2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI: The Best GTI Yet
April 22, 2015
Years ago we had a 2010 GTI in our fleet. Certain editors were none too impressed by its non-defeatable stability control, soft reflexes and lame all-season tires. Another editor thought said editors were nuts.
I was intrigued. Does the new GTI truly address the concerns levied upon the earlier car? To find out, I drove it.
It's still an ideal daily driver. Lots of comfort, headroom, civility. The ride has been firmed up ever so incrementally and the brake pedal has more starch in it, though it's still not as firm as I'd like to see in a performance-oriented car (see: Porsche). Still, directionally better. The chassis is poised and reasonably taut, but never punishing.
As for handling, there's now less soul-crushing terminal understeer in this GTI than before. Thumbs up since our car is equipped with summer tires. Most importantly, the stability control is less panic-stricken in its desire to snub spirited driving. Instead, the new stability control has two settings, normal and sport (still no "off", but this is less of an issue now).
Sport mode turns off traction control and attempts to maintain path accuracy by selectively braking the inside wheel or wheels. It's pretty effective at that. In the bargain you get handling that feels, to me, quite synthetic, as the stability control system's "adjustments" are heavy-handed and obvious.
Still, the new GTI is a better driver's car than the outgoing one. It's still not, and probably will never be, a handler in the vein of an MX-5 or an FR-S by dint of its front-wheel drive layout, yet it has more daily driver-related virtues than those cars. Pulls harder, too. It's the best GTI yet.
At the same time, I continue to wonder what would be so terrible about VW simply fitting to the GTI a proper mechanical limited-slip differential and fully-defeatable stability control. As it turns out, VW offers a Performance Package for the GTI that includes the former, but not the latter. We wanted to equip our long-term GTI thusly, but the package was not yet available when we built it.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor