2008 GTI New Car Test Drive
The Volkswagen GTI demonstrates how much fun a small, practical car can be. The GTI offers sporty handling, quick and precise steering, and spirited acceleration performance.
Yet it's a practical car, based on the VW Rabbit, and available in three-door hatchback and five-door hatchback versions. The GTI gets an EPA-rated 21/29 mpg City/Highway with the manual transmission, or 22/29 mpg with the Direct Shift Gearbox.
For 2008, the GTI suspension has been lowered a half-inch for a sportier stance. A lower ride height lowers the center of gravity, which usually improves handling. Sirius satellite radio is now standard.
A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivers the power, rated at 200 horsepower. The GTI can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just 7.2 seconds, says Volkswagen. With 207 pound-feet of torque holding steady from 1800 to 5000 rpm, the GTI responds quickly to the gas pedal at any engine speed.
The Direct Shift Gearbox, or DSG, is bit a of F1 wizardry that can be left in a fully automatic mode or can be manually manipulated via paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Selecting Launch Control allows the engine to rev up before the DSG clutch engages for controlled wheelspin as you leave the line.
The 2008 Volkswagen GTI comes in one trim level with a choice of two body styles: a three-door hatchback ($22,730) or five-door hatchback ($23,230). Each comes with a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic Direct Shift Gearbox ($1,075).
Standard features include eight-way-adjustable front seats with Interlagos plaid cloth inserts; air conditioning; a 40/60 split folding rear seat; HID headlights with washers; fog lights; cruise control; trip computer; remote unlocking; power windows that can be opened or closed with the key fob; aluminum alloy pedals; a 10-speaker audio system with 6CD changer and MP3 playback; a tilt and telescoping steering column with audio controls on the steering wheel. Tires are 17-inch summer performance tires on alloy wheels; all-season tires are available as a no-cost option.
The Autobahn package ($3,020) upgrades with sport seats with partial leather seating surfaces, a power sunroof, heated front seats and washer nozzles, and an audio amplifier. The optional DVD-based navigation system ($1,800) displaces the CD changer from the dash, but VW offers the choice of either relocating it to the center console, or deleting it in favor of an iPod adaptor. (The Navigation stereo will not play MP3 CDs.) Options the sunroof ($1,000), the audio amplifier ($325), the iPod adapter ($199), the heated seats and washer nozzles ($225), and 18-inch Hufeisen alloy wheels with 225/40HR18 all-season tires ($750) or 225/40YR18 summer performance ($890) tires. Also available are 18-inch Vision V wheels with all-season tires ($1,699). Dealers can install a set of rubber floor mats that includes a trunk liner ($185); and a lower-body aero kit ($1,650).
Safety equipment includes front airbags, front side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, three-point harnesses for all seating positions (wear them), and LATCH child seat anchors. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) also come standard, along with Brake Assist, Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Control (ESP), and traction control (consisting of anti-slip regulation and electronic differential lock, plus engine-braking assist). The four-door offers optional rear-seat side-impact airbags ($350).