I have owned a number of GTIs, but have to say this is probably the best one ever. The sport is a stand alone model that includes the performance pack, Nogaro alloys (Only on Sport model), bi-xenon/LED lighting, keyless entry/ignition, over the base S model. Plus, Apple play is a great feature negating the need for navigation. For me, and I am sure other enthusiasts agree that this is the perfect model - why? The new MQB platform GTI is a an incredibly well-developed car that drives and handles superbly. The Sport has all the essentials needed without the superfluous toys added in the SE and Autobahn models - this is the enthusiasts GTI. The addition of the Performance packs adds some extra horsepower, but the real bonus of the package is the mechanical limited slip differential which takes cornering on a front-drive car to a new level, and the stopping power of the R brake package. The beauty of the GTI has always been the fact that it is such a versatile and well-behaved car when you want it to be, but when you want to push it to it limits it is in an even happier mode. I love the fact that this car is so capable in so many areas - it may well be the perfect car!
I looked at the 2016 Passat and reviewed it so well my wife let me buy an E300 MB, but I can explain. I got the 1989 GLI itch all over again, so I purchased a silver 2017 GTI SE. Yep, same stuff as the Passat except in a SPORT verses luxury bent platform. I didn't want another E300, but a car that excelled at the opposite end of the car spectrum. I had to have a car that was as economical, good or better at hauling stuff, more fun to drive and had a better stereo than my 2008 Focus SE. Slam dunk with the GTI. The E300 drives you, you drive the GTI 6 speed manual (shifts like butter spreads on a warm day). I can't wait to DRIVE this car, same as the 1989 GLI! Something about VW handling that is addictive. The engine is a sweet thing. At idle it simply goes away on you, nothing, not a quiver. But give it the gas and it talks really nice things to you, shift me now. Power with the manual is electric motor linear and STRONG. The front limited slip differential drive system keeps both wheels pulling in snow, wet or dry with excellent throttle modulation. The engine is a tiger or a pussycat. Drive it like the 2008 Focus and I get 38-45.5 MPG. Yep, same 34 mile route each way as before with the Focus. Drive it like hard like a sports car and still get 28 MPG. The best way to explain this car is that all the pieces are seemingly of the exact same quality level. Nothing irks you to say, "wow, that's seems cheap". OK, except that the rear view mirror should be auto dimming, weird it isn't. The odometer goes away when you set the cruise as the set speed takes its place, weird but not a problem. The instruments are clear and a German conservative white on black LCD illustration. I like it that way, too. Everything ergonomically falls right into your hands. I will also say that the interior of the SE NEEDS those Clark Cloth plaid seats or something other than red stitching and a few red lighting accents, big time. I am not a fan of black interiors, but it is a good black interior. Still, give us a two-tone option, PLEASE. Oh, the seats are superlative for my 155 LBS frame. BIG guys may want to try before you buy. I needed the stereo (OK, wanted) and a few other bits I know would make long term ownership nice (ya, I paid cash for it). This is a sports car, so the ride is heavenly responsive to the road without being harsh. If you think it rides harshly, this isn't your car, or any other sport type car. For a sports car it is sublime. Not only does it go really well, with near no lag in the turbo (I have the manual, so I can drive around it without thinking) or torque steer (the 1989 GLI had PLENTY of that) but it STOPS like NOW with the R series brakes. The green house is WONDERFUL old school lower belt line, like the Passat...so you can SEE yet it has five star safety ratings. Bi-Xenon lights are very good, not the LED's on the E300, though, but way over average. The entertainment is just like my Passat review. It is fast and easy to use with the jump buttons on the side and 100% intuitive touch from there. I've never felt it to be slow or unresponsive. I use a 128GB SD card with WAV file music and the USB for the phone and carplay apps and navigation. I'm smitten with the overall assembly of this car. OK now the negatives. This is maybe the third EA888 engine iteration. Fixed are the cam chain tensioner issues. Left are likely the longer term carbon on the intake valves common to DI injection engines (no fuel across the intakes to clean them anymore) so a 80,000 mile cleaning is in the cards. Not a deal breaker as it is cheaper(~$800.00) to do than a rubber belt cam chain maintenance interval. The PCV valve can fail (this is the latest version that is again, supposed to work) and pressurize the crankcase (rear crank seal goes) or pulls a vacuum (oil is pulled through the intake). Turbo engines can be hell on the PCV valve with the boost pressure. But, this is a $200.00 part and an easy hour in the garage to fix at 50,000 miles. Fix it like an airplane BEFORE it fails. So I'll replace the PCV valve every 50,000 and not ever know the original one would have lasted the life of the car. Pity me but it is cheap insurance. Otherwise this engine is to die for. This is a poor excuse for a mid life crisis car, it is way too affordable, way too practical, way too sublimely sexy in appearance, and yet still way too much fun. Count me in. The GTI is still the best, I drove the rest.
The car is only a month old for me but I absolutely love driving it. I commute 100 miles a day and this car makes it much less of a chore. Acceleration on the highway is amazing and the nimble handling makes it a blast to drive around town. The only knock that I would give it is that I am struggling to get close to the advertised MPG. That might be attributed to a heavy foot though. :-)
The Sport trim offers you the best value in your GTI I feel. It is almost like the Autobahn compared to the SE, just spend the $1500 or so more, you won't regret it. I got a great deal on my GTI Sport. I will get the negatives out of the way now since the list is still really short after 1 month of ownership. There are no fog lamps on this trim level. This was quite troublsome the other night in a white-out snow. THe road holding wasn't the issue, visibility was, and fog lamps would've been really nice to have. You get the lighting package, however, which gives you the lovely and aggressive looking xenon headlights and LED DRL lights. Ties the front together nicely, every GTI should have these. The adaptive lighting when turning at slower speeds is also much better than in was on my 2012 Golf TDI. Quicker to respond, quicker to turn off, and better at throwing the light. Second negative, rides a bit harsh I feel for normal driving, the last generation of GTI was a bit more comfy in a straight line or during casual driving, however, it also didn't turn like the Mk7. This car's new MQB platform from Audi is a MAJOR improvement in the Golf/GTI lineup, and handling is bliss in a corner when you throw it around a bit. Sharp, direct, and almost like an extension of your arms when you hold at 3 & 9'o clocks. Also, you could teach someone with getting comfortable with a manual transmission, or at least the principles of it. Super easy clutch, almost too easy, I plan to do some aftermarket work in there anyways but for the masses, it is decent. I have had one defect so far, a piece of cloth that forms the backing of the rear armrest fell off, and the armrest is back-ordered, minor detail. Can't even see it unless you look in from the rear. I am not concerned with it right now. The positives go on and on and on. But, I will let you find out for yourself!
My Autobahn: leather/heat/power seat, DCC, Nav, and ACC/Blind Spot/Cross Traffic safety features. Got an amazing year-end deal that I could not pass, so I will return my VW TDI earlier than plan. 1k miles total so far in 2 weeks. During past GTI test drives I always thought the ride was a bit stiff, so I decided to get the Autobahn with DCC. That way, I can turn the suspension to a softer mode ("comfort") when needed. Funny, after 2 weeks, I now prefer "sport" mode over regular "normal" or "comfort" mode. The GTI MK7 engine is very smooth as it happily rev up to its red line. Combined with its lightweight, the GTI can quickly and easily pass other cars at highway speed. You can get speeding ticket(s) if you are not careful with this car as it goes from 60 to 80 mph in no time. It makes me wonder what APR stage 1 or 2 mod will turn this car into ? As a manual trans driver in the past, I found the DSG pretty amazing on any street at any speed. I don't understand all of GTI DSG complaints out there. Nobody can shift the transmission as fast and smooth, aggressive when needed, than this smartly engineered DSG. The DSG in my 2013 TDI is good, this one is GREAT. As advertised, GTI returns 29 mpg combined. I am very happy with its safety features, they are excellent and work as designed. The bad news ? quality control is poor for a $36k list car. Back window does not roll up/down, driver door ambient light does not work, back seat bench still have wrapping plastic protrude out from its bottom, and worse, the infotainment system with Nav broke (known issue) after three days - new unit is in ordered. Even though CR predicts below reliability, I'd expected better quality control after almost 2 year of Golf/GTI production in Mexico, very disappointed. My GTI issues are being fixed under warranty. I gave VW GTI 5 stars mostly due to its interior luxury feel (very close to Audi, BMW or Mercedes level), its Ultimate Driving Machine characteristics, and its steep year-end discount. Aside from the quality control annoyances, I have my grin every day driving this GTI.