2010 Volkswagen GTI: Handle This
May 10, 2010
It's clear the Volkswagen community is as vocal as it is zealous when it comes to defending its beloved GTI. And we can't blame them. The current car offers a fine combination of everyday performance and top-of-the-segment refinement and build quality.
Our first-hand experience and instrumented tests, however, show that it's not a class leader when it comes to instrumented test numbers. And our handling rating reflects those facts.
Details after the jump.
The "poor" handling rating is a result of its bottom-of-the-segment handling numbers combined with its subjective feel during our instrumented tests and the inability to fully disable its electronic safety measures. Pushing the GTI's ESP button does open the car's handling threshold but doesn't completely disable the stability control system. Drive hard and the system will still regularly intervene.
Even so, the rating does merit further explanation.
It is made based on the track experience only -- not the everyday driving on which most drivers will base their perceptions. And, measured only in that environment, the GTI -- largely because of its non-defeat stability control, all season tires and conservative suspension tuning -- does fall short. This doesn't mean it's utterly incapable. Rather, it means that it's below our expectations and below the average performance of the segment.
"Poor," in this case, also doesn't mean dangerous. The GTI's non-defeat stability control will serve drivers well in the environment it was designed to operate. Primarily, that means keeping a driver from losing control in an emergency situation.
The real issue here is that the GTI can't be driven at ten-tenths with the same expectations as many of its class rivals -- most of which come with summer tires and all of which have stability control which can be fully defeated. Many of those rivals also use a fast-acting mechanical limited-slip differential and more aggressive suspension tuning to produce better numbers and a more rewarding experience at the limit.
Because of availability we've only tested GTIs with all-season rubber as of this writing. We intend to test one fitted with summer tires (an option on the 18-inch wheels) in the near future to demonstrate the car's potential on a more level playing field.
Additionally, a review of our test procedures relative to others in the industry will help clear up many questions.
Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor