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2010 Volkswagen GTI: What's It Like to Live With?

Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2010 Volkswagen GTI as our editors live with this car for a year.

Volkswagen GTI 2010

What do you want to know about?


Like a puppy at a fire hydrant, the motorized claptrap now scorching the coned-off parking lot is on three legs. With its inside rear wheel tucked up neatly as the front tires dig deep for the corner, you don't even have to wait for the car to return to the paddocks to know that what we're looking at is a Volkswagen GTI.

The Volkswagen GTI invented the hot-hatch market. Before the 90-horsepower super-Rabbit hit the states in '83, the term could be applied only to Chevettes that had been parked in the sun too long. But it didn't take long for people to figure out that a small, inexpensive car doesn't mean cheap and certainly doesn't mean slow. GTI clubs and track days followed and the car became a cult icon for cheap speed.

It's with this mentality that we enter a 12-month, 20,000-mile, long-term road test with the 2010 Volkswagen GTI.

Why We Got It
With a brand-new 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 in our garage and a brand-new 2010 Volkswagen GTI on the market, the real question should be why we waited so long to buy this VW. The release of a new GTI is an exciting time, even if this new model does carry over the same drivetrain as the outgoing car. This 2010 GTI is quiet, refined, comfortable and good-looking, and it offers excellent build quality besides. But does it really deserve the hot hatch moniker with only 200 horsepower and a stability control system that cannot be disabled, not to mention heated seats?

The 2010 VW GTI has deep tracks to fill. This one looks right, sounds right and after our Full Test, most of us walked away impressed. As we noted, "For all its just-shy-of-class-leading performance, the 2010 Volkswagen GTI is still a very attractive, comfortable and competitive hot hatch. That it is not the hot hatch of the hour only shows a sense of maturity that comes from age and experience. If you want something with a sharper edge, you'll surely be giving up some comfort, some space or some more money."

So a grown-up boy racer goes head-to-head with our bruiser bad-boy Mazdaspeed 3 for a full year? We're in.

What We Got
Once we decided on a GTI, we had a few tough decisions to make. Two-door or four-door? Six-speed manual or dual-clutch DSG automated manual? Nav or no nav? Leather or plaid cloth? What to do, what do to. So we resolved all this by going back to our personal roots with the GTI. When we were racing one back in the 1980s, we did so because it was cheap enough and fast enough, not because it had leather and a high-tech dual-clutch gearbox. As a result, we decided that price should be the focus here.

We did have one caveat, which is that we wanted four doors. Two doors may have worked in our racing days, but truth be told, this GTI needs to be wife/kids/dog-friendly.

Turns out, though, if you want a four-door GTI, it's probably because you've gone completely soft and opted out of the go-fast-spend-less mentality all together, since finding one with a manual transmission and few options is nigh on impossible. Finally a candy-white GTI with six-speed manual and minimal options caught our eye. Unfortunately, it was a two-door. When it became clear that there was some wiggle room in the price, the car caught not only our eye but also our checkbook.

Like every 2010 GTI, this one comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that spins out 200 hp and 207 pound-feet of torque. Between the wheels and the engine is a six-speed manual transmission which is standard, with VW's oft-praised DSG as optional. Unlike our old GTI racer of the 1980s, the new GTI has a full array of driver aids, including antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and electronic differential lock, brakeforce distribution, plus what VW calls a "Cross Differential System." That's a lot of computers for something with only two driven wheels. The 2010 further differentiates itself from GTIs of old with electric power steering.

On the inside of the cabin, our GTI's standard equipment includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, air-conditioning, cruise control, trip computer, a touchscreen-operated radio with Sirius XM and iPod adapter, power windows, power exterior mirrors, red brake calipers, foglamps and halogen headlights.

Our car has minimal options, but we figured it made more sense to accept them rather than wait for a fully stripped car. The optional GTI mat kit consists of four rubber floor mats and a trunk liner and costs $215. The sunroof is $1,000 and the Bluetooth is $199. Also on the sticker is the package of 18-inch wheels, which includes cast-aluminum wheels fitted with 225/40R18 Dunlop SP Sport 01 A/S tires.

The sticker for our 2010 VW GTI says the total price should be $26,204, but with some haggling and smooth talking, we paid $24,798 excluding tax, title and license.

The Road Ahead
All things considered, there are those of us who doubt the GTI's ability to fire our enthusiasm with its performance, notably Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot, who noted in his test of the car, "This car is in no way the lightweight, back-to-basics, fun-to-drive machine that won the original its reputation. No, it isn't. Instead, it's an overweight, underdamped, slow-steering, not-very-quick wanna-be version of the original."

After 12 months and 20,000 miles, we should sort this car out. Is it the responsible combination of thrills and affordability we hope it is, or is it the soft, dumpy poseur's car, spitting on its badge heritage? And what about reliability?

It will all get hashed out on our long-term test blogs. Stay tuned.

Current Odometer: 1,091
Best Fuel Economy: 26.4 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 19.1 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 22.6 mpg

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Follow the long-term road test blog for updates about our 2010 Volkswagen GTI.

Does It Really Need More Power?

March 12, 2010

When we posted our intro of the long-term GTI there was a chorus of comments saying we should chip the thing for more power. It's cheap, it's easy and totally reversible. What could go wrong?

Well, I'm sure nothing would go wrong, but after driving it for a couple of days I'm not so sure it needs more power. Actually, let me qualify that, I don't think it needs more power right now.

This engine already delivers enough power to get the wheels spinning for traction. It's good fun around town, but I suspect that a quick run on a twisty road would expose the GTI's handling limits way before any lack of power.

So yes, more power would be nice, but if I were going to spend my money on upgrades I would probably start with a tighter suspension setup first.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 1,361 miles

The Seats

March 15, 2010

I climbed into our 2010 Volkswagen GTI for the first time last week. Right off the bat, I'm a big fan of the seats. My fit in the driver seat is snug and supportive. At 6'2" my lanky frame is reliant on tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustments to find the proper seating position. There aren't many fore-aft options with the manual seat adjustor here. But thanks to the tilt/tele wheel there are plenty enough for me to find that sweet spot. Great seating.

Then there are the seat heaters. I could usually care less about these. In my experience it's always the same story: Enough warmth on my back means too much on my backside. But this time it's different. The GTI seatback heats up plenty without burning a hole through my pants. And it ranges nearly three-quarters of the way up the seatback. None of that heat my belt loops only nonsense.

What could use work? I prefer more lumbar support. This manual lumbar pillow isn't quite enough. But the seat heaters are so kickass that I can forgive the lumbar. Wow. I've definitely never been this excited about such a basic feature before. Sometimes little things go a long way. GTI gets a thumbs up from me so far. And I haven't even left my parking space yet.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 1,555 miles

Caught in Traffic

March 15, 2010

I was driving our 2010 Volkswagen GTI into the office and caught this guy driving in traffic beside me on the freeway. Looks a heck of a lot like the 550i Gran Turismo we tested last month. Why is it still wearing the camoflauge? We couldn't tell you. But in my opinion it isn't much more attractive with the camo off. What do you think?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 1,500 miles

Separated at Birth

March 16, 2010

2010 VW GTI Meet Jenny Humphrey.

As someone who spent 12 years of her life forced to wear a Catholic school uniform, I'm not a fan of plaid. Just saying.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Steering Wheel Done Right

March 22, 2010

There are a lot of things to like about our long-term GTI. This time around, I'll call out the Vee-dub's wonderful steering wheel. (Are you listening, Camaro designers?)

On appearances alone, it's a pretty sporty wheel. The shape of the wheel is just about perfect for my tastes - sculpted with indents for my thumbs and bulges that fill my palm for a positive grip. Whether or not it's wrapped in real leather or not, the material feels great, and the red stitching adds to the look and feel.

I'm usually a harsh critic of flat-bottomed wheels (they belong in very tight racecar cockpits with super-quick ratios), but this one doesn't bother me too much. Probably because it's not as pronounced as other examples (Audi R8) that interrupt an otherwise smooth return to center as it slides through my hands.

The buttons are well-placed, look good and have a solid and positive feel when pushed. The metal accents add an extra little panache, too. Now, if only the steering effort and feedback were as good as the wheel.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 2,011 miles

Driver/Steering Column Interference

March 29, 2010

Here's a problem my 5-foot, 4-inch wife ran into (literally) with the GTI today. With the seat adjusted properly for the rest of her body, her knees hit the steering column. The issue, she says, is that the seat bottom is lower at the back than at the front and isn't adjustable for angle. Naturally, she sits high and forward to properly reach the pedals and wheel.

She doesn't drive in those shoes. Relax.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

Open Up and Say

April 06, 2010

I have more crap than I could ever imagine stuffed away in a Public Storage. I don't need to spend that extra $75 bucks a month to hold stuff I should just probably give/throw away. It was time to tighten the monthly budget belt and move all the boxes out.

The only problem was, I had the GTI for the weekend. Time to drop the seats and pack it deep. Cargo limitations were cursed multiple times in French. I was completely worn out after a few trips back and forth between the house, or rather my garage, and the PS. Now my garage is nearly unusable as it's backed-up and non-functioning.

Yes, the Ram would have been a lot better for this, but beggars can't be choosers. The tougher thing to motivate is going to be my lady and her stuff for a garage clearing yard sale. Any takers on a partially chewed on My Little Pony collection?

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Hot Hatch not Found

April 07, 2010

Most of the blog entries so far discussing our 2010 Volkswagen GTI have revolved around interior bits — the wheel, the seats and their position and plaidness — and other functional elements. This is not because we're wowed by the interior (though it is very nice) it's because dynamically, the GTI just isn't any fun. The graph above explains quite clearly. (MS3 is our 2010 MazdaSpeed 3.)

The steering is numb. The engine makes great noises but never feels energetic. The clutch and shifter are damped by at least 15 inches of yogurt. The ESP can't be turned off and lays the smack down as soon as you get on a twisty road.

No doubt this is a great value for money. The GTI is a solid, well priced car. It's just not any fun.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

Zoom On This

April 08, 2010

Ok, this might seem like part three of "Hot Hatch Not Found" but I got the keys to the GTI last night after Oldham saw I had the keys to a test car he wanted to take a spin it. I drove the GTI home and back and I have an opinion to weigh in on the discussion.

Yes, the clutch is vague, the shifter isn't positive and the suspension is soft. But you know what? I frankly don't care. I don't think you need a hatch to be hardcore to be fun. I do drive in traffic. I do have a regular Joe life outside of this office. I make runs to Home Depot and Bed Bath & Beyond (if I have time). I can't think of a time when I've actually wanted to take my car out to a track for weekend racing. Those people are the rarity and honestly I don't know if they'd have a stock car anyways. The GTI is for the everyday person.

What do you say? I'm soft? So what! Yeah, I'm middle aged and unapologetic about it. I appreciate the comfort the GTI offers after a grueling day of work while going though 12 miles of I-405 traffic. My shin wasn't killing me from a stiff sport clutch and the slow speed rough bumps were softened by the cushy suspension. But, on the flip side, I drove in late to work today. No traffic.

I was blip shifting like a mother trucker. I had the windows down to soak in the beautiful Spring weather we've got here in LA and I was loving the whistle of the turbo as I screamed down the road. It's quick, maybe not lightening quick, but I was swooping through the light traffic noon time West LA has to offer. The turbo spools up quick from the red light for fun launches and the broad power curve keeps the freeways interesting. Once I got near my office it felt like my Mr. Hyde turned back into Dr. Jekyll as I comfortably drove down Olympic Blvd.

As it was pointed out to me, the GTI is more mature in comparison the the Mazda Mazdaspeed3. Listen, I'm 38. I'm officially mature myself. This car, for ME, is a blast to drive. I don't need the bugs in my teeth or the caché of some high end brand to tell me I'm having fun. It's comfortable for my normal life, and capable when the congested streets of LA are open. Any time the keys are available to this gem, game on.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Putting Nice Stuff Where It Counts

April 14, 2010

The more I drive this GTI the more I'm impressed by its relatively affordable price. For $25K, this is about as much car as one could expect. It's well built, has great seats, more than enough power and the kind of detailing you rarely find in this price range.

Take this steering wheel badge for instance. It's made of actual metal. Looks good and let's face it, if you're going to spend a little money on trim why not spend it on something that's right in the owner's face?

Obviously, the fact that VW made this piece of trim out of metal doesn't make this a better car. It's just another example of the detail work that went into its design and execution. Would love to see more $25K cars with this level of detail work.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 4,061 miles

Better Than an M3

April 16, 2010

This is some great car. It's not that it's less than half the price as an M3; it's that it's more than twice as good as an M3.

Back when it was new, the newly fuel-injected Golf GTi was the M3 of its time, a useful automobile that could be driven seriously fast. It had taken the place of the BMW 2002, the famous Whispering Bomb (a name that probably has its roots in V-1 rockets of WWII), which itself had just been replaced by the brand-new 3 Series, a car quickly dismissed by enthusiasts as oversize, stodgy and truck-like.

Just like the modern-day BMW M3, the Golf GTi could be hammered down the autobahn in the fast lane and then could spend a day in the mountains for adventures on the alpine passes. In the corners, it would cock one rear wheel in the air at every corner, a side-effect of its torsion beam axle and actually a measure of great handling balance, not its absence. When the car came to the U.S. in 1983 and became newly capitalized as the GTI, its 90-hp engine was big news. As time went on, Volkswagen tried to justify the car's escalating price with the Euro car's package of luxury options, which included the VR6 engine and softer suspension, but the ever-increasing price tag ultimately chased everyone away.

And now the GTI is back, pretty much as we remember it.

As before, the GTI is cheap, with a price that we suspect is actually thousands of dollars less than the real cost, as VW uses it to build showroom traffic. (The Excel spreadsheet is the best thing to ever happen to specialty cars, as now you can compare the cost of building showroom traffic with a car versus conventional marketing and advertising, and the car is frequently cheaper).

As before, the GTI is comfortable, a car spacious and poised enough to help you withstand a cross-country trip. It has the everyday utility that you need if you own only one car, plus the combination of practical packaging and performance-style ergonomic excellence that makes this hatchback easily the equal of far more expensive premium transportation.

And most important of all, the GTI offers the same, honest high-performance dynamics for which Volkswagen has always been noted. When you steer, it goes, and it has the same balance at 50 mph as it does at 100 mph, a kind of dynamic dependability that makes you a better driver. Just like VW engines of old, this new, turbo 2.0-liter inline-4 has a really elastic powerband, while direct injection makes possible a tall compression ratio, so the throttle response is beautifully sharp, so unlike the sluggish, droning, Audi-developed turbo 2.0-liter four we remember. The engine is supported by a gearbox with great shift action, somewhat long throws in order to deliver light effort in the German style, but beautifully slick with positive gate engagement into the gears. You don't even have to poke your front-seat companion in the eye with your elbow in order to get sixth gear.

There are guys who wish this car was some raspy Japanese piece for fanboys, all roll stiffness, limited suspension travel, and torque steer. But the GTI was never like that before, and it makes more sense to be different than the Mazdaspeed 3 or Subaru Impreza WRX rather than the same.

As for me, I'd argue that this car is better than a BMW M3 because it combines the M3-style virtues in a car that is not only affordable but also responsive and nimble. The disappointment we all felt when the BMW 2002 was replaced by the BMW 3 Series had to do with size and weight, and we preferred a nimble, lightweight car. And after more than two decades of cars being developed to break the 300 km/h barrier on the German autobahn (something increasingly impossible because of traffic volume, my German friends say), I'm tired of driving 4,000-pound sedans masquerading as coupes. Most of my disappointment in the BMW 1 Series has to do with its unwillingness to embrace a new personality as a light car rather than simply perpetuate the old 3 Series template.

For me, the Volkswagen GTI is the kind of M3 that I prefer, less like a V8-powered truck and more like the Whispering Bomb. It's a great car.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 4,040 miles

This Is How a Four-Cylinder Gearbox Should Feel

April 19, 2010

I'm not usually a fan of finger-tip shifters. You know the type, so light through the gates that you feel like you could rip the thing right off with one forceful yank of the lever. That kind of delicacy usually doesn't feel right, but not in this GTI.

In this car, the light shift action feels nearly perfect. Quick from gate to gate, notchy on the way into gear and not so delicate that you feel the need to be gentle. The fact that it's matched to one of the best four-cylinders around doesn't hurt either. Together, they make ripping around in this GTI as much fun as anything else in the fleet. I think Jordan may have been on to something with his whole M3 comparison.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 4,173 miles

Eye Test Climate Controls

April 19, 2010

The Volkswagen GTI is shockingly good. It's one of those cars that has you grinning before you're 500 yards out of the parking garage, and that's impressive considering you're still slogging through Santa Monica traffic at that point. Get it on an open freeway or twisty stretch of road and other drivers probably wonder why the guy in the GTI has that stupid smile plastered on his face.

Unless said guy is trying to operate the GTI's various center-stack controls with a quick glance in-between heel-and-toe downshifts, because that is frustratingly impossible.

Germans have a history of using weird icons and pictographs for their interior controls, but I've gotten used to that. What had me grinding my teeth during my recent GTI seat time was how long it took me to figure out the climate dials.

I simply needed cooler air coming out of the dash vents. Spotting the temperature control dial was relativley easy, though the tempertaure numbers are small and only legible because it's the closest of the three dials. Then there's the fan speed. Simple logic suggests turing it clockwise ups the amont of blow you get, even if the actual speed numbers are similarly diminutive.

But the ventilation control? That's an ergonomic train wreck. I took the above photo at both a lower and shallower angle to the climate control dials (than my eyes' location when driving) because I wanted the markings to at least be legible, and even in this photo it's clear how hard the right dial's markers are to read. You can't even see the right side setting for this dial (which, as it happens, is the dashboard setting I was searching for).

After spending more time scanning the dials than the road ahead I finally waited until I had stopped at a red light, then I bent down and swung my head around to get directly in front of the controls. "Oh, there it is!"

As someone with recent lasik surgery and better than 20/20 vision I'm not used to basic controls with unreadable markings. And it's not like there isn't more real estate available. Look at the three top buttons in this photo. The icons are only using about 20 percent of the total area.

I know VW likes to think of itself as a young-and-hip company making young-and-hip products for young-and-hip buyers, but in this case they could learn a lesson from Buick.

Karl Brauer, Editor in Chief @ 4,103 miles

Make Mine Round

April 21, 2010

The MkVI Volkswagen GTI has been floated as a possible family car of my future, so each drive in our long-termer takes on extra significance, because I think about how it might be to spend 5 years with this car (or more likely, the 5-door version). I don't think it would be that bad.

But I'm not taken with the flat-bottom steering wheel in the GTI. I know, the previous-generation GTI had one, too. But we never had that car in our long-term test fleet. And honestly, though I like the look of the steering wheel, the flat side ends up being a minor annoyance in everyday life.

I'm a 9-and-3 person. I'm also a shuffle-steer person, meaning I adjust my hand position at about the point when my arms started to get crossed up. And the steering ratio in the 2010 GTI is such that someone like myself needs to shuffle during ordinary left turns — the sharper ones anyway.

I don't like it when my 3 o'clock hand ends up gripping the flat part. It's a reminder that, hey, this isn't a racecar, and that flat-bottom wheels only belong in racecars with steering ratios quick enough that you never turn the wheel more than 90 degrees (give or take a few degrees) in either direction.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Our Favorite Caption

April 30, 2010

Thanks to stpawyfrmdonut for this week's favorite caption.

Here are the others that made us reel:

Swing your car rear round and round! (ergsum)
All the right moooves. (technetium99)
At a hoedown, the GTI is farfromgrovin'. (ampim)
Unpimp My Ride with a Hoedown (ergsum)
*Coming Soon* Heel 'n Toe FRI (ampim)
Unpimp ze hoedown. (technetium99)
A VW? Here? Udderly ridiculous. (thegraduate)
Redline dancing (stpawyfrmdonut)
VW 2 step: heel and toe (stpawyfrmdonut)
Saturday Night Hay Fever (ergsum)
Udderly great to drive. (sherief)
Lets go GTI tipping. (chirsch3)
GTI'r Done (gregnv)
TGIF (drfr3d)
Das Boot skuten boogie. (technetium99)
GTI-up! (actualsize)
Bahn Dancing (actualsize)
Rhinestone Cowboy! (thedarkhorse)

What was your favorite?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

You Write the Caption

April 30, 2010

Howdy folks,

Vehicle Testing Manager Mike Schmidt sent me this photo of our VW GTI a hop, skip and a jump from here.

We suggest: Sashays from 0-60 in a do-si-do

I'm sure you can do better. For a closer look at the sign, click the thumbnail below.

We'll call the winner this afternoon.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Trip To Yosemite

May 03, 2010

Five and a half hours of driving time for just two hours of park time. From a time efficiency standpoint, my weekend trip to Yosemite National Park was a failure. But from a car enthusiast perspective, I was driving a new VW GTI on miles of curvy road while surrounded by beautiful scenery. Maybe it wasn't so bad after all...

I decided to take my wife and two-year-old daughter to Yosemite on Saturday. Spring is a good time to go as the waterfalls are big and the crowds are, well, less big than those during the summer. And I thought my daughter would enjoy walking through the woods and seeing the falls. But we started late, and the little one started to get rather cranky. Then a lack of convenient parking squashed any remaining desire to spend more time in the park.

Still, I had a great time driving the GTI. The entrance road I took, Highway 41, is not in the best condition, with more potholes than I've encountered in the past few years. But barring slow-moving traffic (which there inevitably is), it's also a fun drive, with plenty of corners and scenery. The GTI's suspension tuning, which some have complained is too soft, was perfect for this road, as it wasn't too harsh for the family yet still sporty enough to maintain a brisk pace. The turbo-4 was great, too, as it provided plenty of thrust for passing slow traffic and dealing with the 5,000 feet of elevation gain.

The odds of seeing a VW R32 on the road? Small. The odds of seeing a white one in Yosemite while driving a white GTI and getting to park next to it? Very, very small.

If I had to do this trip again in a long-termer, I'd absolutely take the GTI again. A scenic road trip with curvy roads thrown in the mix — the GTI just felt like it was in its element. Hopefully we'll stay longer in Yosemite next time.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 5,062 miles

Tiny Center Bin, No 2nd Power Point

May 06, 2010

As you can see, there's not a whole lot of room to store stuff in our GTI's center console. The iPod adapter takes up most of the space, leaving just enough room for perhaps a box of Tic Tacs. More importantly, there's no power point here. There's just one up front in the center stack, so if you want to plug in two devices (say, your cell phone and a radar detector) you're out of luck. There is a power point in the rear cargo area, but that's obviously not very convenient for most items.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Track Tested - Updated

May 07, 2010

(Photo by Scott Jacobs)

Love the new GTI and its grown-up ride and build quality? Hate the 2010 GTI because it got boring and soft and started yelling at kids to get off its lawn? Either way, we tested it and you want to read about it!

0-60? Yes!

Slalom? You betcha!

Skidpad? Wouldn't miss it for the world....

Hit the jump and see some numbers!

*please note that there has been a correction made to the slalom number on the following page.*

Vehicle: 2010 Volkswagen GTI

Odometer: 2,103

Date: 03/23/2010

Driver: Josh Jacquot

Price: $25,454


Drive Type: Front-wheel drive

Transmission Type: Six-speed manual

Engine Type: Turbocharged, direct-injected inline-4

Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,984cc (121 cu-in)

Redline (rpm): 6,200

Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 200 @ 5,100

Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 207 @ 1,800

Brake Type (front): 12.3-inch one-piece ventilated cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers

Brake Type (rear): 11.3-inch one-piece ventilated cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers

Steering System: Electric-assist speed-proportional rack-and-pinion power steering

Suspension Type (front): Independent MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar

Suspension Type (rear): Independent multilink, coil springs, stabilizer bar

Tire Size (front): 225/40R18 92H

Tire Size (rear): 225/40R18 92H

Tire Brand: Dunlop

Tire Model: Sp Sport 01

Tire Type: All season

Wheel Material (front/rear): Cast Aluminum

As Tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,097

Test Results:

0 - 30 (sec): 2.8

0 - 45 (sec): 4.7

0 - 60 (sec): 7.0

0 - 75 (sec): 9.7

1/4 Mile (sec @ mph): 15.0 @ 95.2

0 - 60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 6.6

30 - 0 (ft): 34

60 - 0 (ft): 130

Braking Rating: Average

Slalom (mph): 65.5 (traction 'off') 64.1 (trac on)

Skid Pad Lateral Acceleration (g): 0.87

Handling Rating: Poor

Acceleration Comments: There doesn't seem to be any "magic launch" to get this car off the line. Moderate wheelspin is quicker than bog-n-go.

Braking Comments: Some pedal jump-in, lots of stink but no fade.

Handling Comments:

Skidpad: Marginally receptive to lift throttle at limits, but always kept in check by stability control of course. Slalom: Why can't I disable stability control on this Sport Compact car? Silly. Just silly. And it does slalom speeds no favors.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

A Better Looking GTI

May 07, 2010

I like what Volkswagen did with the 2010 GTI's styling. The car has a sharper, more aggressive look to it, but it's still immediately identifyable as a Golf. For comparison's sake, some pictures of the 2010 and the previous generation model follow after the jump.

A 2006 GTI from our sport compact comparison test that year.

The rear view of our new long-termer. The separated dual exhaust tips is a key tip-off.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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

How Is It In The Real World?

May 13, 2010

In case you missed it, there was a bit of hubbub over our track testing of the GTI last week. But I was curious to find out for myself how much the GTI could move the fun needle on an enthusiastic drive. So hopped in this morning and drove the same curving route I had done late last year in the Mazdaspeed 3.

Not surprisingly, the GTI isn't as capable. If I was really going at it, the soft suspension tuning resulted in a lot of body roll in quick transitions, and a general sense of squishi-ness (there's a technical term for you) sapped my confidence to keep pressing on. This is not the Bruce Lee of hot hatches, it's more like the Chris Farley version doing karate.

But you know, this really doesn't bother me much. The GTI is still plenty fun to drive if you've backed off to 7/10s or so. The steering is decent enough, the brake pedal has a good feel to it and the 2.0-liter turbo-4 pulls hard. The GTI sounds better than the MS3 does, too. Considering that the GTI also has the better interior, ride quality and exterior looks, it would be my pick if I had to choose between the two cars to use as my daily driver.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Needs a Fuel Cap Hook

May 14, 2010

You would think that being a premium car the GTI would have a hook to hang the fuel cap. But it doesn't. So instead you have to let the cap hang loosely against the paint while fueling up. That's disappointing.

UPDATE: Some commenters have pointed out that I'm wrong and that the fuel cap can be rested atop the fuel door. I must admit that it didn't occur to me to try this. Assume that while the "testers for IL must be the dumbest group ever" comment is certainly hyperbole, it very well applies to me in this case. You'll find a photo of the correct fuel cap placement below.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 5,586 miles

Comfort Beats Out Fashion

May 17, 2010

"I can't ride in that," my daughter said when I picked her up from school on Friday.

"Why not?," I asked impatiently.

"Because I'm wearing stripes!," she protested.

"Get in the car," I said. "Now."

Aside from her concern about the VW GTI's plaid interior clashing with her outfit, Emma and I agree that the GTI has the perfect seats for both of us — me in the front and her in the back. Sure, she's not thrilled about climbing into the back of a coupe, but once she's in, she says the seat feels like it was made for her.

I feel the same about the driver's seat. It feels like a custom fit — not too wide, not too short, perfect level of support and side bolstering.

I may have overlooked the ultra seat comfort if I hadn't just driven a Lexus LS 460 the night before. As nice a cabin as the Lexus offers, I never really got comfortable.

Couple of seat covers (and maybe two more doors) and the GTI could be my next car.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 5,708 miles

Following The Upshift Indicator

May 18, 2010

GTI! Right on! Shifts at redline at every opportunity! Burnout! Or not, if you heed the advice of Volkswagen. If you're driving a manual-equipped 2010 GTI and you follow the shift indicator, you'll be in top (sixth) gear by — ahem — 38 mph. Obviously, VW is going for maximize fuel economy here with shifts at about 2,000 rpm. Thankfully, there's plenty of torque at low rpm from the direct-injected turbo-4. No boggy turbo lag here.

I've got a video of the upshift indicator in action on our long-term car.

My apologies on the video being a bit bouncy. I had to rest the camera atop the steering wheel. But it got the job done.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Strange Headlight Decision

May 20, 2010

Just look at this headlight and all its fine detailing. You've got the little logo there and all sorts of carefully constructed reflectors that look good whether the light is on or off. Clearly someone thought long and hard about this.

So then, why is it that the GTI doesn't have automatic headlights? I mean, all that effort and they couldn't figure out a way to price in a knob with an extra detent for the ol' "A" option. Seems like an odd oversight for a car that has so many details right.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 5,820 miles

The Honkus

May 24, 2010

Hey, at least it sounds good.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 60XX miles

Switchblade Key no Longer Cute

May 25, 2010

Our long-term 2010 VW GTI has — like all VW/Audi non-smart keys — a switchblade key. These were real cute when they first came out. The supposed benefit was that it wouldn't ruin the pockets of your trousers. But that's hardly true, because like most auto keys today, it's internal cut — no sharp edges.

Also, VW's design has the key 90 degrees off-axis from the fob, so turning it is slightly awkward: there's a bit less leverage. And the key keeps inadvertantly deploying — it defeats the whole purpose.

Yeah, the VW fanboys loved it because they could play Sharks & The Jets from West Side Story.

Hit the jump for a nice version of the movie trailer in HD.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 6170 miles

Seat Heaters Rock

May 26, 2010

Enough debate about the GTI's handling and its questionable track numbers, lets get down to the important stuff. That's right BTU fans, I'm talkin' 'bout the VeeDub's seat heaters.

And lets face it, Volkswagen does seat heaters right. Always has. And the GTI's are near perfection. Three levels. Quick warm up. Nice even heat distribution from the back of your knees all the way up to your tippy top of your shoulder blades.

Bottom line: Even the most demanding seat heater enthusiast (my wife) would give them an A+.

That is all.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

Good in Traffic

June 01, 2010

My typical commute streches 30 miles and ranges anywhere from 1 hour to 2-plus hours. It can be a real grind. This morning I completed the trek in our 2010 Volkswagen GTI and the hour-and-a-quarter flew right by.

Let's get right to it. The GTI is good in traffic. Comfortable seats and satellite radio are obvious reasons. But the real standout for me is the clutch. Its pedal action is light with a clear, progressive engagement point. This combination allows for impeccably smooth shifts into first gear. And if you want to break up the monotony of stop-and-go, start in second gear. It's just as easy.

Manual transmissions quickly lose their appeal in traffic. But the GTI is different. I survived the commute this morning with my sanity intact. I'd trust the VW to grant me the same patience tomorrow. If forced to face rush hour with any manual in our fleet, I would choose the GTI every time. If given the option, I would curl up under my desk and sleep until traffic lightened up.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 6,485 miles

Verify the Rear Seats are Locked

June 08, 2010

Our long-term 2010 VW GTI has easy to fold rear seats like most hatchbacks with an easy to access seat release.

But VW adds an easy way to verify that the rear seats are — to borrow a phrase from your flight attendant — in an upright and locked position. There's a small tab with a red indicator that protrudes when the seat isn't locked. This could be important if you have children riding in the rear seats. The photo below shows the seat locked and the tab retracted.

Nice. And simple too.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 6920 miles

Sound Quality

June 10, 2010

I hopped in the GTI last night, pleased that I'd finally have a vehicle with iPod connectivity and decent sound quality (I was in the Z06, my Elise and a wicked-fast Yamaha R1 since Friday). To my disappointment, however, the stereo sounded awful. The sound quality was all fuzzy and distorted (oversaturated, in professional parlance), as if it were plugged into the AUX jack with the iPod volume on maximum. I switched over to satellite radio, and everything was fine, so I figured it's either my iPhone (yet another reason to upgrade to the new iPhone 4) or the cord.

I ran this question by resident audiophile and Executive Editor Paul Seredynski. He agreed that the sound was horrific, but then started digging into the setup menus. In the regular sound menu, the bass, midrange and treble sliders were set close to center and the other settings had no affect. Then he found a window under the Media Setup menu to adjust the AUX in level. Bingo! Everything sounded great again. Even though it's labeled AUX in, this setting also covers the separate iPod input. Either "Quiet" or "Medium" settings worked fine. The "Loud" setting was the culprit.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor on a Boat

Not Sure If I Buy It,Two

June 11, 2010

I got more flak about the Mazda Mazdaspeed3 interior post I did a few days ago than I expected. On the suggestion of reader chirsch3, I got into our GTI to give the interior a fresh look.

Fair disclosure, I think it's safe to say I have a soft spot for plaid. I grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains and plaid flannel shirts were a staple. Yes, that was way before Smells Like Teen Spirit. It also reminds me of a real cool punk rock girlfriend I had back up in the Bay Area many years ago.

I like the plaid interior of the GTI. I think it's cool.

Herald the onslaught of rotten tomatoes and putrescence. Yeah! Bring it on!

I usually like the classically styled interior, but not always. I don't think I'd say the GTI's interior is trendy. You might say it's dated (besides ugly). Maybe I like it because of the Santa Cruz Mountains or maybe it's because it reminds me of my Gwen Stefani like ex-girlfriend. Sure my affinity for the interior may date me, but this is one time capsule I don't mind being strongly associated with.

Do you think I'm crazy? I have no taste? Is the GTI's interior really that bad?

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

What Does This Antenna Have To Do With This Pen?

June 14, 2010

Take this story with a grain of salt as it was told to me by someone who works for Volkswagen and therefore gets paid to spread such stories.

Supposedly some journalists were at a early preview event for the Golf along with all the top execs from Volkswagen including Chairman Piech. While checking over the details on Volkswagen's new baby, one journalist looked at the shark fin antenna on the roof and noted that its looked a bit cheap, with low grade plastic that contrasted notably with the glossy paint.

He fussed over it enough that Chairman Piech strode over and asked the journalist how he thought it should look given that it was made of plastic. So the journalist pulled a Cross pen out of his pocket and told Piech that it was plastic too, but certainly didn't look like the shabby antenna.

As the story goes, Piech agreed and pledged to look into it. He later instructed engineers to find out who makes the Opalescent black crystalline resin used by Cross to make its pens. Volkswagen then contracted with the same company to make antenna housings for the Golf.

Folklore? Probably, but our GTI does have one shiny antenna.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 7,121 miles

I'll Settle

June 15, 2010

I had our 2010 Volkswagen GTI one night last week when I was running around trying to get ready to fly 6,000 miles away the next morning. And, you know, much as Brent wrote earlier, I really do like some of the things it does — even compared to our hotter hatch, the Mazdaspeed 3.

The clutch takeup is infinitely more predictable and refined in the GTI, and the shifter feels more fluid moving between the gates. Despite the car's sleepier feel, I bet I'm making quicker gearchanges in the VW GTI than in the MS3. Pedal spacing is wider in the Volkswagen, requiring a slight pivot of my ankle to execute a heel-and-toe downshift. This is a slight bummer compared to the turnkey arrangement in the Mazda, but in time, I'd adjust.

And apart from that quibble over the pedals, the driving position in the GTI is a little bit better for me than in the MS3 — simply because the steering wheel telescopes out a bit farther in the VW.

Finally, the ride quality. In conjunction with our long-termer's 18-inch all-season tires, the GTI's stock spring and damper settings really are ideal for putting around the city. And, though I don't like to admit it, if I bought either of these hatches, I'd spend 90 percent of my time lapping freeways and broken city streets. Even so, I really do like the insistent, wound-up personality of the Mazdaspeed 3, which has a perfectly acceptable ride. But when I'm in the mood to just relax, the Volkswagen GTI really is a compelling and very chill alternative.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Good on the Highway, Except for the Wind

June 21, 2010

I spent the weekend in our long-term 2010 Volkswagen GTI and I really like the well damped ride on this car. The suspension smothers most all of the ruts on decaying Los Angeles freeways, but there's not a hint of float. The ride is so good I had two (adult) passengers fall asleep in the GTI, though I think the well-shaped, well-cushioned seats had something to do with it, too.

There's very little road noise from the 225/40R18 92H Dunlop SP Sport 01 tires mounted at each corner, resulting in an incredibly serene cabin for a warm-hot hatch. That's probably why I notice the wind noise. At highway speeds, there's a consistent low whistle at my left ear, and after consultation with my front passenger (when he was awake), the same thing is happening on the passenger side. It's a minor problem, but now that I've noticed it, I'm fixated on the GTI's imperfectly-sealing door seals. Ugh.

At this point, I'm not convinced the seals are bad. Rather, I think this might just be how they are — which is not to my liking. We'll keep an eye on the situation, and see if anyone else on staff notices the issue.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 7,555 miles

Open Sesame

June 24, 2010

OK, I didn't want to blog about this for fear of all the "You're an idiot" comments I'd get but Editor Scott Oldham thought it was blogworthy so here you go.

I had our 2010 Volkswagen GTI for the night, most of the office had already gone for the day and I was in the garage by myself about to load my gym bag into the back. I pressed the unlock button for the hatch and...nothing. I could hear the latch unlock but it didn't pop open. Not even a little bit. There was no grab handle or exterior unlock the heck do I open this thing? I kept pressing the unlock button and saw the hatch door move just a tiny bit but not enough for me to pry it open. Blah!

Fortunately, Oldham was walking to his car parked nearby at that exact moment. "How do you open this?!" I cried, exasperated. He walked up to it, pushed on that VW logo and, oh, THERE'S the handle. "You should blog about that," he said as he walked away. Meh.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 7,621 miles

Suspension Walkaround

June 30, 2010

More than a few of you have been getting impatient for this one. The wait is over. The suspension walkaround of our 2010 Volkswagen GTI long-term test car is finally here.

The going wasn't as smooth as I'd hoped. Volkswagen uses annoying, easy-to-lose lug nut caps that must be removed with an annoying, easy-to-lose wire removal tool, and a liberal coating of tire black at the last carwash may have ruined my pair of jeans. Oh, how I despise tire black.

Enough of my whining already. On with the show and tell.

Up front we see your basic MacPherson strut suspension and some red brake calipers.

But those red brake calipers ain't Brembos. They're single-piston sliding calipers like we see on a lot of other smaller cars. That's no bad thing, but these aren't racing bits. The rubber caps that conceal the two pins on which the sliding half slides are indicated by the yellow arrows.

The L-shaped lower control arm (orange) is stamped from a single sheet of steel, and a long slender stabilizer bar drop link (green) connects the stabilizer bar to a point high on the strut housing where it can stay clear of the tire while the strut steers left and right.

As expected, front-engine, front-wheel drive equals a steering linkage (orange) that acts behind the axle centerline.

But the trick aluminum front suspension subframe (green) is not something we often see. It's a bolted-together structure that holds the steering rack and the stabilizer bar, and it also carries the forward and aft pivot points for the lower control arms. The whole affair ultimately bolts directly to the unibody (yellow) with no rubber bushings in between to dull steering response.

Here's another look at the stamped steel lower arm and the way it mounts to the nifty aluminum subframe. DIY aficionados will appreciate the easily-serviced lower ball joints that bolt straight on. Autocrossers might consider taking a hacksaw to those overlong bolts(yellow) and save like 80 tons or something.

This under-car view (from the right side this time) shows some of the bolts that hold this subframe together. This is starting to look expensive. But it's also looking light and strong.

Peeking further underneath we see that the subframe has one more job to do. It carries a torque mount that controls the roll motion of the engine when you dump the clutch, make a shift or simply roll on and off the throttle in stop-and-go traffic.

That extra black bracket on the transmission end takes away the bending moment from the long through-bolt (yellow), putting it in double shear instead. The other end of the torque link, which is in direct tension when under load, connects to a large bushing housed neatly in the middle of the subframe.

Torque mounts are nothing new to front-drive cars, but this design is unique, and very effective.

Back to more mundane stuff. Here's the top end of the strut and the shock tower.

Before we head to the rear, here's another look at those spiffy red brakes.

The rear suspension wears another pair of red-painted single-piston sliding brake calipers, but these squeeze solid rotors instead of ventilated ones.

More importantly, the GTI's rear suspension uses a multilink setup with a blade-style (green) trailing arm. There are three lateral links in there, but here we can only see the main lower one (yellow) that also carries the spring.

Ah, that's better. The main trailing arm (blue) simultaneously locates the wheel in the fore-aft direction while it handles all of the torque loads from braking. The now-familiar curved upper link (yellow) hold the top of the wheel at the proper camber angle while the lower links (orange and green) handle most of the lateral loads.

And, as we've seen many times before, the forward of the two (green) is shorter, and it therefore swings in a tighter arc to create some dynamic toe-in on the loaded side as the body rolls.

I dreamt about a meteor shower last night, so forgive me for going a little arrow crazy. All of the colors (and their targets) are the same as the previous slide, with one exception: The white arrow indicates where the stabilizer bar link connects directly to the trailing arm.

Here's another view of the same thing. You can see how the mounting point is integrated into the connection between the trailing arm and the rear knuckle casting.

The coil spring sits about midway along the length of a main lower link that's so long it almost meets its mate from the other side in the middle. My eyeball estimate says the arm ratio is about 0.60:1 or so.

The rear shock absorber, however, bolts directly to the cast-iron rear knuckle for a direct-acting 1:1 motion ratio.

Like the front, the rear suspension subframe mount (orange) is direct-mounted to the body.

We haven't yet seen any bump stops because they reside at the top of those shock absorbers.

Finally, those 225/40R18 all-season tires and controversially-styled 18" wheels weigh 50.5 pounds when mounted.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,858 miles

Rear Seat Comfort

July 06, 2010

In addition to its polished driving demeanor, spirited performance and sharp looks, the GTI has something not all of its sport compact competition can boast about — an accommodating rear seat. Compared to some of the economy class rear seats seen in its rivals (Mini Cooper S, Honda Civic Si) the GTI's spacious rear quarters seem like first class.

Carrying a couple of passengers back there brought this to light. The Vee-dub's tall cabin allows a high seat cushion, which in turn offers plenty of under-thigh support. The seat is well-shaped, generously padded and has an ideal backrest angle. The fold-down center armrest — which sits up nice and high so you don't slump over when you use it — is another perk not usually seen in this segment.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 8,250 miles

Is This Spoiler Really Necessary?

July 07, 2010

More often than not, okay almost always, the answer to this question is an obvious "no." The ratio of spoilers that generate worthwhile downforce to spoilers that generate profits for Chinese plastics companies is probably 1 to 10.

Does this spoiler do much? I don't really know. I'm sure there's some engineer working in a basement in Wolfsburg that does. What I do know is that it gives the GTI a much sharper silhouette than the standard Golf, an upgrade that's instantly noticeable from a distance. Yes, a shallow reason for liking such an add-on but it's still a good one if I do say so myself.

Anyone have a better reason?

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 8,262 miles

Love the Steering Wheel

July 08, 2010

It seems that some staffers here like the steering wheel on our long-term 2010 VW GTI, while others don't.

I love it. I love the perforated leather, the small (but not too small) diameter, the thumb cutouts, and the details such as the red stitching and the metal GTI badge.

The cross-section diameter is also just right for me. Some cars install a super thick rim trying to front being sporty. That's just uncomfortable for me and sometimes will cause fatigue on a long drive.

And that somewhat controversial flat-bottom? So racy. And if you turn to near steering lock it helps you know the orientation of the wheel without looking — when you shuffle you can feel the flat section pass through your hands.

Our dearly departed Nissan GT-R and his sister the 370Z had very nice steering wheels, but for me, the GTI's STW is one of the best I've tried.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 8,300 miles

Adjustable Aux Input Part II

July 09, 2010

So here's the scenario: You're unplugging your iPod and as soon as you do the car's audio system defaults to playing whatever radio station you had selected when you switched to auxiliary input. Naturally, you had the audio system's volume cranked all the way up to accommodate your iPod's sorry output at its default volume level.

Those who have experienced this phenomenon know what happens next. The radio hits you like a shovel to the eardrums at max volume. Ouch.

That's precisely why I like the GTI's adjustable aux input. It prevents the shovel to the eardrums. Max the aux input level when you plug in and you don't have to max the volume. It's a valuable feature and one that I'm yet to find anywhere else. And it prevents the inevitable shovel to the eardrums.

You might remember Mark's post about poor sound quality when the aux level is maxed. This, however, isn't a problem for me since I rarely listen to anything but spoken-word podcasts. Either that or I'm just not as discerning.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 8,382 miles

HVAC Controls Done Right

July 11, 2010

Three knobs, three buttons. Simple.

Even the seat heater buttons are integrated intuitively. I'll agree with Karl and admit that the icons on the mode knob are a bit small. But this layout is about as efficient and effective as it can possibly be.

Nearly every current climate control system uses buttons which are far less efficient. I'll save you my diatribe on why I prefer manual ventilation controls over climate control, but let's just says it starts with a blast of wrong-temperature air in the face when you climb in on a hot or cold day.

Not a problem here. One quick turn of the knob and that problem is solved.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

Our Favorite Caption

July 16, 2010

Thanks to thegraduate for this week's favorite caption. Here are the others that we thought were a gas.

Now with a state of the art air suspension (lostboyz)
VW GTI Hindenburg Edition (ergsum)
We found the new GTI's ride a little bouncy. (ergsum)
Volkswagen is going to pump (clap) you up! (ergsum)
Volkswagen. Balloonists wanted. (ergsum)
No matter what, they will still get you at the pump. (ergsum)
Nena says, "Where are the other 98?" (technetium99)
Automotive bloat is affecting everyone (technetium99)
VW gets caught sandbagging. (good_2_go)
VW uses a 2.0 Liter 4-cylinder with a blower. (thegraduate)
Floatswagen Golf. (thegraduate)
German engineering in the bouncy house, ya. (05mazda6hatch)
GAS mileage (snipenet)
Best. Car cover. Ever. (9krpm)
VW misunderstood the term "Hydrogen car" (sherief)
Blimp my ride. (actualsize)
G.T.I = Got To Inflate (anilpunjabi1)

What was your favorite?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

You Write the Caption

July 16, 2010

Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds sent me this photo of the new 2014 VW GTI with the enhanced airbag package.

What is your caption?

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Hypothetically Locked Out

July 16, 2010

This is what both door handles look like on the 2010 GTI. See anything missing here? I'll save you the photo of the rear hatch handle which is missing the same critical component.

Now if you see nothing missing in the above image you shouldn't feel bad. Maybe you're a child of the 80s or 90s who never knew such things existed.

Now let's create a scenario. And, believe me, this is a hypothetical...

Let's say you just returned to your airport-parked GTI after a three-day trip to Colorado only to discover that the key fob mysteriously won't unlock the doors. Doesn't even blink the lights. Hmmm. There's a battery dead somewhere. Time to troubleshoot. Light still illuminates on the fob when the buttons are pushed so it seems to be OK. Car does nothing.

First question: Is this the right GTI? It's a big parking lot after all and if this weren't a hypothetical I'd say I've been oxygen deprived for three days. Maybe I wandered up to someone else's hypothetical GTI.

Nope. There's the CD case I left in the hypothetical center console. This is the right car. And the headlamp switch? Yep, it's in the hypothetical "on" position. That explains it. Battery is hypothetically dead. Doors are hypothetically locked. There's no hypothetical key hole. This is a bunch of hypothetical crap.

Think. Think again. No self respecting car manufacturer is going to leave a driver stranded without a way to access the car in this hypothetical situation. Or maybe they are. After all, this is the GTI. Our feelings for one another are mutual.

Inspect door handle. Carefully. Ahhh. Hypothetical relief. There's a slot on the bottom of that little trim cover. Jam key in hole and pry.

Good thing that was a hypothetical because finding somebody to jump this thing was going to hypothetically suck.

Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor

So Simple

July 19, 2010

Much has been said about the comfort and support of the seats in our 2010 VW GTI (here and here), but in light of our most recent criticizm of a 2010 Corvette ZR1's "noodley-ass seatback adjustment lever," I thought I'd propose to GM a simple fix: the rotary adjustment wheel with its infinite, micro adjustability, space-saving packaging, and intuitive operation. And the seatback doesn't wiggle either.

Just sayin.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 8,810 miles

Must Be This Tall To Ride

July 21, 2010

Sure, our 2010 Volkswagen GTI is fun to drive and all that but what is up with the driver seat? Why does it tilt like that so your rear is hanging lower than your knees? And, yes, there have been other editors who commented on the comfort of the seat but then again they're all tall, well, except for news editor Kelly Toepke who's my height but with long legs. I, on the other hand, being 5'5" with short legs can't get comfortable behind the wheel no matter how low I make the seat and how close to the steering wheel I get. My knees hang right over the end of the seat so I'm basically tippy-toeing on the clutch. And by the time I get the seat angled and positioned where I can work the clutch comfortably, I'm right up against the wheel. Boo.

Josh Jacquot's wife, who's 5'4", faced the same issue when she got behind the wheel so I know it's not just me. Any other short GTI drivers out there who have the same issue...or no issue with the driver seat?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Headlamps Reminder for Me and the Valets

July 22, 2010

As previously reported, our long-term 2010 VW GTI has no Auto headlamps.

In order not to end up stranded like GTI fanboi Mr. Jacquot, I decided to give myself and the hotel valets a reminder on my weekend trip to San Francisco and Laguna Seca for the MotoGP race.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 8,900 miles

MotoGP Drive

July 22, 2010

This weekend is the Red Bull US Grand Prix featuring the MotoGP World Championship at Laguna Seca raceway. (My video above is from 2008 free practice.)

My colleague Chris Walton will head up separately on a Harley-Davidson VROD, while I decided on the comfortable route — our long-term 2010 VW GTI.

The GTI has satellite radio and what I think is the best ride for a small car. Unfortunately, we didn't order ours with Navi, so I had to borrow a unit so I won't get lost leaving the circuit (there's what seems like a million roads out the many track exits).

I'll post a few tidbits on my trip, which should be between 800 and 1000 miles.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 8,850 miles

Tire Pressure, The EU, and The euro

July 22, 2010

I usually check the tire pressures on a test car before a big trip. And I did check our long-term 2010 VW GTI's relatively large 225/40R18s before my weekend trip to San Francisco and Laguna Seca and was surprised that they take 38 psi.

I was also surprised when I discovered that our GTI is manufactured in Germany, not Latin America (verified by the monrooney below.)

Not that I have anything against Latin America, but Germany is now almost single-handedly supporting the EU and the euro.

Our long-term GTI is assembled in Wolfsburg, Germany. And that's fine with me.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 8,900 miles

The Bay Area 10K

July 26, 2010

Our long-term 2010 VW GTI turned 10K on my trip to MotoGP and San Francisco this past weekend.
I ended up putting 1200 miles on the car. I'll post some driving impressions later this week but I can tell you here that I liked this vehicle a lot.

I also got a 10K mile "Service Now!" reminder so we'll take it in soon.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 10,000 miles

The Diesel Version (Sort of)

July 26, 2010

Let's say you're considering a VW GTI, but its already impressive 25 mpg just isn't strong enough for your desire to do better for the environment. Or perhaps you're interested in a Jetta TDI, but find it just too boring to drive.

Well, for a limited time only (!) Volkswagen is selling this 2010 Jetta TDI Cup Street Edition, which combines the regular TDI's powertrain with the old GLI's suspension, special 18-inch wheels, a unique body kit and of course, plaid seats.

While the TDI engine obviously gets amazing fuel economy, as a performance engine, I'd take our GTI's turbopetrol any day. A diesel just isn't very rewarding when driven aggressively. As such, the TDI Cup makes more sense for the eco-minded driving enthusiast who realistically knows they'll end up spending more time stuck in town rather than roaming free on back roads. Indeed, the Jetta TDI Cup would seem to be the most rewarding-to-drive green car on sale — I'd certainly rather own one of these than a CR-Z.

Another reason to get a TDI Cup: it's a Gen V Jetta. Although I've never been a big fan of it, this car is just so much nicer than the disappointing, cost-cutting Gen VI that shall replace it.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

The Secret Fridge

July 26, 2010

Before my trip to the MotoGP race and San Francisco this past weekend, I cleared out our long-term 2010 VW GTI's glovebox to make room for some spare magazines and happened across The Secret Fridge.

There — in the upper left corner of the top pic — is a rotary switch that opens a small hole. This allows airflow from the HVAC to enter the glovebox. I turned up the A/C briefly and could feel the cool air coming out.

With that vent open you can keep a drink cool in there. And with a quarter-turn you can also close that vent if you don't want whatever was placed in there — say, your girlfriend's undergarments — to be cold.

It worked pretty well. At moderate A/C cooling I was not only able to keep a cold drink cold, but I also was able to chill down a room temp plastic bottle of water to cool (not cold) after a few hours. Impressive.

And the price (free) is infinitely more palatable than the $760 real-compressor fridge in our long-term Ford Flex.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 10,200 miles

10K Mile Service was Good

July 28, 2010

Our long-term 2010 VW GTI started reminding us from a few days ago to perform the 10K service, so we took it to Santa Monica VW yesterday.

Our advisor JD was courteous and the service included Syntec oil and filter, tire rotation, and belts check. There was also a TSB for a driver footwell vent cover, which the dealer secured per VW instructions with a ziptie(?).

The service also included a wash, but curiously the vehicle was dirtier when I picked it up then when I had brought it in (had it at the carwash the day before). But everything else was fine and it was done in a few hours.

And the best part was that it was free, as 2010 VWs include 3 yr/36,000 mile maintenance.

See you again at 20K VW of Santa Monica.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 10,150 miles

Sunroof for Control Freaks

July 29, 2010

Since we finally have been getting weather resembling summer, I decided to crack open our 2010 Volkswagen GTI's sunroof. I LOVE cars with sunroof controls like this — knobs and markings — where you can be precise about just how much of the outside you want in. None of this obsessive back and forth with a lever and just a smidge...more..THERE. Nooo! Don't close! Makes control freaks like me very happy. You can even ratchet up how high you want the moonroof to go. Love it.

Sorry about the blurry detailed shot.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 10,209 miles

The Road to Laguna Seca

July 29, 2010

As I've previously mentioned, I took our long-term 2010 VW GTI to San Francisco and Laguna Seca last weekend for the MotoGP race. Our GTI is the only really small car in our long-term fleet that I would care to drive to SF. I covered 1200 mostly highway miles in 6th with the A/C on about half the time. I got 27.6 mpg overall on the required 91 Premium. Not bad.

The GTI has an excellent ride/handling balance, and perhaps the best ride I can think of in a subcompact car: no wallow, excellent impact damping, no harshness at all. And the handling is decent, but not as sharp of course as, say, an STI.

The steering is great too: good feel build-up, pretty accurate, and no dead spots. I think only once did I get a hint of torque steer during a quick start; otherwise, nothing. The engine power is OK and I was able to pull most grades in 6th.

It's relatively quiet for a small car, but I did experience some hellacious wind noise from the driver's window when some gale force winds kicked up. The noise died along with the wind.

However, the lack of storage space and only a single 12V outlet in the front area are annoying.

Would I buy this car myself? Perhaps. I'd certainly recommend it.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 10,200 miles (Hit the jump for some MotoGP video.)

Needs Vesicare

August 02, 2010

Sorry for the picture quality, but it's not an easy subject to capture. See that whiteish / brownish stuff there? That's washer fluid. I didn't use the rear washer. It just did that on its own.

So not only is the 2010 Volkswagn GTI too scared to go around a corner without activating its ESC, but when you do manage to have some fun on left-hand corners, it pees itself a little bit.


Mike Magrath, Associate Editor @ 10,501

I'm With Josh

August 05, 2010

We've been over this ground an awful lot, but for anyone keeping tabs on the ongoing "does the long-term 2010 VW GTI turn your crank" discussion, I'm in Mr. Jacquot's camp.

I like commuting in it. It's smooth, quiet, reasonably taut and has decent squirt. The cabin is quite nice. It's got absolutely heaps of headroom, which I dig since I'm 6'1" and all torso. I don't like driving it with enthusiasm, though, because the handling is a letdown once you dial up the entry speeds. Anything more than 6/10ths is an exercise in frustration, what with the squooshy turn-in, custard-filled brake pedal and killjoy non-defeat ESP.

It could be that simply changing to summer tires would sharpen the turn-in, but it'd take a reflash or enabling a secret-handshake diagnostic mode (up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-B-A-Start) to tackle the crappy ESP situation. I'd love to see if those changes alone (plus some sort of rejiggered brake master cylinder and/or booster?) could make all the difference in transforming my opinion of the GTI from a tepid "meh" to "hell yeah."

Oh, and the wheels are tacky. So there.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor.

I Don't Care What JKav Says

August 06, 2010

Coming off my Face-Off World Cup win, I'm in a feisty mood and with all due respect to our engineering editor, the right honorable Jay Kavanagh, I don't care what he says about the GTI.

Barring a massive infusion of cash allowing me to buy an XJ Supercharged, the VW GTI is the new car I'd go out and buy with my own money. The reasons hence ...

When the hell am I driving above "6/10ths"? Occasionally when I venture through a canyon, but more importantly, my 6/10ths is a whole heck of a lot lower than 24 Hours of LeMons superstar driver Mr. Kavanagh and our hot-shoe track driver Mr. Josh Jacquot. In fact, my 6/10ths is about their 2/10ths, while their 6/10ths is me wetting myself and recollecting the contents of my life. And that's me, who I'll not so humbly admit is actually a pretty good driver.

For most people, the GTI adds just the right amount of spice and involvement without taking away from the sublime seats, the perfect driving position, the massive visibility, the impressively large back seat, the beautiful interior (that makes the new Jetta feel like it's intended for Brazil), the well-balanced ride and the fact it doesn't wrench the wheel out of my hands at almost every opportunity.

Are the all-seasons crap? Yes. Are the track numbers not as good as others? Yes. Should the traction control be fully defeatable? Absolutely, but I haven't experienced it with the frequency of others (though I'm pretty sure I don't drive as nutty as they do). Is it as much of a riot as a Mazdaspeed 3? No. Is someone likely to bring a stock GTI to a track? No, but then I don't really want to drive a car that would be good for a track. I believe that a hot hatch should be a hatchback that is hotter than its base version, not a hot car that happens to be a hatch. The GTI is one, the Mazdaspeed 3 is the other.

I equate the GTI to being a budget entry-level sport sedan. An A4 or 3 Series aren't track cars, but they in fact add some spice to their sophistication.

I love the GTI and I don't care what JKav says.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 10,707 miles

A Different Cruise Interface

August 09, 2010

When I went to San Francisco last month in our long-term 2010 VW GTI I used the Cruise quite a bit. You see, during the MotoGP weekend it seemed like half of all California Highway Patrol units were on the job from The City to the Monterey Peninsula. I even saw for the first time CHP shooting laser on
I-280 on the run down the hill from Burlingame! I used the cruise a lot to avoid getting a citation, so I gained some familiarity with the GTI's stalk cruise.

It's got a master switch on top that you flip back and forth. I never cancelled cruise operation using this, but I think it would be awkward. And for the speed setting and resume you press on that rocker switch on the end of the stalk.

It all works fine, but Blind Operation (without looking) is a bit challenging, especially for speed setting.
I prefer the tap up/tap down cruise stalk on our GTI's luxury sister, the departed long-term Audi S5. Doing that on the GTI's stalk activates the turn signals.

Why are they different — product differentiation??

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 10,900 miles

The Seat Compendium

August 11, 2010

The GTI's seats have gotten more than their fair share of seat discussion these past six months. Having just read through all of them to freshen up my memory, I'd sum it all up with this public service announcement: Driver seat comfort and positioning in the GTI is noticeably better for taller drivers than shorter drivers. The seat heaters rock. The rear seat is impressively roomy.

What more could I possibly add? Well, I will mention that the GTI does have an expansive amount of front headroom. That's probably a contributor on why tall and lanky people (or those fond of wearing a sombrero) seem to like it. It also means that if you normally prefer to raise the driver seat up high in your car, you can go crazy in the GTI since there's so much area to work with. Going up high also lets you see the front end of the car, which is helpful for parking.

From my vantage point, with the driver seat lowered completely and then raised up.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Why I'd Keep It Nearly Stock

August 13, 2010

I do like our long-term VW GTI quite a bit, so it's pretty easy to think about it from an ownership standpoint. But then I've wondered: If I owned one, would I modify it? The interesting thing is that while I can readily identify where the GTI is deficient, addressing those deficiencies would likely alter the characteristics that make the GTI appealing in the first place.

More power? Well, maybe 10 or 20 hp wouldn't hurt. (Does it ever?) But beyond that, I'd be afraid that the GTI would encounter same the issues that the 263-hp Mazdaspeed 3 does. Crank up the boost? No thanks.

Stiffer suspension? This is a tricky one. If I installed lowering springs and firmer dampers, no doubt the GTI would be more fun to drive aggressively. But how far to go? A really sport-oriented setup would likely degrade the GTI's daily-driver quality. But if I was only doing something mild, why bother spending money on it?

Tires and wheels? This is where making upgrades would have payoffs with minimal liabilities. As we learned from the suspension walkaround, those wheels are kind of heavy. Lighter wheels and summer tires would be on the docket if owned our GTI.

Think I'm wrong? Anything else you'd do?

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

How Does It Sound?

August 16, 2010

We've made reference a few times about how our 2010 GTI's engine sounds pretty cool, thanks in no small part to its honkus, a plastic tube that channels intake noise into the cabin. Well, I finally got around to shooting a couple videos to demonstrate. They follow after the jump.

Two quick videos here. I only had access to a point-and-shoot camera, so the quality isn't awesome. Wear headphones. Also, I was just driving around town, so don't expect any grand Le Mans sounds.

In general I think GTI's engine does sound a cut above more mainstream inline-4s. But I'd still rank the long-term 2006 Honda Civic Si we had in our fleet a few years ago as being the best sounding four-cylinder car we've had in recent memory.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 11,212 miles

Which Hot Hatch Would You Buy?

August 18, 2010

Alright, pretend you're ready to buy a new hot hatchback. Maybe you have a spouse/partner with another car, but either way your hot hatch is going to be your daily driver. Your choices (pre-selected by me), each with a listed base price, are:

Volkswagen GTI (two-door; four-door is about $600 more) — $23,690
Mazdaspeed 3 — $23,340
Mini Cooper S — $22,300
Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart — $27,590
Subaru Impreza WRX — $25,495

Which one would you buy?

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Checking The Oil

August 20, 2010

I examined our GTI's oil level this morning and it checks out OK. However, the dipstick is made out of a dark-colored metal. I'm not sure why VW chose to have it this way as spotting the exact oil level is a lot harder than it is on a regular dipstick made with a brighter metal.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

My Favorite Road Trip Car

August 23, 2010

I took our VW GTI to San Francisco for a getaway over the weekend. And I have to say, the GTI is my favorite long-term car for road trips. It was ideal for San Francisco — sporty to look at and drive, a peppy turbo-4 for squirting through traffic, easy to park, plenty of suspension compliance for SF's rough roads, reasonably quiet on the freeway, 30 mpg fuel economy, and an ideal size for two people and a weekend's worth of stuff.

True, it's not flawless. Like Erin mentioned a while back, there's an annoying wind leak from the B-pillar, and the car could really use GTI camp.

A small group of pictures from San Francisco follow after the jump.

Brief captions: 1) The trunk's the perfect size for a medium suit case, a garment bag and a duffel bag; 2) The distinctive shape of the Transamerica building; 3) Somewhere along Columbus Ave; 4) Telegraph Hill, home of Coit Tower; 5) A construction mural in the North Beach area; 6) The Bay Bridge.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 11,750 miles

Busted Knob

August 30, 2010

Attached to the rear hatch of our 2010 Volkswagen GTI are two round hooks, one on each side. From each hook hangs the pictured string. From the string hangs the rear cargo cover. Lift the hatch and the strings pivot the cargo cover to improve access to the rear storage area. It's a simple, thoughtful design. I liked it. Then it broke.

I raised the rear hatch to load in some groceries and it hung up about halfway open. I leaned down to investigate the hang-up, lifting the hatch slightly. Well, that was enough. With a snap the hook shot across the parking lot and the cargo cover fell to the ground.

Now what? This piece doesn't look like an easy, or inexpensive replacement. But we'll check into it and let you now what we learn. Maybe we can call the folks at Dodge for some ideas?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 12,180 miles

2 Powerpoints, 1 Useless

August 31, 2010

Our long-term 2010 VW GTI has but a single 12V accessory powerpoint in the front seating area (below). Brent has pointed this out several times. When I took my road trip to San Francisco in July, I had to power my mobile phone, my radar detector (for safety reasons), and my portable navigation unit (as we didn't order Navi on our GTI).

Needless to say it was a pain to juggle these three devices in the single powerpoint. But I remembered that Brent mentioned that the GTI has a second powerpoint. And I found it in the cargo area.

Why in the cargo area? If this were a Sienna or some other mommymobile I would understand.
Moms need to inflate the kiddie pool floaties, soccer balls, etc.

What's a GTI driver going to do with that powerpoint? Maybe you GTI fanbois can help me understand.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 12, 250 miles


September 02, 2010

Two days ago Mike Schmidt told you about the broken hook, which locates the string, which in turn suspends the rear cargo cover in our 2010 GTI. What he didn't do was show you the result — one severely wonked rear cargo cover. It's not great.

This is the part where I refrain from saying anything about the flawless performance of the cargo cover retention hooks on our Mazdaspeed 3.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

Is it Just Me?

September 02, 2010

When the 2010 Volkswagen GTI came first came out, I was instantly reminded of this car, the 2007 VW Golf GTI W12-650, an insane (and nearly undriveable, as it turns out) special made for the annual GTI festival in Austria.

I always figured the wide-mouth grille and the bottom-heavy haunches of the current-gen car owed something to this beast.

Mostly, this was a theory constructed in my mind, because I'd never laid any pictures side-by-side, until now.

Do you see it, too? Or is it just me?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

Nice Stance

September 06, 2010

I love the stance on our long-term 2010 VW GTI. The car is lowered, but not excessively. And the gap between the large 18" diameter tires and the fender is just right. A friend of mine likes to tuck the wheels on his VWs; I don't care for that. To each his own.

And the GTI also has a slight rake with the front just a bit lower than the rear.
I hate it when the rear end of the car looks like it's squatting even when sitting still.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 12,500 miles

Birthday Wish

September 07, 2010

This is my friend's son, Adan. The little guy celebrated his 2nd birthday this week, and he loved our long-term 2010 VW GTI when he drove it (kidding).

I wonder if he'll wish for a GTI when he's older? Considering today's youth, maybe he'll dream of Iphone and Android instead.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of one day owning a Porsche 911/Turbo.

What about you? What was your dream car when you were a kid, and is that dream still alive?

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 12,600 miles

Seatbelt Slider

September 07, 2010

Have you ever attempted entry to the backseat of a two door hatchback and the seatbelt tried to strangle you?

Well our long-term 2010 VW GTI may prevent such asphyxiation. The lower end of the belt is attached to a rod that lets the belt slide fore and aft, allowing both proper belt positioning and access to the rear seat. It's clever and convenient.

As a bonus, that rod is made of metal, a nice quality touch.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 12,600 miles

Infinitely Adjustable

September 08, 2010

See that knob at the intersection of the seatback and seat bottom? It makes the GTI's seatback angle infinitely adjustable. Which is good for those who insist on a carefully arranged vertical driving postion like myself. And it's superior to traditional indexed seatback adjusters (like that in, say, the Mazdaspeed 3), which offer only a finite number of positions.

So there.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

Tall Guys and Volkswagens

September 09, 2010

Our long-term GTI proves once again that the Germans know how to make a driving position for tall people. It shouldn't really come as a surprise considering that the average German male is 5 foot 10 tall (the average woman is 5 foot 5 and the average German 19-year-old male is 5 foot 11 1/2). If you were a bunch of tall, German Volkswagen engineers, wouldn't you want your car to fit you and your countrymen?

The GTI's provides lots of under thigh support by plunging the seat downward in back, while keeping the front elevated. The steering wheel then telescopes far out allowing for an ideal elbow bend. As a bonus, the flat-bottom wheel can be placed lower since there's less rim to interfere with the driver's lanky legs. The shifter also falls perfectly at hand. I love it and this is all without power adjustable anything.

I've heard some of our shorter editors complain that they don't fit comfortably in the GTI. Well, I'm sorry about that, but given that they fit in virtually everything else, I won't be striking up the violins. I would suggest checking out the Mazdaspeed 3, which I'm not particularly comfortable in. Not that that should come as a surprise either given that the average Japanese 19 year old is 5 foot 7.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 12,870 miles

How It's Different From the MS3

September 10, 2010

Getting into our 2010 Volkswagen GTI after having driven our Mazdaspeed 3 for nearly a week, I couldn't help but notice the following differences:

The GTI...

...has heavier doors.

...has a manlier horn.

...has smoother shifts. quieter at 4,000+ rpm.

I wish I had driving comparisons or something like that for you but all I really got to do with the GTI last night was sit in traffic. But just for giggles here's the burnout shoot-out video again.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 12,879 miles

I Can't Drive Aught-Five

September 12, 2010

Sammy Hagar (or is it Haggar these days?) was once so furious about the former 55mph speed limit that he wrote a hit song about it, a song that earned him enough money to pay for a lifetime of traffic tickets and radar detectors. Our 2010 VW GTI is sitting next to a sign that might could net me big bank.

I mean, five mph? Really? Are they serious? I can't drive...five.

No, really, I can't. Both of my own cars have non-comittal markings below 20 mph. They lack a 5 mph hash mark, and the one for 10 mph is unnaturally close to the 0 mph mark. It's impossible to tell if I'm running along at 4 or 7 or 5 mph. It's enough to make a man pen a hit single, I tell you!

Oh, wait. The GTI's speedo has a 5mph hash mark, and it's evenly centered between the zero and 10 marks. It also has a can't-miss digital readout, right in the middle. What's more, if I idle it along in first gear, the car purrs along precisely at the single-nickel. I CAN drive five, after all — exactly, in fact.

So much for fame, fortune and my own brand of tequila. *shrug*

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 12,888 miles

Oops! I Left the Sunroof Open Overnight

September 13, 2010

Brain fade. That's my only explanation for leaving our 2010 Volkswagen GTI's sunroof open overnight.

I don't usually open sunroofs - I'm not a big fan. But 6'6" Kellan and I were remarking how the sunroof doesn't come close to impinging on his headroom, even though it's the kind that sucks down into the headliner rather than moving up and out.

I got lucky. No rain. Too little relative humidity for morning dew. The seats weren't damp at all. And the neighborhood cats didn't drop in for a nap, or worse.

As for the GTI's sunroof, this is one car where tall guys don't have to avoid the option to get that extra little bit of head clearance.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 13,031 miles

Tall-Guy Fit Test x2

September 13, 2010

Last week The Riz went on about the supposed height of the German people and the general suitability of a 2010 VW GTI for tall people. But he left out one important bit: the actual opinion of a tall person. Oh, sure. James and I are both 6' 2", but that's not really tall.

