Full 2007 Volkswagen GTI Review
What's New for 2007
A four-door version and a new Fahrenheit trim joins the VW GTI lineup for 2007. Other than that, changes are minor, as VW's hot hatch was redesigned midway through 2006. Updates include a slightly lower ride height, restyled alloy wheels, standard launch control for the DSG transmission, a standard tire-pressure monitor and simplified cruise-control actuation. On the audio front, there's a new standard auxiliary input jack and an optional Apple iPod-specific adapter.
As a car model ages and undergoes redesigns, a few things can be almost guaranteed to happen. It will get larger and heavier. More features will be added. It will have more horsepower, but it won't necessarily be faster than it was before. All of these things might be OK for a family sedan, but they are like kryptonite for a sporting car. Alas, the Volkswagen GTI, for much of its life, has been a textbook example of this progression.
Thankfully, the 2007 Volkswagen GTI has reversed the trend toward potbellied middle age by taking a big swig from the fountain of youth. Fully redesigned midway through last year, the new GTI represents a renewed sense of vitality. Even though it is indeed heavier than before, there's little arguing that this is the best GTI since the original models of the mid-to-late '80s.
As always, the GTI is a performance-themed variant of Volkswagen's compact Golf platform. (In the United States, VW has actually reverted to using the Rabbit name for the redesigned, fifth-generation Golf.) Available this year as either a two-door or four-door hatchback, the GTI has all the required elements for a proper hot hatch: upgraded engine and suspension, bigger wheels and tires, stronger brakes and special interior and exterior styling elements.
Compared to the previous GTI, the new car is bigger and heavier. The payoff, though, is a considerably stiffer body structure and a rear suspension that's now fully independent. Both contribute to the car's improved handling precision. There's also a new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. It's the same one that's used in a variety of VW and Audi vehicles and it features a raft of high-tech features, including direct fuel injection. Additionally, GTI buyers have the option of ordering VW/Audi's brilliant Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) transmission, an automated-clutch, paddle-shifted manual.
Among other sport-oriented coupes and hatchbacks, the 2007 Volkswagen GTI represents a sort of grown-up middle ground. It's more fun to drive than the softer Hyundai Tiburon and Mitsubishi Eclipse but not as thrilling as the high-strung Honda Civic Si and Mini Cooper S. The GTI also provides plenty of room for passengers and cargo, and its feature list is thoroughly comprehensive. Use it like most people will and it'll serve you faithfully as a sporty, functional and entertaining companion that stays true to the hot-hatch mantra.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2007 Volkswagen GTI is a performance-oriented hatchback. Both two-door and four-door body styles are offered. Standard equipment includes xenon HID headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors, power windows and locks, keyless entry, cruise control, sport front seats, a 60/40-split rear seat and a 10-speaker, six-CD/MP3 audio system with an auxiliary jack and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. A limited-edition Fahrenheit trim is also available that features hot orange paint, heated leather sport seats, orange interior accents and a sport-tuned suspension wearing unique 18-inch alloys.
On the options list you'll find 18-inch wheels, satellite radio and a navigation system with either a center armrest-mounted CD changer (replacing the standard in-dash unit) or an Apple iPod adapter. There's also an exterior styling kit and two options packages. Package #1 includes a sunroof and satellite radio; Package #2 has that plus automatic climate control, leather seating and heated front seats.
Powertrains and Performance
Every VW GTI comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. It drives the front wheels through a standard six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed, sequential-shifting automated manual called DSG. The DSG transmission (standard on the Fahrenheit trim) can be shifted via paddles on the steering wheel or placed in fully automatic mode. For a GTI with the regular six-speed manual, expect a 0-60-mph time of about 6.7 seconds.
Standard safety equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, stability control, front seat-mounted side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In NHTSA testing, the four-door Rabbit/GTI earned four stars out of five for its protection of front occupants in frontal impacts. For that agency's side-impact test, the car earned a five-star rating. In IIHS crash tests, the car scored a "Good" (the highest possible) in both the frontal-offset and side-impact tests and an "Acceptable" (the second highest) rating in rear-impact testing. This VW also earned that agency's "Silver" award as a Top Safety Pick.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like the Rabbit, the GTI's interior design is straightforward and traditional and features upscale materials and build quality. A few special metallic trim pieces are used, and the GTI-specific sport seats are very supportive. Distinctive design elements include the standard cloth upholstery, which has a retro plaid print, and the flat-bottom steering wheel. The main advantage to the four-door GTI is its more accessible rear seat, though the two-door's front seats do slide forward quite easily to improve entry and exit. Behind the rear seat, the GTI can hold 15 cubic feet of cargo.
Start the Volkswagen GTI and there's a deep, burbling engine note that increases in volume once the throttle is opened under load. It's a gorgeous tone that's rare in the world of turbocharged cars. Accelerate hard and it expands to fill the entire cockpit at redline. The engine also provides plenty of torque at low rpm to make squirts through urban traffic quite easy. From an enthusiast's standpoint, the 2007 GTI's main downfall is its handling. It's certainly a more willing partner than the previous GTI and better than many other sport coupes, but its hefty curb weight, tall body height and average steering feel all conspire to make it less fun to drive on a canyon road than a Honda Civic Si or Mini Cooper S.