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Volkswagen Golf GTI


Base Price: $24,785
Price as Tested: $32,835

Volkswagen really isn’t targeting my demographic with its redesigned Golf GTI. A giant killer to be sure, it’s smallish stature caters to more pliable, flexible, dare I say, younger drivers. Perhaps that’s an overstatement, but clearly, Volkswagen didn’t have me in mind when it determined the Golf’s dimensions. It’s not overly small, but just not designed for easy mounting and dismounting by older or taller drivers.

Having said that, though, I recently spent nearly 1,700 miles in the 2015 GTI on a week-long sprint from Greenville, SC to Delray 2015_gti_3937Beach, FL and back, loving each and every mile of it. Total mileage included the 300 or so miles I racked up on daily commutes across Palm Beach County while in Florida.

Although getting into and out of the GTI for me was a performance that could earn a million views on YouTube, I was quite comfortable once settled into the amply bolstered driver’s seat. This is a driver’s car. Its cockpit is built around the driver, providing a clear view of all the gauges and easy access to all controls. With its flat-bottom shape, the three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel helps the driver keep track of where its on-center position is when cooking through the twisties. Not that there is much in the way of twisties or even sweeping curves on the highways between South Carolina and South Florida.

2015_golf_gti_2890Golf offers scads of front-seat room. Space is more of an issue for rear-seat passengers, but no complaints wafted forward on those occasions when carting around backseat occupants of various sizes and ages. Cargo space with the 60/40 split rear seat in place is healthy. Fold down the second-row seat and a remarkable amount of stuff can hauled.

Not unexpected in a sporty car, the ride is a tad stiff. Pavement imperfections register in the seat of your pants, but not to a distracting or uncomfortable degree. The steering is precise with a suspension tuned for maximum stability in the turns. Whether in straight-line acceleration or taming the curves, the GTI is big fun to drive.

A 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides the thrust via either a six-speed manual or driver-shiftable six-speed automatic transmission. Producing a very respectable 210 horsepower, this four-banger also delivers an asphalt grinding 258 lb-ft of torque. Galloping from zero to 60 requires just over six seconds. This isn’t blinding quickness, but it is on the high end of the pocket-rocket segment.

Fuel economy is remarkably steady with an EPA-estimated 28 mpg in combined driving regardless of the transmission. Both trannys deliver 25 mpg in city driving. Posting 34 mpg on the highway, the manual is rated one mpg higher than the automatic.

The $24,785 base price is for the entry-level GTI S two-door. Volkswagen offers a two-door SE at $27,785. Adding a degree of versatility, Volkswagen also builds GTI in a four-door configuration. Opting for the extra doors boosts the bottom line for the S and SE by $600. Additionally, there is a third four-door trim level, like my test GTI, called the Autobahn with a starting price of $30,045. Buyers can arm any trim level GTI with the automated tranny for an extra $1,100.

Content in even the most basic GTI is impressive with power accessories, heatable outboard mirrors, heated front windshield2015_golf_gti_4214 washer nozzles, heated front seats, cruise control, manual climate control, touchscreen audio control with redundant steering wheel controls, eight-speaker audio system with iPod integration and Bluetooth connectivity.

Reaching up to the Autobahn gathers additional features from the SE, such as power sunroof, remote keyless entry, leather seating, rearview camera and rain-sensing wipers, adding to them a navigation system and automatic climate control.

Also standard in the SE and Autobahn trims is the Fender premium audio upgrade. This nine-speaker system is among the best factory systems in the industry.

My test GTI featured $1,690 of extras, including Bi-Xenon headlights, Park-Distance Control and Forward Collision Warning System.

If you don’t relish driving, satisfied simply to go from here to there, you probably will be better served, saving yourself a few grand in the process, with the standard Golf. But, if your idea of fun is tearing up the mountain curves on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the Golf GTI will deliver its weight in grins.