In fact, when I sit in the GTI, I don't need to slam the seat all the way back and all the way down, as I usually do. In this car, that's way too low and way too far back. There's more here for taller folks.

A couple of genuinely tall people live near me. Mike (6'5") owns the house down the street. He drives an older BMW 7-series with a seat track modified for more rearward travel. Apparently there's a stopper bolt you can remove and reinstall in another hole further back, or something like that. I borrowed a pruning saw from him this weekend, and we got to talking about the VW Golf and our 2010 Volkswagen GTI long-term test vehicle.

"Go ahead. Sit in it. You'll be surprised," I said.

He did, and he was. Plenty of seat travel, plenty of downward seat movement in the adjustable-height seat. Telescopic wheel.

"I'm looking to downsize. I don't really need a backseat. This really fits. And they have that TDI diesel, too," said Mike.

"The 2-door body is the key," I pointed out. "That pillar sits farther back, and that gives you a lot of room to get in. Plus, the seatbelt lays better across your shoulder. And the pillar doesn't block your view to the side."

"All of that is a problem in my BMW," he agreed.

And then there's 6'6" Kellan (shown), a 15-year old who is about to pull his learner's permit. Car-wise, he and his mom don't really know where to start.

No problem. The GTI has plenty of head- and legroom. OK, a new 2010 model is probably a bit of a stretch for a first car, but the same tall-guy attributes apply to used examples of the last-generation Golf and its various variants.

One of these would definitely work for him.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 12,910 miles

Tires Feel Fine to Me

September 14, 2010

There has been considerable discussion in this forum about the tires on our GTI. Shockingly enough, those paper thin 40-Series tires you see here are not the most aggressive meats you can get. The optional summer tires are a bit stickier, and would conceivably provide more grip and improved handling.

That would be great and all, but I'm okay with this car as it is. I'm actually shocked that the car rides as well as it does with such minimal sidewall cushion. Maybe the summer tires would be just as comfortable, maybe not. All I know is that when I drive the GTI it doesn't put me in the mindset for canyon carving. Seems more at home just ripping around town.

Now I'm sure that with a few minor tweaks the GTI could tear into corners as well as our Miata, okay, nearly as well as our Miata, but then it would be miserable the other 99% of the time. Forget that. If I wanted an Evo I would buy one. The GTI is no Evo, and it doesn't bother me a bit.

Ed Hellwig, Editor @ 13,123 miles

Bun Burners

September 16, 2010

It's no secret that I love seat heaters but...dare I say it, our 2010 Volkswagen GTI's are too hot for me, even through jeans. And that's saying a lot considering I always pick the highest setting on any seat heater. Then when I choose the medium setting in the VW it's not warm enough. I always end up checking the button to make sure it's even activated.

To give you an idea of what I mean, since I don't have Mike Schmidt's nifty gadget (I want one!), if we were talking summer days, the highest setting would feel like a 115-degree day, unbearable. The medium setting feels like a 65-degree day, lukewarm.

Solution? Switch back and forth from high to medium.

But that's just my opinion. Chief Scott Oldham and his wife think the heaters "rock."

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 13,118 miles

Our Favorite Caption

September 17, 2010

Thanks to ergsum for this week's favorite caption. And no, I'm not cross about the seat heater comment. Get it? Cross. Oh yeah.

Here are the others that made us see the light:

Forgive me, father, for I am about to sin. (vt8919)
Burn rubber, not Qur'ans! (ergsum)
We get the GTI's Bible Belt replaced. (ergsum)
Converted In 60 Seconds (ergsum)
Top God's tamed racing driver, the Stigmata. (ergsum)
Where's Mr. Prayer? I've got a flat. (tomm250)
Prayer changes 'bout the wheels?!? (rick8365)
This explains the Catholic school girl uniform upholstery. (ergsum)
WWJD: What Would Judas Drive? (mrryte)
Volkswagen: Un-Pope Your Ride! (ergsum)
Deliver us from EVO (mrryte)

What was your favorite?

I forgot to mention we have prizes. The winner can choose from:

Top Gear Season 10
Flat Stig keychain
Set of mini cones

Send your choice and your address to dderosa (at)

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

You Write the Caption

September 17, 2010

Vehicle Testing Manager Mike Schmidt is my go-to source for caption contest photos. He does a lot of traveling. I'm not sure where he shot this photo, but thank god he did. Get it? God...prayer. Ah, I crack myself up.

I was reluctant to post this photo because I didn't want to start any holy wars, so I'm trusting you to keep it light.

What is your caption?

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Disappearing B-Pillar

September 17, 2010

A fog settled over West Los Angeles last night, but our 2010 Volkswagen GTI burned right through it. That sounds like an attempt at bad poetry. What I mean to say is that this car is stunning. Really stunning. On the walk back to the foggy parking lot, I was thrilled that this was my car for the evening.

I've gone on record many times as a lover of almost anything with the silhouette of a hatchback, and the GTI's shape is no exception. But the three-door VW GTI is just a little bit more special because of the B-pillar black-out effect at night. I've talked about how the five-door GTI might fit into my future life, practical considerations and all, but it's never going to look this good.

Another thing I find interesting about our GTI is that I can drive it the night after the Mazdaspeed 3 and like it, maybe just as much, for completely different reasons.

It's a more sedate driving experience for sure (though heel-and-toe downshifting is still fun), but the VW feels like a luxury car compared to the Mazda — and indeed compared to most other cars you can buy for about $25,000. I'd never have thought to seek out a hot hatch that wants to be a luxury car, but when I stumble upon it, it's kind of cool.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 13,200 miles

Impressed My Rich Friend

September 18, 2010

I have this long time friend. He and I met racing Formula Fords back in the early 1990s. He has means. And he spends it on cars. Since I've known him he has owned more Ferraris than I can remember including a 348, a 348 Spyder, a 355 Spyder, a 360, two 430 Spyders, a 430 Scuderia, a 550 and a 599. He also has a Ducati Desmosedici. But he doesn't only buy Italian toys. He has also owned a two M5s, an M3, a CL63, a CLK63 Black, a 1972 Porsche 911 RS, a Carrera GT, a 997 GT3 RS, a highly modified Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 and a 1993 Mercedes 500E. Oh, and he just bought himself a Mercedes SLR McLaren 722 convertible.

He was blown away by our little GTI yesterday. First thing he noticed was the car's wonderfully smooth idle. Then he said the plaid seats were to his liking. Before I could respond he poked his head in the window, looked around a bit and said, "Cool car. Nicely finished. Can you get DSG?"

When I said you can he said, "This is all the car anybody ever needs."

And he's right. It is.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

Taking the Back Road

September 20, 2010

I had some free time on Sunday, so I took our long-term 2010 Volkswagen GTI on a back road — the same back road I traveled in our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. Consistent with the discussion on this blog, it was, of course, a completely different experience. But it wasn't a bad experience and I enjoyed myself.

To start, the GTI's 2.0-liter turbo has plenty of torque for a tight and twisty road such as this. And it makes some great sounds when you're on the throttle hard. This feels like an upgrade over the Mazdaspeed 3, which is simply loud when you're running it hard.

I mostly used 3rd gear, but dipped into 2nd for a few corners. This, too, was enjoyable. We've mentioned the GTI favors tall drivers, and though I am not a giant, I have long legs — and the seating position in this car is such that I am in a perfect position to rip off clean heel-and-toe downshifts. I love that.

You may have the impression that the GTI's suspension is so soft that it just falls all over itself when you dump the car into a tight corner. On the contrary, this car has a capable suspension that's just tuned to favor ride comfort. When you press along at a decent pace, the grip is there — you've just got to wade through some body roll to get to it. It feels like everything's happening at a slower pace that in the Mazdaspeed 3 (which is just so frenetic and now, now, now in the way it turns in), but I wonder if I was really was that much slower. This is a public road, remember, with opposing traffic and the occasional cyclist (at least at this time of day), so my typical pace leaves a little room for the unexpected.

Other than the non-defeatable stability control, the major letdown to driving the GTI on a good road is the lack of steering feel. I'd never tell you the setup in the MS3 is perfect, but it gives you feedback you can use. The electric-assisted power steering in the VW is decently weighted, but it insulates you from what the front tires are doing — this lowered my confidence and made the drive less interesting.

Although I came away from the afternoon happy, I've decided that, unlike the Mazdaspeed 3, the Volkswagen GTI isn't a car I'd drive on a back road just for the sake of going for a drive. It is, however, a car I'd enjoy driving if there happened to be a back road on the way to my destination — like Brent's trip to Yosemite. The GTI is capable. It just isn't as hot as I think a hot hatch should be.

Yet, I don't dislike the GTI. In fact, I like it a great deal. But I recognize that this car fills completely different needs for me than the Mazdaspeed 3.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 13,351 miles

Fantastic Visibility

September 23, 2010

I did a bunch of photo collages a while back to compare and contrast various coupes visibility. Those photo collages are a pain in the butt, though, so here's a video instead showcasing just how open and airy the GTI's cabin is. Sure, a VW hatchback doesn't look as cool as a Camaro, but there's something to be said for seeing where you're going.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 13,574 miles

You've Come a Long Way?

September 24, 2010

Do you remember when the GTI looked like it was a welded box? I loved those modded Rabbits. Ok, I dated myself there, but for those who don't remember or were born after I graduated high school, here is a little trip down my memory lane.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Hatchback > Sedan

September 27, 2010

I had the choice of the GTI, Kizashi, Crosstour and Raptor on Friday, and since I usually like to give the folks with families a chance at the bigger cars on the weekend, I gladly picked the smallest of the bunch. And yet, the little two-door VW swallowed a whole heap of stuff I needed to dump off donate to Goodwill. While I know a similarly sized sedan could've also done the job, the ease of loading and unloading is quite obviously not the same as it is with a hatchback.

I know most people hate hatchbacks for some stupid reason, but as long as the car doesn't look like this, the hatchback is a superior design for a compact vehicle.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 13,679 miles

Shall We Play a Game?

September 28, 2010

When I got on the 405 freeway at 6:15 a.m. this morning, the traffic looked like this.

A shame, because the VW GTI is fun to drive and I purposely chose it last night knowing I'd be on the road early today. Thought I might be able to actually drive instead of just sit. No dice.

On days like this, I look for new ways to pass the time. This morning I played, "Who's Driving With Expired Plates." Turns out, pretty much everyone.

How do you pass the commute time?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 13,747 miles

Nice Stack

September 29, 2010

Simple, straightforward and intuitively laid out. Everything's exactly where you expect it to be, and there's no clutter to contend with. It won't set the world on fire or anything, but it's functional and attractive enough. Does this look work for you?

Now if only the folks at Volkswagen had taken a similarly conservative approach when selecting the GTI's seat upholstery...

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 13,770 miles

Liar, Liar.

October 01, 2010

This is some kind of Audi; some two door A3. That's not a bad thing, Audi's are nice, but this is not a GTI.

Back in college, waaaay back in college, I was looking at buying a used 1992 16V GTI; red with those pretty BBS wheels. I'd read all the reviews and grabbed a ride or two in a friend's car and I wanted one. Even though I've since forgotten what dealer I went to, I do remember the test drive. The GTI was fun, playful, very basic and raw the way sporty German cars used to be. It'd be silly to say I lusted after it, but I really wanted that car. But since I wasn't able to scrounge up the money to buy it, I had to let it go.

When our 2010 GTI showed up, with the exception of a 20 minutes in a VR6 powered GTI, I hadn't driven a GTI since that used 1992 I drove all those years ago. I finally got a good crack at driving the this thing other night and I'd just like say it left me, mad.

There is GTI badge on the back of the car, but the hell if I know why it's there. This car is soft, the steering is over-boosted and not informative. There's also too much sound deadening. How much is too much? Well when you have to funnel engine sound into the cockpit with a tube, you might have gone too far. The ESP is overbearing and cannot be shut off. Someone should get hit in the head for allowing that to happen on a GTI.

This car is no longer the fun, playful and basic hatch that it was. I know times change, but plaid seats do not a GTI make. It's lacking all the character and personality the earlier generations had, you know the ones that were so good they defined a generation of hatchbacks. Had they called it a Golf GT, I would not have had this... visceral reaction.

It's not a bad car, it's just not a GTI. Not even close.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 13,820 miles

Virtue and Virtual

October 01, 2010

Forza Motorsport 3 week continues, as I snagged the GTI keys with the firm notion of giving it a real and simulated shakedown. First, the real bits. I still love the GTI - way more than the Mazdaspeed 3. But perfect, it's not.

Before I even got it into first gear, I realized that the iPod jack wasn't finding my iPhone. It would charge it, but I couldn't get it to play through the AUX menu. A short while later, I noticed that the brake pedal is just a wee bit too tall (close to me) to do low-speed heel-toe downshifts. Higher speeds are fine because I have to give it more brake pedal pressure, pushing it closer to the throttle. Finally, I found the shifter just a little out of reach. And by al little, I mean about an inch or so too far forward.

Now for some hot laps.

I settled into the couch, Xbox controller in hand. Regrettably, I lacked a plaid blanket to simulate the GTI's seats. Like the Mazdaspeed, the GTI sounded way better in the game than it does in real life. Again, it was that wonderful turbo whoosh, hiss and pop. My biggest issue was gearing, it seemed, as the GTI would bog down in third gear coming out of some turns. In second gear, I was bouncing off the rev limiter. I suppose I'll just have to wrestle it through a slight slide to keep the momentum.

I managed to turn in a 1:43.747 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Predictably slower than the Mazdaspeed 3. I was satisfied with that time and moved on to the Corvette Z06 in an attempt to come close to Niebuhr's time of 1:34.131.

I changed my driving style from smooth to ragged, with uneven throttle inputs and lots of steering correction - the opposite of how I drive in real life. Figuring that tire damage and the consequences of having to pay for it shouldn't concern me, I ended up with a 1:34.555. That's an improvement of about 3.5 seconds. Still, I think there's more to be gained.

I have the Z06 for the weekend, so I'll be spending countless hours trying to find that elusive perfect lap.

Best EZ Entry Ever

October 05, 2010

When I loaded my stuff into our long-term 2010 Volkswagen GTI last night, I noticed the seats were folded down. I'm on the retentive side of the range and I won't drive around in a hatchback with the seats folded unless I'm actually hauling boxes. So before anything, the seats had to go back up.

My first idea was to go around to the hatch and try to pull the seats up that way. But of course I couldn't reach them, because the hatch area is kind of big, even though it's supposedly only 12.4 cubic feet in capacity. Also, there are no straps or handles on the seats to help you get a hand on them... not that there usually are in compact hatches, but the last time I dealt with folded seats I was driving a minivan, so...

Enter the front seats' easy-entry feature: It's well executed on this car — as it should be on any three-door hatch or coupe in this price range. However, Volkswagen seems to do it better than anyone else. The front doors open up to about 88 degrees, and the seats smoothly and easily tilt forward and out of the way. I took one step into the backseat and, within seconds, the rear seats were back in place. I could seriously see using the 3-door GTI if I had toddlers in the backseat, but since there's a 5-door version available, I probably wouldn't actually go through with that.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Loves the Open Road

October 07, 2010

I put a quick 200 highway miles on our long-term 2010 Volkswagen GTI yesterday and was reminded again just how good this car is on the highway. If the GTI feels a bit out of sorts on back roads, it's perfectly home at 70+ on the interstate.

The suspension/tire package results in a neatly composed ride, and there's still enough compliance to smother out the bad patches of pavement. In addition, we drove through heavy rain, and the Dunlop all-season tires channeled the water well.

The other thing driver and passenger noticed was the low level of cabin noise. We still need to have a TSB performed on the leaky driver door seal, both otherwise, the cabin is incredibly well insulated from wind and road roar for a car in this price range. Even the wipers were quiet. It was so serene and relaxing that we turned off the radio and just talked.

So why haven't I taken a road trip in our GTI yet? Time for some paid time off.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,032 miles

The People's Dyno

October 08, 2010

So once it's parked, I look down and see the GTI's odometer reading, "14,076 miles." It's been around here since February, so this is a goodly number of miles.

And this makes me think of the Mazdaspeed 3, which struggled to crack 20,000 miles the last month or so, even though it's been around for almost a year.

Never mind dynamometer comparisons of horsepower, which car do people really like to drive?

After six months of being driven almost daily, the GTI had recorded 11,300 miles. After six months, the Mazdaspeed 3 had recorded 10,213 miles.

Well, you can quibble about frequency of drives and duration of trip and all the other variables, but the people's dyno has given us its result.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 14,076 miles

Super Beetle Comparo

October 11, 2010

Am looking down at a 1982 Porsche 911SC - the sixth one in a couple of weekends and a good one at last - and am thinking again what a happy little time capsule of Porsche design history this model of the 911 happens to be.

It's the kind of car that makes your wallet flutter.

And then there's the 2010 Volkswagen GTI next to me. And it comes to me — wait a second — these cars are the same....

You're not supposed to have an emotional attachment to the 1978 - 1983 Porsche 911SC. Ernst Fuhrmann had decided to abandon the 911 as an engineering dead end in light of ever more stringent air and noise emissions regulations, so the Porsche 944 and 928 would lead the company into the future. The 911SC was just marking time, its horsepower turned down and its fuel economy turned up. Things changed for the 911 only when new Porsche president Peter Schutz stepped up to the big chart in engineer Helmut Bott's office that plotted the development plans for all Porsche cars and then drew a big line forward for the 911 that went past the proposed end of production in 1982, across the chart into the future, and finally clear onto the wall beside it.

The 911SC has links with Porsche's heritage that you don't find in the Porsche 911 we see on the road today. Not just the 911SC's air-cooled flat-six engine but also the old style transmission, torsion-bar suspension and even the bottom-hinge pedals. Really the 911SC is just the super-est of VW Super Beetles, still showing evidence of the Volkswagen Beetle platform upon which the first Porsche 356 had been built in 1948. And the bodywork represents a tightly evolved vision of Butzi Porsche's original 911 shape, only with the wide rear fenders inspired by racing (a design feature grown overblown in the latest 911, despite the efforts of now-departed designer Harm Lagaay to stop the madness).

