2014 GOLF GTI PERFORMANCE REVIEW
What’s Hot: Slingshots out of corners, strong brakes.
What’s Not: DSG-only won’t suit all enthusiasts.
X-FACTOR: It’s the GTI you know and love, but with a sharper edge.
Vehicle Style: 5-door small hot hatch
Price: $48,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 169kW/350Nm 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp twin-clutch auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.6 l/100km | tested: 11.2 l/100km (under severe driving)
When it comes to the quintessential hot-hatch, Volkswagen's Golf GTI is just about the poster-child for fast, fun, front-wheel drive offerings.
That something is the GTI Performance. Building on the already impressive Golf GTI, the promise is even sharper handling, stronger brakes, and a handful of extra kilowatts.
So, for $4000 over a regular DSG-equipped GTI (the Performance is auto only) you pick up bigger brakes front and rear with bigger calipers, a seven-kilowatt power boost, tinted rear glass and Xenon headlights with tinted LED tail-lights.
The real party trick though is the electronically controlled diff lock. The first time such a system has appeared in a front driver, and crucial to the car’s transformation from great handler to phenomenal handler.
Money well spent? Well, it certainly turns things up a notch.
- Sports seats in ‘Clark’ tartan cloth with alcantara-trimmed bolsters
- Black headlining
- Leather trimmed flat-bottomed sports steering wheel
- Privacy glass
- 5.8 inch touchscreen with navigation and eight-speaker audio
Step inside the GTI Performance and the interior is very familiar to anyone acquainted with the Golf range. The key difference here is the addition of Alcantara to the seat bolsters in place of the regular GTI’s cloth.
No need to worry about the lack of big changes. As it stands, the Golf runs a well dressed, logically designed interior and one of the best-feeling sports steering wheels we’ve wrapped our hands around.
Being a five-door only also means that, unlike a Renault Megane RS, getting friends and family in and out is a breeze - and the square opening means no-one’s likely to knock their scone on the way through.
Critically though, the driving position is easy to set.
The seats offer a broad scope of range and although the wheel can appear a shade high, it’s actually right where you need it through the bends. I also gets reach and rake adjustment.
ON THE ROAD
- 2.0 turbo intercooled petrol four, 169kW/350Nm
- 19-inch ‘Santiago’ alloy wheels
- Six-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic only
- Electronically controlled mechanical diff lock.
- Larger brake discs with uprated calipers
With 169kW of power, the GTI Performance boasts an extra seven 'killer wasps' over the standard GTI, while torque between the two remains the same at 350Nm.
That’s only a small brag, and the peak-power spreads from 4700-6200rpm, starting 200rpm later than the standard GTI. Torque spans 1500-4600rpm, this time stretching 200rpm further than the standard GTI.
Underfoot, only the most dedicated purists would be able to identify that change, but with a 0-100 sprint of 6.4 seconds the GTI Performance does knock 0.1 of a second off the regular GTI’s time.
But the biggest changes can be felt through the bends. Volkswagen selected a drive route jam-packed with corners to demonstrate the impressive ability of the Volkswagen-developed electronically actuated mechanical diff lock.
By using a multi-plate clutch inside the differential housing, the fully variable mechanical diff-lock (EDL) can variably lock-up or release in a similar way to a limited-slip-diff, using the wheel-speed sensors to monitor rotational speeds.
Jargon aside, it simply means the GTI Performance is able to rocket out of corners with tremendous force, with barely any loss of traction to the inside wheel.
That means you can hit the gas earlier through a corner without fear of losing traction to the inside wheel.
The new system also operates in conjunction with the existing Extended Diff Lock (XDL) which applies brake force to a spinning wheel to send torque to the wheel with grip. Like an added safety net of cornering prowess.
Adaptive chassis control, as in the GTI, is also part of the Performance package allowing driver selectable Comfort, Normal and Sport modes that not only vary the ride comfort, but also monitor and adjust each shock absorber up to 1000 times per second with the aim of reducing roll and increasing comfort.
That’s all handy stuff, but what about when it comes time to hit the anchors? That’s covered too.
Up front 340mm rotors take the place of the normal 312mm items and in the rear 310mm ventilated discs replace the normal 300mm solid ones.
Pad surface is increased to suit; up front are single piston calipers branded with the GTI logo and all calipers score a coat of red paint.
They look good, and stop even better - the notchy feel of lesser Golfs is less noticeable for starters, and even after a frenetic workout we couldn’t fault the pedal-feel or stopping ability.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars: the new Golf scored 35.92 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Two-stage stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, seven airbags (dual front, side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee) and driver fatigue detection.
All seats feature height adjustable head-rests and three-point seatbelts. Front seatbelts are height adjustable with load-limiting pretensioners
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Is the Golf GTI Performance the hottest hatch out there? Well, maybe not in a drag race, but there’s more to life than sprinting between traffic lights.
Volkswagen knows this, that’s why - even though its power figures have been beaten - the sublime balance and all-round ability have not.
If you’re looking for something you can fang across a mountain road or around a track on Sunday - and then drop the kids off to school on Monday - then this is it.
And with its new-found front-end confidence, you’d be mad not to seek out every winding strip of tarmac on offer.
Over a standard GTI the Performance may be the best $4000 you’ll ever spend.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Golf GTI - manual - $41,990
- Golf GTI - auto - $44,490
- Golf GTI Performance - auto - $48,490
- 2014 Golf R - 6 Speed Manual - $51,990
- 2014 Golf R - 6 Speed DSG - $54,490
MORE: GTI and Golf R Reviews
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