Saturday, May 14, 2016

Hot Hatch Legend

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 You never quite outgrow a machine like the VW Golf GTI. A super versatile machine, the GTI has all the space and comfort of any other Golf, but thanks to the professional performance enhancements, it's loads of fun to drive. This formula is what gave the GTI legendary status, and it carries through to the current model.

      The redesign completed last year made the GTI a more visually entertaining model than previous years. While not totally different in personality from recent GTI models, the current model has more responsive steering and brakes that make it far more capable and fun to drive on country roads. Accelerating out of the turns is made easier by the equally legendary 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine packed into the engine bay on the 2016 VW Golf GTI.

     The 2016 VW Golf GTI is offered in 2, and 4-door hatchback body styles, while being offered in trim levels of S, SE, and Autobahn. All-season tires are standard on all trims, and summer performance tires are a no-cost option.

     Standard features for the base GTI S 2-door include 18-inch alloy wheels, LED fog lights, rear spoiler, heated mirrors, cruise control, a/c, cooled glovebox, plaid cloth upholstery, heated front seats, a leather wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, rear 60/40 split folding rear seats, a 6.5 inch touchscreen technology interface, Bluetooth, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, rear view camera, and much more. 4-door versions of the S also get power reclining front seats.

     Available on all GTI's is the Performance package, which includes an electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip differential, larger front and rear brakes, and an extra 10 ponies.

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     Stepping up to the GTI SE adds a sunroof, auto headlamps and wipers, keyless ignition and entry, leather upholstery, and a Fender Audio System. The range topping GTI Autobahn adds a navigation system, 10-way power drivers seat, and dual zone a/c.

     Any GTI can be ordered with the Lighting Package, which includes adaptive bi-xenon headlamps and LED running lights. Optional on the SE and Autobahn models equipped with the Performance Package is Dynamic Chassis Control which provides driver-adjustable shocks and a larger rear stabilizer bar. Optional on any SE or Autobahn model, the Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, a frontal collision warning system with emergency brake assist, lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alerts, automated parallel parking and an auto dimming rear view mirror.

     The front wheel drive 2016 VW Golf GTI uses a 2.0 liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine the produces 210 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft of the good stuff. If you opt for the Performance Package, you get an extra 10 hp, for a total of 220 horsepower. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, and VW's DSG automated manual is optional.

     During testing, a 4-door GTI with the optional Performance Package and a 6-speed manual did the traditional 0-60 mph run in 6.0 seconds. Fairly quick for sporty compact cars.

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     Standard safety features on the 2016 VW GTI include anti-lock 4-wheel disc brakes, automatic hill-hold, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, and a drivers knee airbag. A post-crash braking system is also standard and automatically applies the brakes to reduce the chances of a secondary crash. A rear view camera is standard while front and rear parking sensors are part of the optional Driver Assistance package. Said package also includes a frontal collision warning system, lane departure warnings, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alerts.

 In brake testing, a 4-door GTI with the summer performance tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 108 feet, which is a really short distance. In government crash testing, the 2-door GTI earned 5-stars for overall crash protection.

     You will fall in love with the interior of the 2016 VW GTI within 30 seconds of getting inside. It really is just that good. Materials are well grained and soft to the touch, and the overall design is European, comfortable and sporty thanks to bold red stitching. Buttons and switches are placed close to the driver and offer simple, easy to use controls.

     Every 2016 GTI includes a 6.5 inch touchscreen with all new software behind it. Autobahn models also include navigation, but with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility across all trims, you don't really need a factory nav system anymore. The touchscreen is still small compared to the 8-inch screen that you get in the Focus ST, but it is a huge step forward compared to the screen offered on last year's model. Also, a universal USB port is finally included.
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     Passenger space is excellent for this class. The front seats provide good support and comfort, even during long driving stints. Best of all, it doesn't come with the sacrifice of rear seat passenger space either. Wide, tall doors combined with a moderately high seat make this an easy car to get in and out of. Even the 2-door models have good rear seat access. up to 22.8 cubic feet of stuff can be stored behind the rear seats, or up to a massive 52.7 cubic feet of space if you fold the rear seats down.

     The 2016 VW GTI lives up to its hot hatch heritage with sharp handling and steering, brisk acceleration, and a rather manly engine and exhaust note. These are best explored on twisty mountain roads, where the GTI playfully darts around every corner, while giving the driver plenty of confidence.Though all GTI's are fun to drive, you should think about opting for the Performance Package if you are planning on taking the occasional challenging road or a track day or two.

     Either the slick-shifting manual or the well-executed DSG would be a good choice, but for a proper experience, I would go for the manual. When compared to traditional autos, the DSG is quick and smooth, and offers perfectly rev-matched downshifts. However, the DSG can be frustratingly slow to respond to gas pedal inputs when you want to accelerate quickly, or you are slugging along in traffic.

     Although it is comfortable on long drives, the GTI can ride harshly over imperfect pavement, especially when equipped with the summer tires. Models with the adaptive suspension are more forgiving, but not enough so to justify the added expense if you weren't already planning on getting the Performance Package. I have yet to drive a GTI with the all season tires, and there is a decent chance that rubber compound would offer a better ride.

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