But for all the magic within the Porsche 911SC, the Volkswagen GTI brings you back to reality. The VW has its own heritage, as the GTI came to America in 1983. The 2010 GTI measures 165.8 inches and sits on a 101.5-inch wheelbase, while the 911SC measures 168.9 inches and has an 89.4-inch wheelbase. The GTI has more horsepower, 197 hp to 172 hp. Weighs more at 3,103 pounds to 2,560 pounds (what do you expect, what with stricter safety regulations in the last 30 years). It gets to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds (with 1 foot or rollout) while the 911SC did it in 6.0 seconds (with 1 foot of rollout). Pretty much the same fuel economy for both cars (slightly different EPA procedure now than then) at more than 20 mpg around town. If you want a perfect 911SC, the VW and Porsche even cost about the same on the street right now.

When old guys stand around looking at old cars, it's fashionable to grumble that things were better then and complain that modern cars have lost the plot. But the Volkswagen GTI reminds us that old guys are — as ever - full of crap.

When you measure the 2010 Volkswagen GTI against the 1982 Porsche 911SC, maybe it's the new car that should make your wallet flutter.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 14,451 miles

Streaming Bluetooth Audio

October 15, 2010

I'm an iPhone newbie and it never ceases to amaze me. We are, indeed, living in the future. As an example, today I paired my phone with the GTI using Bluetooth, and also used the same connection to stream music sans a cord. See, if the phone was attached to an umbilical, it's be much harder to look at traffic on the phone's map. This way, I get to listen to my music and have the phone free for other functions.

Jump with me if you care to see the process...

First thing is you've got to change this orange light to green by turning the phone's Bluetooth connection on, wait for discovery, enter the 4-digit code, and...

...once the connection is made you get a green light — shouldn't it be blue?

Now the Settings need to be dialed in.

First the Setup screen, then the Media page, and finally, Activate Bluetooth Audio with a check mark, and magic happens. Somehow, what's on my iPod miraculously starts playing on the GTI's audio system. I had no trouble with the Aux volume settings like Mark or Josh did. Maybe this is a separate deal — not sure.

Whatever. All I know is that I was rockin' out and the sound quality was as good as if it were plugged in with a cord — at least that's what my untrained ears told me.

The only drawback I could find was that the previous/play-pause/next buttons you see in the background did not function (nor did the corresponding buttons on the steering wheel). Here's a clickable detail shot if you want to see how the "buttons" are greyed out.

Otherwise, I'm duly impressed with how easy the connection was made (I was only looking to use the Bluetooth phone connection), and with the sonic quality of the playback.

Way, way cool.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 14,465 miles

Shifter Scores Two Points

October 18, 2010

Our 2010 Volkswagen GTI has a pretty darned good shifter. Good action, great knob, cool looks. Heck, there's even a gear-position indicator on the dash. But that's not the point of this blog, after this weekend — lots o'rain — the VW's shifter scored two big points with me.

1) This is the proper and only way a manual transmission should be set up. Reverse next to first, push DOWN on the stick to get to the R gate. That's it. Period. First is used exclusively after R, why would you want it anywhere else? You wouldn't. End of discussion. (Feel free to discuss in the comments.)

2) When you've got the wipers on and put the VW GTI into reverse, the rear wiper on the hatch activates. How cool is that? Very.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor @ 14,820 miles

Got Range

October 19, 2010

367.9 miles to a tank with 5 miles showing on the DTE calculator. 367.9! This wasn't hypermiling and while it was a lot of highway driving, this wasn't a highway exclusive trip. And when I was on the highway, I wasn't loafing about. I changed gears, I passed people and the AC was on.

Not only is this number good on its own — I'm a range guy, I hate filling up — but it absolutely smacks the smile off of any mile-marker I've got on our 2009 Mazdaspeed3. It's even better than any non-Mazdaspeed Mazda3 I've ever driven. In fact, I don't think I've ever broken 300 miles on a 3.

So the 3 has a smaller tank, right? Nope. Our 2010 VW GTI rocks a 14.5 gallon fuel tank while the Mazdaspeed 3 has a 15.9 gallon one. EPA fuel economy estimates the 3 at 18/25 (21 combined) and the GTI at 21/31 (25 combined).

This is the kind of thing that would make-or-break a car purchase for me. The GTI keeps scoring more points this week.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor @ 14,827 miles

Nav Tease

October 20, 2010

So I like driving around L.A. checking out events, new restaurants, etc., but that means I rely heavily on Google map printouts or my iPhone's Google map function. However, on rare occasions, I score an Edmunds short-term or long-term car with a navigation system. That's why every time I get into our 2010 Volkswagen GTI and see this screen, I experience a split second of relief followed by disappointment. I keep forgetting that, no, we didn't opt for the navigation system. Argh. Seems like such a waste of real estate to be used only to display radio stations.

Out of curiosity I built and spec'd my own GTI.

Hm, $3,185 for the Sunroof and Navigation package which includes the nav system with 5-inch color touchscreen, sunroof, directionally adjustable bi-xenon high-intensity headlights with adaptive front-lighting. Damn, I hate it when they don't offer a la carte. And why throw the headlights in the package?

In any case, yeah, $3K seems a pretty penny...but then I'd convince myself that it would end up paying for itself. Right?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 14,914 miles

Hooray For Ample Rear Headroom

October 22, 2010

Normally when we complain about a coupe's cramped backseat, it's related to the people who have to sit back there. But it can literally be a pain for a parent, too, if he or she is having to constantly act like a contortionist to strap a child into a safety seat.

Not that most parents would willingly choose a coupe as a family vehicle (though I remember Editor Karl Brauer's wife drove his '70 Plymouth GTX as a family vehicle for a while). But the extensive headroom and world's best easy-slide seat in our long-term GTI (see, you knew I'd get to a point here eventually) makes this process a lot easier. And as a card-carrying member of the parent club, I'll state that it's greatly appreciated.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Might Be A Future Classic

October 25, 2010

By now you've likely seen ads or read our road test of the the redesigned 2011 Volkswagen Jetta. After driving our GTI around this weekend, I just can't shake the feeling that competing on volume and price with the latest Jetta is the wrong direction for VW. So many of the things I like about our GTI, such as the upscale materials, special touches and all-around refined feel, aren't really present in the new Jetta. I'd recommend the Golf or GTI to somebody shopping for a small hatchback in a heartbeat. The Jetta? Now it's just one pick amongst many.

Why does VW want to go chasing after Honda, Hyundai and Toyota instead of maintaining and building upon the solid reputation it has as the alternative choice? I suppose the answer is obvious: VW thinks it can make more money this way. But it seems wrong-headed to me, and I'd like to think that my viewpoint will be proved wrong in the long-term. For now, though, I'm thinking this current generation GTI could end up being a desirable classic assuming the next generation gets the same value meal makeover as the Jetta.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 15,302 miles

In the Beginning

October 26, 2010

You might not know it, but sister site Edmunds has an article on the Volkswagen Golf's history that might interest those who want to learn the whole background story about this car and the origins of the GTI version.

It has fascinating tidbits like, the GTI didn't make its debut in America until a decade after the hot hatch debuted in Europe. Plus, do you know why Volkswagen called the front-drive small car the Golf everywhere in the world but America where it was called the Rabbit?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Less Customizable For 2011

October 27, 2010

If I were looking to buy a GTI, I think I'd be a little annoyed at the way VW arranged the car's optional features for 2011. For 2010, you could order the adaptive xenon headamps, navigation system and Dynaudio sound system as standalone options. Now they're all bundled into specific trim levels.

To get the headlamps, for instance, you have to select the Sunroof and Navigation trim level (an additional $3,185 above the base GTI). And the Dynaudio sound system is now only offered with the GTI Autobahn (add $5,315). To see the option sheets, here's 2010 and 2011.

The good news is that Bluetooth and the 18-inch "Detroit" wheels (the ones that are on our long-term car) are now standard (with only a slight 2011 price increase). If you don't like the way those wheels look, though, I suppose that's a negative. VW also isn't currently showing a 2011 factory option for any different wheel styles or summer tires, though I hope you can still get them somehow.

Automakers bundle options together all the time. Even the Mazdaspeed 3 has but one package that includes all of the car's optional features. So it's not really surprising how the 2011 car is set up. But compared to the 2010 GTI, the 2011 car is just a bit less special.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Is It PZEV Emissions Rated?

October 29, 2010

After reading a few days ago on how the Chevrolet Volt won't earn PZEV certification and then later looking at specs for the 2011 GTI, it made me realize that our GTI might have PZEV certification for emissions. Cleaner tailpipe emissions from a GTI than a Volt? That's kind of cool. (Though, admittedly, the Volt's circumstances are seemingly tied up in technicalities.) But similar to my experience with my emission fact-finding adventure on our long-term Sonata, it's not all that easy to find out if a car is PZEV or not.

On, it's pretty easy to see that the GTI is offered with California-emissions PZEV certification. Our GTI was bought in California, so that's a good start. But now what? My first stop was the window sticker — no dice. It doesn't list any emission standard info on it. Step two was under the hood. At first, this was inconclusive. There's an emission sticker, and it did show "PZEV" on it, but it wasn't clear to me whether this translated to "Yes, it is a PZEV" or "The GTI can be a PZEV."

So then I did some sleuthing on the internet. The EPA's Green Guide turned out to hold the key. It does list both the regular GTI and the GTI with PZEV (EPA emission scores of 7 and 9.5, respectably.) I drilled down a bit deeper and found an underhood label ID. If the GTI shows "AADXV02.03PA" then it's PZEV. And, check, that's our car.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Top Likes and Dislikes

November 01, 2010

I've spent a fair chunk of time with our long-term GTI this year. I've used it for a couple road trips (Yosemite and San Francisco) and driven it on one of my preferred curvy roads. Between all that, it's been a trusty urban runabout and commuter. Basically, I've done just about everything the typical owner would do. And yep, it's a pretty great car. So today I compiled my top five favorite and least favorite GTI attributes based on my time with the car.


1) Engine performance. The Mazdaspeed 3 and Impreza WRX have more power and quicker acceleration. But the GTI never seems lacking. The turbo-4 feels strong, has plenty of torque down low, sounds snarly when you get on it and returns respectable fuel economy.

2) Shifter feel. The shifter just feels right for this car. It moves fluidly from gate to gate in a European sort of way. Some might argue the throws are too long, but to me the shifter just suits the character of the car. The shifter knob fits nicely in my hand as well.

3) Exterior styling. I really like the way the latest GTI looks. The aggressiveness compared to the previous generation work well, yet the car is still immediately identifiable as a VW Golf/GTI.

4) Rear seat. As two-doors go, the GTI is pretty practical. The rear seat is relatively roomy and the sliding front seats make it pretty easy to get in and out.

5) Interior quality. Just about everything you look at or touch is better than the norm, with nothing done to excess. It It's an interior for grownups.

Least Favorites

1) Lack of interior storage/power points. This gets annoying on road trips. There's not much space to put various items, and the singular power point up front makes it annoying if you have multiple electronic devices you want to plug in.

2) Rear visibility. Not so good. The swooping rear beltline and thick C pillars makes it hard to see what's behind you in parking lots.

3) The flat-bottom steering wheel. This might actually useful in a race car, but it's not cool in a road car. It just feels awkward when you're making large inputs and your hands grip a part of the wheel that's different from the rest. It's a shame, as the rest of the wheel is very nicely contoured.

4) The stereo interface. This is just personal preference, but I dislike touchscreen radio preset buttons as I have to take my eyes off the road to push them (can't do it by feel as I can with regular buttons). The audio controls on the steering wheel largely negate this problem, at least.

5) The 18-inch wheels. I'm just not a fan of the "Detroit" wheels. Were it my car, I'd have to get something else.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 15,452 miles

Easy To Get Good MPG

November 04, 2010

A couple days ago I managed to get the GTI's best fuel economy so far: 33.5 mpg. It was on a drive of about 230 miles of almost all highway. The pictured trip computer's readout was optimistic, as trip computers typically are.

Admittedly, I did have fuel economy in mind when I made the drive; I wanted to see if I could beat the previous best (which I also set) of 30.7 mpg. But I didn't go to extreme measures, either. I simply drove at or slightly above the speed limit (mostly a 70-mph limit on the route), used a lot of cruise control and didn't accelerate aggressively.

This isn't to say the GTI is somehow special. Its overall average is 24.6 mpg, which is right in-line with the EPA 25 mpg combined (and EPA combined is what we typically get out of our long-term cars). But it's nice to see an immediate result from just a little effort at better fuel economy.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

All Look Same?

November 05, 2010

I have the 2010 Volkswagen GTI this weekend and couldn't help but wonder if I run into the spitting motorist around my apartment will he mistake it for the 2. Hmm, maybe I should avoid the alley just in case.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Nicely Balanced

November 05, 2010

As Brent recently noted, in nearly 16,000 miles of driving, our GTI is averaging 24.6 mpg and on a long freeway run, 33 mpg is attainable. This is doubly impressive to me. One, our average pretty much matches the EPA combined rating of 25 mpg — no mean feat considering that the GTI has to contend with L.A.'s worst-in-the-nation traffic and a staff whose addiction to boost is second only to mine for chocolate. Secondly, the GTI can scoot from 0-to-60 in 7 seconds flat and run the quarter in 15 flat. That's respectable performance for a roomy car that averages 25 mpg in tough conditions.

But as others have noted, the engine's personality transcends mere spec chart numbers — the little workhorse provides a broad, traffic-friendly power band that's accompanied by one of the best engine notes I've ever heard from an inline four. Who says you can't have your strudel and eat it too?

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 15,685 miles

Appearing on Google Street View?

November 08, 2010

OK, this is really nerdy of me to be excited about this, but after I took our 2010 Volkswagen GTI for a wash this morning and was heading back to the office, I ran across this: a Google Maps Street View Subaru Impreza! I first noticed the odd contraption (camera) mounted to its roof and then saw the sign on its rear bumper. Neato!

I wonder, since I sat there taking a picture of it, does that mean our GTI will appear on the new updated Street View? Here's the current one. How awesome would that be? I should have waved.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Chauffeuring Made Fun

November 08, 2010

This past weekend I was saddled with being the designated driver to a couple of friends, having to drive us from event to event around L.A. in our 2010 Volkswagen GTI.

I usually hate driving in the city — distracted drivers and traffic — but this time I actually didn't mind it so much. Such smooth and quiet power and so easy to work that clutch in stop-and-go traffic. I think I'm even getting used to the weird angle of the driver seat bottom. Because of all that, I didn't grumble too much having to play chauffeur to my friends. However, I think my having too much fun might have been problematic for my woozy passengers. Oh well, at least we got to where we were going quickly and I was in a good mood when we arrived.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

A Macro Look at Interior Materials

November 09, 2010

More warm feelings about our 2010 Volkswagen GTI. I really like the little touches it has throughout its cabin. For some reason the details like the red stitching on the steering wheel, gearshifter and seats as well as the brushed aluminum bits everywhere, make it feel so finished and of a high quality. I know it has plaid seats but look at that needlework. By the way, "macro" is photography lingo for "close-up."

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Vanity Plate?

November 11, 2010

On my way in to work today while in our 2010 Volkswagen GTI, I came across this Beetle with a vanity plate. OK, I never really understood why people get vanity plates with the model name of their car on it. Yes, I can see that you're driving a bug. Anyway, that's not my point. Seeing this made me wonder if GTI owners feel as passionate about their V-Dubs and if so what do their vanity plates say. Probably something about driving fast, right?

Any GTI owners care to share?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Comfortable Gearshifter

November 12, 2010

Driving stick I encounter gearshifters of all shapes and sizes. There's the 8-ball of the Mini, the pistol-grip of the Challenger and the top-heavy one belonging to the Z06. But out of all the ones I've come across, the 2010 Volkswagen GTI's shifter is one of the most comfortable.

I know you're not supposed to grab hold of the shifter but rather push and pull it, but sometimes I just like to rest my hand on it, you know, like while waiting at a light. And I like how it's shaped so that my fingers just fall over the top of it allowing the pads of my fingertips to very comfortably touch the backside of the shifter. Fits perfectly in my hand. Then again, my hands are smallish.

Which gearshifter is your favorite?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Engineered by Lotus

November 15, 2010

Well, actually it's not. But while driving away from the presentation of five concept cars by Group Lotus on Friday night and weaving through the cars brought up for the crowd by the valet guys, I was thinking that the GTI resembled a Lotus more than the cars that had brought all these Hollywood people here, the Prius being the most popular by my count.

The classic quotation from Colin Chapman is "Simplificate, and then add lightness," a colloquial phrase popularized by the designer of the British-built Canberra jet bomber that dominated the headlines in the years after World War II, a time when Chapman was studying to be an aircraft engineer. The idea was later expressed more eloquently by Tony Rudd, the BRM Formula 1 designer who moved to Lotus in 1969. He said, "The most elegant and effective and traditional Lotus solution is the one with the least parts effectively deployed."

This is the GTI's story, really, as it gathers together a few prosaic parts that add up to much more than you expect. It certainly impressed the valet guys, who had never really seen one before.

Maybe the VW GTI would get more respect if it had a Lotus badge. It kind of hits all the marks that a Lotus does, doing more with less, and yet you can show up at a Hollywood gig like this and be treated like an adult instead of a gatecrasher.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 16,333 miles

Looks Good Now, Looks Good Later

November 17, 2010

I came out of a Oaxacan restaurant to find our long-term 2010 Volkswagen GTI perfectly lit and simply stunning. There's something about this car that never gets old. I like looking at it today. And I suspect, I'd like looking at it 5 years from now. (Whereas with the Mazdaspeed 3, I hear Future Erin saying, "Yeah, back then, I didn't care if the car I was driving looked manically happy — I just wanted to feel that way when I drove it.")

