2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI: Grand Canyon and Back, For America
July 19, 2015
My plan for the 4th of July weekend was simple: Pick a destination about 500 miles from home, drive there, stay the night and come home. My holiday celebration would be a road trip rather than watching the same fireworks show I'd seen 100 times. So I asked Edmunds car-czar Mike Schmidt what vehicles in our fleet needed miles and he swiftly pointed me towards our long-term 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI.
I hadn't spent much quality time with the little red Volkswagen and this would be a perfect opportunity for some one-on-one time. I flipped a coin to decide between Northern California and the Grand Canyon and the coin came up tails. So I packed my bags and headed for the big crack in the desert.
Leaving Los Angeles, I worried immediately that I'd picked the wrong vehicle. The GTI's firm ride and stiff tires made for a bouncy, harsh ride and a noisy cabin. Not ideal. The broken concrete freeways around here deserve some culpability, but ride quality and cabin noise are probably the GTI's weakest links.
The seats are an entirely different story. For my 5-foot 9-inch, 170-pound frame, the driver's seat felt nearly perfect. Throughout the entire road trip, I can't remember a time where I shuffled, squirmed or adjusted to get more comfortable.
To keep things interesting on day one, I abandoned major highways for about 100 miles and found a few great roads in the Arizona desert. This gave me a chance to feel out the GTI's handling and cornering characteristics. The steering felt responsive at any speed and the chassis felt right at home along the high-speed desert sweepers. The DSG transmission shifted quickly, with swift responses from the paddle shifters.
Inside Grand Canyon National Park, the GTI continued to prove its mettle. I must've stopped thirty or forty times to check out the sights and slipping in and out of the GTI was a breeze. Getting in and out didn't require any craning over or ducking under the A-pillar. In the heat of the day, I returned to a hot car several times, but the air conditioning got cold in a hurry. The GTI would make a great getaway car.
When it rained on my way out of the park on the second day, the rain-sensing wipers worked well without more than a few occasional inputs to adjust speed during torrential downpours.
Over 36 hours, I clocked 1,200 miles in our GTI and the time flew by. The ride was stiff and there was a lot of road noise though, so I left the experience thinking that the GTI would be a much better weekend car than a daily driver. And I guess that's pretty much the idea. With a car like the GTI, you get a bit more performance at the expense of some of the standard Golf's comfort.
I broke a couple of the GTI's fuel economy records along Interstate 40. Stay tuned for a follow-up, as well as extra photos from the holiday pilgrimage.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 13,114 miles