mirrors, variable intermittent windshield wipers, a height-adjustable center armrest, cruise control, a trip computer, remote unlocking as well as power windows that can be opened or closed with the key fob, aluminum alloy pedals, a 10-speaker audio system with six-CD changer and MP3 player, a tilt and telescoping steering column with audio controls on the steering wheel, plenty of cup holders, and a carpeted and covered cargo area.
Option Package 1 ($1370) includes a power sunroof and satellite radio (XM or Sirius). Option Package 2 ($3160) includes the sunroof and satellite radio and adds dual-zone climate controls, leather seating and heated front seats and washer nozzles. A DVD-based navigation system can be added to either package ($1800).
The GTI comes standard with 17-inch summer performance tires on alloy wheels, but all-season tires (no cost) and 18-inch wheels with summer performance tires ($750) are optional. Rubber floor and cargo-area mats are available ($185) along with accessories, such as a lower body kit and various cargo organizers.
Safety features include front airbags, side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags, three-point harnesses for all seating positions (wear them), LATCH child seat anchors. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) come standard, along with Brake Assist, electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability control, traction control (anti-slip regulation and electronic differential lock, engine-braking assist).