I think I feel similarly about how the Volkswagen GTI drives. Nope, I never get all giddy about how quickly it can take a corner, but the car is steady, secure and enjoyable for the other 90-95 percent of my driving. It's also very comfortable, and the premium-grade interior has plenty to do with that. Probably, these are traits I would like 5 years from now, too.

So, do you think the MkVI Volkswagen GTI will age well? And, if you're feeling chatty, which other cars of the last decade do you think have aged particularly well?

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 16,362 miles

Hey John, Thanks for Inventing the GTI

November 18, 2010

Among all the handshaking and backslapping at the L.A. auto show, I saw my friend John Rettie, the expatriate British auto-journalist, and thanked him for inventing the Volkswagen GTI, much as I usually do.

Turns out he'd met an auto engineer just recently that had also thanked him for doing so.

Rettie didn't invent the Volkswagen GTI, of course, but he pretty well introduced it to America. As soon as the car with its innovative, 110-hp, fuel-injected, 1.6-liter inline-4 had been introduced by Volkswagen at the 1975 Frankfurt auto show, Rettie became a crazed enthusiast. When he came to the U.S., he filled the pages of the VW specialty magazines with stories about the Golf GTi. It would do 100 mph, only we couldn't get it in the U.S. He knew more about it than anyone in America, including the executives at Volkswagen of America.

Finally Rettie brought his own GTi to America and got Motor Trend to include it in a 1980 comparison test, where it stomped the competition (anyway, that's what I remember). Apparently it registered with Volkswagen of America, as he recently met an automotive executive who was a young engineer at VWoA in those days who remembers seeing the story and running it upstairs with some of his friends and putting it under the noses of the VW executives and forcing them to listen.

The story of the Volkswagen GTI's introduction in the U.S. as a 1983 model is a little more complex than this, of course, but there's no question that Rettie's enthusiasm was a key factor in inventing the GTI legend. The next time you think there's no place for crazed enthusiasts in the soulless world of product planning, think again.

Oddly enough Rettie also had a part in another legendary car for enthusiasts, the Mazda MX-5 Miata. When Mazda product planner Bob Hall drove up to Santa Barbara from Mazda's headquarters in L.A. in 1984 to buy a used Lotus Elan as a test vehicle for the planning team, he looked at two cars. The red car didn't leak oil but it was right-hand-drive in the British style, while the blue car leaked like a sieve but was left-hand drive in the American style. Hall picked the blue car, which proceeded to leave an oil slick on my driveway when he drove it around to show me some weeks later. The red Lotus Elan had belonged to Rettie. If Hall had picked his car, that damn oil stain wouldn't still be out there in front of my garage.

So anyway, thanks for the GTI, John. Without it, the BMW M3, Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru Impreza WRX might never have existed.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor,

The Road to the Lima Residence

November 18, 2010

Our long-term 2010 Volkswagen GTI was my ride to the Lima Residence (above) for the preview of the Saab 9-4X ahead of the LA auto show. This architectural wonder of Calabasas, California, is a little out off the beaten path by Los Angeles County standards — you have to take a few different two-lane roads to get there.

On the way home, one of these roads, Malibu Canyon, was magically clear of traffic like I've never seen it before, and the GTI and I got at least 8 good corners all to ourselves — at the pace of my choosing.

This was a fun few minutes. I clucked to myself about how balanced the chassis felt — it was unflustered over bumps and body roll was contained well enough, given the GTI's compliant ride quality. Ample torque was easy to come by with the 2.0 TFSI motor, and I ripped off a couple clean 3-2 downshifts for the tighter corners.

I've been driving Malibu Canyon/Las Virgenes for years, and I've never had this many turns to myself during daylight hours. It might never happen again. But this few minutes in the GTI put a smile on face for a good 15 minutes afterward.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 16,393 miles

Cool Exhaust Tips

November 19, 2010

I caught sight of the 2010 Volkswagen GTI's dual exhaust tips as I was headed up to the office one day this week. Are the dual tips overkill on a car with a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder? Sure are.

But they look cool. I particularly like how they extend slightly beyond the dark gray, diffuser-style flourish VW added below the bumper. It's a subtly sporty touch on a subtly sporty car.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 16,430 miles

Side Sill Caps are a Little Short

November 22, 2010

Not sure why the gray sill caps on our GTI caught my eye this weekend. They're so low that you almost don't even notice them, almost makes you wonder why they're even there.

Well, they're on there because this is a GTI and not just a plain ol' Golf. They're designed to make it look a little sportier, sort of like an extended side sills but cheaper. They're protective too, although, as you can see they don't completely cover the entire sill area. Sure enough, they leave just enough extra space for the tire to kick up all sorts of road grime. Might have been nice if they had extended the plastic cap just a little bit farther forward to cover up some of that white space. Probably a design decision though, so I can't blame them.

On a more general note, the GTI feels completely solid and rattle free after over 16,000 miles. And I still like driving it around town even if it does get sloppy when I push it hard around corners.

Ed Hellwig, Editor @ 16,493 miles

Curves of a Different Kind

November 30, 2010

My adoration for our GTI continues unchecked — especially when I compare it to the Mazdaspeed 3. The Mazda has a significant turbo hit that, when combined with its considerable torque steer, makes it difficult to drive smoothly. The GTI, on the other hand, has a much gentler ramp up to the turbo and no torque steer to speak of.

This morning, I fired up Dynolicious on my iPhone to try to get a graphical representation of how the throttle feels when the turbo starts breathing. I wasn't heavy on the accelerator, just about the same application as I'd use when passing someone from about 30 mph.

There's a slight pause just after rolling onto the pedal, followed by an authoritative, but smooth rush of power. You can see it represented in the circled section in the graph I pulled from my iPhone. There's just a gentle little step in longitudinal Gs (shown in blue), but the horsepower (yellow) climbs quick and linear. I never got around to trying this in the Mazda, but I suspect it isn't anywhere as straight as the GTI. My intuition says the Mazdaspeed 3 will have a short and fairly tame climb followed immediately by a spike in power.

The GTI is definitely my type of car. Smooth power delivery translates to smooth driving. And smooth driving means quicker lap times. I can concentrate on adding just the right amount of power, rather than brace myself for a sharp hit of turbo kick.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 16,505 miles

Greatx4 Grandfather Alive in South Africa

December 02, 2010

Imagine waking up one day and finding out you could meet your great-great-great-great grandfather. It would be pretty cool, though I'm not sure how I'd converse with a mid-19th-Century Dutch baker. Well, if we were to send our GTI to South Africa, it would have that very opportunity.

Featured in the August issue of CAR, the 2009 Volkswagen Citi MK1 is a brand-new old car produced in South Africa until August 2009. In total, 377,484 were produced there since 1984 when the original first-generation Golf bowed out in favor of the bigger and more sophisticated second generation. That second-generation Golf was consequently also more expensive, which is why VW South Africa desired a new entry-level model for its lower income market and looked no further than the outgoing model. The original sales target for the Citi Golf was 300 units per month, but at the car's sales peak in 2006, the factory in Uitenhage was producing 131 cars per day.

The Citi changed very little over the years, but as time in production tends to do, was made cheaper to repair, more reliable and easier to live with, such as when air-conditioning was added for 1989, requiring the compressor to intrude into the passenger footwell. The front fascia was given a more MK2 look early on (seriously, doesn't it look fantastic?) and the cabin was overhauled for 2004 with the dashboard of a Skoda Fabia and the three-spoke airbag steering wheel of the MK4 GTI and Jetta. The four-cylinder engine was also left-be until 1999 when it received fuel injection and 2008 when emissions regulations required EU2-compliant alterations.

That final Citi Golf engine was a 1.6-liter, 8-valve four-cylinder that produced 99 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. With a five-speed manual and only 1,891 pounds to lug about, VW says the Citi would go from zero to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds.

Since this began with a discussion of the GTI rather than a regular-old Golf, VW SA actually produced the CTI from 1990 to 2006 featuring the original car's 1.8-liter engine with mechanical fuel injection. That car's successor, the limited-edition 1.8 R-Line for 2006 had 121 hp.

This idea of Volkswagen continuing to sell old models is not something exclusive to South Africa — many other regions and countries do the same with other models. The fourth-generation Golf is still sold in Canada as the Golf City, while Mexico sells three generations of Jetta side-by-side — the last-generation is the Bora, while the MK4 is the Classico. You can even get a 180-hp Classico GLI (right).

So for all those people clamoring that the current GTI has become too fat, too luxurious and too indignant when it comes to shutting off the traction control, may I suggest visiting South Africa, where you might be able to find a nearly-new old GTI with no traction control, no ABS and not a lot of luxury.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 17,020 miles

There's a Towel Behind My Knees

December 03, 2010

I appreciate seats that provide proper support for the back and thighs. Hefty side bolsters that hold one in place during spirited driving are also nice to have. In the case of the GTI, there is thigh support a-plenty...perhaps too much. The generous seat bottom cushion is a bit long and it's also rather plump at its front edge. This is great...for those who are long of limb. For me and my shorter legs (29" inseam) it feels kind of like a rolled up towel behind my knees. I can appreciate VW's effort, but would prefer a shorter cushion with an adjustable thigh support so that short, long and medium legs can all be comfortably accommodated.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 17,066 miles

Hatchbacks Rule

December 03, 2010

I was reminded of something as I loaded our 2010 Volkswagen GTI full of donations for the Salvation Army the other day. Hatchbacks rule. In the case of our GTI, just remove the cargo cover, lower the rear seats and stuff it in there. Why would you want a car with a trunk?

I flipped through some blog photos I'd taken but never posted for supporting evidence.

Here is our 2010 Honda Crosstour full of track testing equipment. Like the VW, just remove the cargo cover and load it up. The only drawback is finding someplace to store the cargo cover when not in use.

There was no way this crazy concrete pogoda was going to fit in a trunk. Well, at least not without destroying the lower back muscles of the unfortunate soul lifting it back out of the trunk.

Even our Flex, the resident utilitarian king of our long-term fleet, is popular because its rear door opens upwards. In my book, there isn't a more functional design than the hatchback.

Hatchback? Trunk? Pickup bed? What is your preference? Do you have something else in mind? Well, let's hear that too.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

The Old Knob Was Better

December 07, 2010

Caroline wrote a few weeks ago that she finds the GTI's shift knob to be comfortable and I agree, although I think the old one was better.

The previous-generation GTI's shift knob was more the size and shape of a billiards ball, which nicely fits in your hand regardless of whether you're resting it on top of the shifter or gripping it from the side. The new one looks cooler because of the red, but the old was just some red paint away from looking just as good.

Of course, both are trumped by the 30th anniversary shifter, which features the same golf ball dimples as the original GTI (and the Citi Golf).

So, which shift knob do you prefer and what's your favorite type of dingo?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 17,261 miles


December 08, 2010

I had to watch some Russ Swift, British stunt driver, videos for work today (it's rough, lemme tell you ) and came across this video of the precision-driving champ driving a GTI very quickly, very sideways and very close to some parked VW Golfs.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor,

Analog Soul in a Digital World

December 08, 2010

The GTI has impressed most of us with small, surprising details, and here's another: a virtual analog radio dial. Twisting the right knob scrolls through the dial, and also offers digital confirmation above. It even features slight lag while turning the dial, not unlike the servo tuners on old solid-state home receivers. A completely useless and anachronistic feature, but one that hints at a sense of humor within the VW design ranks. Like it.

Bonus: the system recognizes my OG iPod and offers a three-band EQ. I'm plenty enamored of this car after first drive, much like most of the staff. And it's details like this, beyond its acceleration and braking and composure in corners, that give the car character.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 17,200 miles

2012 Volkswagen Golf R

December 09, 2010

This is the 2012 Volkswagen Golf R. It's got 266 horsepower from a turbocharged 2.0-liter I4. It's all-wheel-drive and the only available transmission is a 6MT. And it's headed for America.

If the traction control can be turned off, this should pretty much fix the GTI.

Bonus: No goofy plaid seats.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor,

Three Seats, Three Days

December 09, 2010

Through a fortunate twist of circumstances, I managed to shuttle and ferry a handful of our short- and long-term cars within about 72 hours. The experiences were biased toward German engineering and it all ended with a drive in the personal roller coaster that is the VW GTI. The shuttled included:

2011 BMW X3: Blah. Frustrating. Sorry.

2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetec: Autobahn blocker. Pleasant diesel rattle at idle. Like a truck. Lets you know it wants to work. Past 40 mph, the clatter recedes. Feels cinder-block solid, but with improbably light steering when navigating stoplights around town. Liked it a lot. Editor Jordan said I'm getting old (40's in sight, but not quite). Riswick put it best: the Benz knows what it is, and doesn't try to be something it's not.

2010 VW GTI: The climax to all this car shuttling. Well worth it. A feeling of endless boost, available at a crack. Took out on a favorite Orange County test loop in the wet. Didn't totally uncork it; prefer to remain employed, thanks. But even at normal back-canyon speeds, with the occasional spur, the GTI never lacked fitness. There's a reason most of us love this car; it's just simply fun to drive. Sure, you can say that about many cars. But for the segment the GTI competes in, and the price point VW offers it at, it's a total package. Boost, braking, arcing, carving, comfort, response and stability; you don't NEED to hammer on this thing to enjoy it. And you know it'll enjoy it when you do.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

They've Complicated the Sunroof

December 13, 2010

The VW Group sunroof opening whatsit is unique. Rather than pressing a button or pulling back on a two-way slidey thing that activates an auto-retract function, you twist a knob to the desired sunroof opening aperture. In my 2000 Jetta VR6, I'd just twist all the way to the top and it would open. Twisting the other direction would tilt the sunroof. It was simple and quick, and there was no fighting with the car's auto-retract function.

I'm not sure when the change happened, but the sunroof control in the GTI is more complicated.

You twist the knob around all the way to the end and run through a mushy detent area at the end of its travel (noted by a line next to the knob) before the knob settles back to the beginning of that detent area. You'd think this would open the sunroof all the way, but it doesn't. There's still 90-percent of the glass and shade showing. Twisting through that detent area once again opens the roof all the way.

According to the manual, this 90-percent open is for "quieter operation" with the sunroof back. I'm not sure if I detected much of a noise difference, though there was some buffeting with it fully back (corrected by cracking the windows a scoash). I suppose this is all well and good, but I have two questions:

1) The knob allows you to easily stop it wherever you'd like any way, so why the detent thingy?

2) Why allow it to open all the way if there's such an increased level of noise and/or buffeting that it requires you to set-up this overly complicated detent thingy-majig?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 17,400 miles

Off, Damned ESP! Off, I say!

December 16, 2010

My turn to weigh in on the Volkswagen GTI's ESP-off button that's in fact not an ESP-off button. I've been told Edmunds Senior Editor Josh Jacquot has gotten all cranky-pants about this subject in the past. I'm bringing it up again. It's worthy. I mean, come on: Is the GTI supposed to be a fine German sporting machine, or a fun-blocking Toyota product?

First of all, VW's console button is a lie: It says "ESP OFF," yet all that button does is turn off traction control, or ASR (Anti-slip Regulation) in VW-speak. To make matters worse, you're then stuck with an annoying yellow light on the instrument panel that flashes on and off. On and off. On and off. I was kinda hoping that during my two-hour commute home last night the light would wear out, but no such luck. It doesn't matter whether the light is on or off, but it shouldn't be flashing at us.

As for the fact that ESP can't be defeated, well, that's just plain ridiculous. Maybe the majority of GTI buyers wouldn't turn ESP off even if they could, but what about the enthusiasts who want to give the GTI a good flogging on a twisty road without Big Brother adding brakes whenever he thinks you're about to start sliding the car around? And track days? Forget about it. That would be a miserable experience.

It's a shame, really, because there's so much goodness within the GTI: peppy turbo 2.0T with a broad range of power and a stirring sound, precise shifter and well-bolstered seats, just for starters. And, as I found out last night, its light clutch and linear throttle make stop-and-go traffic suck a little less.

But not being able to turn ESP off in what's supposed to be a pocket-rocket hatchback...that's truly sucky.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 17,559 miles

Happy When It Rains

December 20, 2010

The pic above shows what the view looked like from behind the wheel of the GTI over the weekend: Rain, rain and more rain.

Non-stop rainstorms did little to dampen the GTI's spirits. It felt nimble and secure even when the water was ankle-deep on the road and its soothing heated seats kept me mellow and calm even when faced with the most egregious cases of poor wet-weather driving. I also appreciated its compact size and relatively small turning circle that one time when I had to make a quick, sharp turn to nab the last remaining spot in a parking lot packed to capacity with the vehicles of holiday shoppers.

One thing about the rain, though, is that when you've got inches of water of the streets, you can't see the potholes. And if you can't see them, you can't avoid them. Ouch. That's one stiff suspension.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 17,612 miles

Safe Bet in its Segment

December 28, 2010

The GTI isn't just a fun ride; it's also one of the safest small cars you can buy. That's the word from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which named the GTI a Top Safety Pick in the small-car segment.

So what exactly does a car have to do to get the Top Safety Pick designation?

Here's what the IIHS has to say: "[The] Top Safety Pick [designation] recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on good ratings in Institute tests. Winners also must have available electronic stability control, a crash avoidance feature that significantly reduces crash risk. The ratings help consumers pick vehicles that offer a higher level of protection than federal safety standards require."

A complete list of all 66 IIHS Top Safety picks is available here. The IIHS groups its winners according to vehicle type and size, since size and weight influence crashworthiness — larger vehicles tend to offer better crash protection than smaller ones, even even if you're talking about a smaller vehicle that's a Top Safety Pick like the GTI.

So the GTI is safe, but a larger vehicle would very likely be safer still. Is the relationship between vehicle size and crashworthiness something that you consider when shopping for a vehicle?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Road Warrrior

December 29, 2010

I love the holidays for several reasons, gifts not being in the top 10. There are several excellent chefs in the family that love to cook for everyone. It's nice to be able to kick back without having to do much, except watch bowl games and playoffs. Thing I really dislike is all the driving.

Even though my girl and I live in LA, both of our family's live about 30 minutes apart in the SF Bay Area. That means splitting Thanksgiving, Christmas, all the family stuff in between when we're up north. Lots and lots of driving.

I had the GTI. Was the hatch up to the task?

I don't know if I can be more emphatic in saying: YES!!! I put over 1,500 miles on GTI over the Christmas+ weekend. It was a complete and utter joy to drive.

For me, it starts with the seats. I dig them. They are very comfortable. Yes the dial adjustment can be a bit of a pain for passengers, but for the driver you can fine tune in the perfect angle. I even got plenty of compliments from passengers on the seat cloth pattern. Most thought they were pretty cool.

Next is the engine. It's got power and the ability to quickly ramp up to blow past all the holiday traffic that has turned their brains off cruzing under the speed limit in the fast lane. Around town, it had all the power you'd want to enter freeways, have a little fun at the stop light and whatever else you want. I just wished it wasn't so muffled under the all the sound deadening. A little growl from the tiger under the hood is a nice touch for me.

The most important factor to me, however, was the ride. I know some folks on staff thought this to be not a true sport hatch suspension and was too soft. Well, ok, it isn't a true race tune. But after two 390 mile runs on the interstate, I appreciated not being kicked in the kidneys for every crack and crevasse I rolled over. It was super comfortable. I think it's a good compromise between the spectrums of all out sport and all out living.

Lastly, it actually gets pretty good fuel mileage! Great for all the driving I had to do over the holiday weekend. I was averaging 27.8 mpg. That's a very impressive figure to me for such such a sporty hatchback.

The more I drive the GTI, the more I love it. It's a great balance of sport and everyday driving to make you a very happy owner.

Scott Jacobs @ 18,982 miles

Open, Open, Open

December 30, 2010

I love driving with the windows open in most every car I get my hands on, but I'm reluctant to open them up too far on the GTI. Because the front windows are so long, when they're open, they let in a lot of fresh air, which is good. What's bad, however, is there's no good way to get most of that air back out; to flow through the car and exit before it starts whipping up a ton of turbulence and noise.

What the GTI needs, as most other coupes and hatchbacks need as well (I'm looking at you Volvo C30), are rear-quarter windows that pop out.

Hit the jump to see what I mean.

See, something along those lines. It's not much, but probably just enough to ease up on some of the pressure and noise that can build up in the cabin while you're pounding along an open road, cursing the non-defeatable ESP.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 19,081 miles

Say No to Sport Pedals

January 04, 2011

I've never understood sport pedals in road cars. You are essentially adding something for the purpose of looking cool in a place that you can't easily see. It's like wallpapering a closet. To make matters worse, sport pedals with their small contact patches of rubber don't provide the grip of normal, fully rubberized pedals. When I jumped into the GTI this weekend after walking around in the rain, I disliked how slippery its sport pedals felt against my shoes. They didn't exactly feel as if they'd been coated in a thick layer of Pam, but it was hardly reassuring. If I owned our GTI, I'd replace them with something not-so-sporty.

While sport pedals are now nearly ubiquitous, there's one sporty company that has largely resisted this silly practice: BMW. I've heard the reason is that the Bavarians believe that being able to drive properly is more important than having sporty-looking footwells. I obviously agree, but there is a cloud on the horizon — I say "largely" because the new 335is has them. Knock it off.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 19,236 miles

Last Call Already?

January 07, 2011

Our 2010 Volkswagen GTI is closing in on the end of its 12-month term and already there are those of us lining up for one last drive before it departs.

This is not the usual thing around here. After 12 months, almost anything (or anyone) starts to look tiresome.

So the question is, what is it that lets the GTI cut across the preferences of so many people? Speed? Comfort? Design? Heritage? Economy? Price? Plaid seats?

All of the above.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 19,312 miles

Make Yourself Comfortable

January 11, 2011

Though the GTI is generally pretty accommodating, a few of us have already noted the generously padded driver seat isn't a perfect fit for shorter folks. Still, it's well-shaped and would likely be fine for the shorties if the bottom cushion wasn't quite as long and the front end (not just the rear) could be lowered. But it was the sliding center armrest that got my attention recently. In its normal position, it's too far back to rest my elbow on, leaving my shifting arm hanging in the breeze. Pulled towards the front, it worked like a charm, providing support while not intruding upon the shifting process.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 19,364 miles.

Lights On, Lights Off, Lights On ...

January 13, 2011

I love turning on the GTI's lights. The switch knob has such a perfect heft and fluidity to its motion that I could flick it back and forth all day. Perhaps that's an exageration, but if I had just visited a Jamaican bakery, I'm sure its plausible. Any way, it's one of the many details within the GTI's cabin that makes it seem like a bargain-priced luxury car.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 19,394 miles

An Endorsement for All-Season Tires

January 14, 2011

Last night I hopped in our long-term 2010 Volkswagen GTI and drove about 60 miles, no sweat. Ride quality is still comfortably firm in the warm-hot hatchback from Wolfsburg, and if road noise has crept up over the last 19,000 miles, it's the slightest of increases.

And that's about where my endorsement for our GTI's 225/40R18 92H Dunlop SP Sport01 all-season tires begins. After nearly 20,000 miles, all four tires still have plenty of tread left (though the rears are a touch closer to the wear bars).

When this car showed up in our fleet, I figured all the high curbs in Los Angeles would make mincemeat of the flashy 18-inch wheels, and I wondered aloud several times why we didn't get the standard 17s. (Evidently, the answer is that the 17s couldn't be more uncool, because VW discontinued them for MY2011.) But the Dunlops have a subtle lip around the edge that has provided good protection for the wheels during the car's tour of duty in our fleet. I took a walk around the car and only found two minor blemishes, both on the passenger side.

In short, our 2010 VW GTI has an attractive optional wheel/tire package ($750), and it has worn well — while giving the car a commuter-friendly ride quality. The only thing these tires don't do is make the GTI handle well; although, they're merely part of an elaborate conspiracy that also involves the dampers and stability control protocol. This latter failing keeps the GTI from being a true hot hatch in my book, but if you want a warm hatch to use as a commuter car, it doesn't get much better than this.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 19,455 miles

Yeah, Throw the Pizza in the Hatch

January 17, 2011

It's a small thing, but the cargo net in our 2010 Volkswagen GTI's hatch is one of the nicest, sturdiest nets I've ever seen. I've secured grocery bags and my overstuffed messenger bag (with my laptop inside) under it several times. But the net has enough stretch to it that you can secure a flat pizza box, too. And there are little pockets in the top of the net, one of which ably held a paper bag with pizza condiments.

This is a nice deal, especially, with the three-door hatch since you may not feel like finneagling your extra-large pizza (as this one is) into the backseat or making the front passenger hold it.

(Yes, Desmo, Abbot's again... I have a soft spot for the Popeye's chicken with garlic crust.)

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 19,588 miles

Perhaps the Last Back-Road Drive (with On-Board Video)

January 18, 2011

It was a glorious weekend, and late yesterday afternoon, the our long-term 2010 Volkswagen GTI made an impromptu trip to Glendora Mountain Road, a mottled ribbon of blacktop that climbs out of the San Gabriel Valley and into the mountains to the north. The drive was really last-minute, else I would have put out an invitation here on the blog.

I've driven the GTI on GMR before, but this time subytrojan, and his lightly modified 2004 WRX, was driving with me. We kept a respectable pace, allowing a comfortable margin of error for a road with 2-way traffic. I have to say, though, that this drive was more work than it was in the Mazdaspeed 3, and I came away from it liking the GTI a bit less.

Three on-board videos after the jump.

It certainly doesn't help the GTI out on a road like this that it's wearing all-season tires; the WRX was running on summer tires (Dunlop Direzza Star Spec). You already know about the nondefeatable stability control (and the continually blinking light once you kill the traction control). And I knew all this before we even started, but I figured sheer force of personality would help me keep up with the Subaru.

And, well, that only worked up to a point. The body roll as you enter a tight corner is a confidence killer, and the steering feel is only so-so. The suspension damping isn't well suited to GMR, either. The pavement is lumpy here, so a lot of the corners have at least one mid-corner bump, and too many of these bumps unsettled the chassis — and the GTI would start to pop up out of its set.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the drive, because well, I always enjoy my drives, but this one was more labor-intensive than I'd like. I was happy when we were back on the freeway, which is really where the GTI comes into its own. I'm still sold on this car for everyday use, but haven't yet decided if the low fun factor is acceptable.

Parts 1 and 2 are excerpts from the northbound drive on GMR. Part 3 is an excerpt from the drive down the mountain just before sunset. That noise you hear is camera shake; it seems the Kodak Zx3 isn't well suited to in-car mounts and I'll likely switch to something else next time.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 19,680 miles

Minimalist Bluetooth

January 19, 2011

It turned out I'd never had occasion to use the Bluetooth in our long-term 2010 Volkswagen GTI until last weekend. Chris already gave you a walkthrough of the car's audio streaming capability, so I'll just talk about the usefulness of this Bluetooth interface for making phone calls. It's as barebones an interface as I've ever used, short of an earpiece.

To start, pressing that phone button does not initiate an auditory menu to help you pair your phone or make a call.

Instead, as Chris mentioned, you just have to have Bluetooth active on your phone, wait for it to find the GTI and then enter a 4-digit code given on page 38 of the Controls section of the car's owner's manual binder.

If you want to make a call, the only way to do it is to dial it on your actual cell phone. I couldn't believe this at first (because it's not really hands-free if you have to touch your phone), but flipping to page 40, that's exactly the direction the Volkswagen owner's manual author gives you.

Once you dial the number, the car takes it from there, transferring the call seamlessly to the car's speakers. Answering a call is easy, too, because of course all you have to do is press the phone button to pick up and press it again to hang up.

Still, this is one of the less functional Bluetooth interfaces I've used. We paid $199 extra to get it in our 2010 GTI; for 2011 at least, it's standard across the board.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 19,688 miles


January 21, 2011

I thought I'd get in at least one more ride in our GTI before I have to say goodbye (*sniff*). As soon as I started moving last night, I started hearing a little creak. It was coming from the B-pillar, over my left shoulder. I jiggled the seatbelt a little, but it had no effect. No big deal, I thought. Until my drive in this morning...

That creak turned into a steady ticking. From the moment I left my house until about three blocks from our office. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick... It was weird because it was in tempo. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick...

At every red light, I'd push the interior of the B-pillar, but as soon as I started moving, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick... I've no idea what it is. Maybe someone else on staff can try to track it down, or at least confirm I'm not finally losing my marbles.

Funny off-topic story on the graphic above: I had it on screen and Mike Magrath stops by my cubicle.

Mike Magrath: I know what you're doing. You're comparing the wheels on the GTI to wheels of cheese.
Me: What?
MM: That's the cheese guy from the 80's PSAs.
Me: Ummm, no. That's Timer, from "Time for Timer." It's before your time. 1973.
MM: No, it's the cheese guy. Look it up on YouTube. Do it, now.
Me: I'm busy, go away.
MM: Do it!

Fine, I thought. At least it'll make him go away. Turns out, ABC revived Timer for more PSAs in the 1980s to push cheese on kids.

MM: See?
Me: huh.
MM: Your childhood is trying to sell cheese to my childhood.

He realized how odd that last statement was, turned his head sideways and walked away.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

My Hatchback Pick

January 24, 2011

The title says it all. This is the car I'd get if I were in the market for a hatchback. It's just a well-rounded little car that has enough comfort and athleticism to keep me satisfied. Click through to see my reasoning as well as what else I got to drive this weekend.

If I had around $24k to spend on a hatchback I'd pick the GTI over everything else. A Cooper S is too much of a novelty for me — too much kitsch, too much plastic — but it's still a good car. Honda CR-Z? Nah, too compromised between fuel economy and sportiness. Mazdaspeed 3? No way. Too much torque steer and I hate that silly smiling grille. The Volvo C30 is a maybe, since it's got a lot of power, but ultimately, I still prefer the VW.

As much as I like our GTI, I still wish we could get the Scirocco stateside.

This weekend, I fully intended to wring out the GTI on my favorite stretch of twisting mountain roads. I woke up early Sunday, slipped on my driving shoes and headed out to meet up with an old friend. And then he rolled his latest toy out of the garage. How could I say no? My right ear is still ringing, but I don't care.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 19,800 miles.

Did We Cheap Out on our GTI?

January 28, 2011

Although I've had plenty of seat time in our Long Term 2010 Volkswagen GTI it wasn't until my most recent drive in the white hatchback I realized how many "dead buttons" are lining the center console.

We've all heard this complaint before (and it's one I wholeheartedly share): "I hate it when there are a bunch of blank button holes in my dash because it just reminds me of how many features my car is missing, and how much I 'cheaped out' when I bought this car."

That's true in most cars, and admittedly our GTI is missing one big option group. It doesn't have the Navigation Package, which includes not only a navigation system but a harddrive, DVD playback, an SD memory slot, a USB slot and an auxiliary audio input.

But really, if it did have that option would all four of those buttons been necessary? I don't think so. Is there another, high-end version of the Golf that includes a long list of features requiring five buttons at the bottom of the center stack? Again, I don't think so (though I'm sure the VW fans out there will let me know if I'm missing something).

So what's with all these dead buttons in here? I'm guessing there's some European version(s) of the Golf that has, oh I don' t know, the "Light Bright" package where you can independently turn off every side-marker light with these buttons. Those Europeans love having special exterior lighting controls.

Anyway, I don't appreciate feeling like I'm driving the poor-man's stripper VW every time I look down at the shifter, especially when I ("I" being "Edmunds" in this particular case) have ponied up for the GTI version of the Golf.

Karl Brauer, Editor at Large @ 19,960 miles

Talk to Me, Goose!

January 31, 2011

So why a photo of the side of the GTI's driver seat? Cause after driving other cars in the short- and long-term fleets recently, with nearly everyone of them having power adjustments, I found it kinda charming that that the GTI makes you do it yourself. Nothing revolutionary, of course. Plenty of cars in the low/mid-$20k's lack power adjustments. And it's an interior mechanism that certainly has some history in the brand.

But it is one of those things that, when taken together with the car's other quirks, give the car some soul. Yeah, I know it's a glib, overused characterization, but it fits the experience of driving a GTI.

Consider its inability to communicate very well. There's no icon indicating the hood release, for example, just a chunky plastic lever in the general area where they usually are. Likewise, the front seat fold mechanisms, located on the outside shoulder of each seat. The GTI doesn't even tell you clearly when it needs oil.

There's probably no real intent behind these quirks, no VW engineers chuckling deviously in anticipation of all the Americans they'll confuse. Or maybe there is? Either way, it's OK. It makes for a car that actually has some character and voice.

Some of the GTI's quirks are maddening, though. The road hum and whistle behind the driver's head is uncool. All the seals look and feel fine, but the gap between door and rear-quarter panel seems too wide. And the occasional ticking that has developed, also behind the driver's head, is an unsettling accompaniment while at idle. Hopefully we'll have some kind of answer for this at the next service.

Still, the GTI is such neck-whipping fun, you pretty much forgive its small faults. Might feel different if I owned it and had to live with it EVERY day. Then again, I'd also have that little wellspring of plentiful boost to sip from everyday. And that'd be alright, too.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

20,000-Mile Funk

February 01, 2011

Our long-term GTI crested 20,000 miles this weekend. We've had it since March of last year and it still generally remains a staff favorite. It's a playful, responsive car that doesn't ask much, and always seems to have enough boost on tap for an open lane sprint. It also gets pretty good fuel economy, averaging about 25 MPG, and has been mechanically solid. Its only trip to the dealer was for a 10,000-mile service. But it has developed some well-documented traits and deficiencies.

One of the anchors for the cargo cover straps broke. It leaks too much wind and road noise. There's a mystery rhythmic tick somewhere behind the driver's seat.

And now, the latest: a bad case of olfactory funk. Turning on the A/C releases a sour, mildewy blast not unlike the extract of sweaty socks left to dry, bottled into a perfume mister. Curious to see what the service department makes of this one.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

The Shift Light

February 02, 2011

The GTI has a shift light that's constantly telling me when to shift. I've been shifting for 25 years. Even if fuel economy were a priority, I don't really need it.

To me, the shift light feels like a modern voice mail system which spends 45 seconds telling me to leave a message after the beep then hang up — something I've been doing for even longer than driving and am fully capable of doing without instruction.

What about you? Shift light or no?

Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor

The Other Cargo Net

February 03, 2011

This is cool. And if you want to hide some lightweight books or magazines under the GTI's decklid cover, it's genuinely useful.

Of course, it's virtually useless now that the hook which locates the decklid cover on the driver's side is broken off. Stick anything remotely heavy on that side and the cover can't stay put as the hatch rises.

Still, a cool idea.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

Adventures Around Montana

February 04, 2011

I only had our soon-to-depart GTI on Thursday night and this morning, but I took advantage of it to visit Santa Monica's trendy Montana Avenue, home to boutiques, Pilates studios (I counted four in about five blocks) and the beautiful Aero Theatre, built in 1940. The Aero was holding a sold-out screening of "The King's Speech," featuring a talk with the film's director, Tom Hooper, and its star, Colin Firth. But since I was never one of those swoon-for-Mister-Darcy girls, no big deal that I missed it.

Montana and the GTI are made for each other. The car is easy to park, fitting neatly into the street's metered spaces. It maneuvers well, able to handle sudden stops for ambling latte-drinking model-moms as they crossed the street. And when traffic unclogged, it was a blast to drive. Like Montana, the GTI is quirky and fun.

But it's not nearly as quirky as the car I saw as I headed into the street's residential neighborhood.

Aqui esta: El Gallo Grande — part Oldsmobile Ninety Eight, part rooster. Sorry for the low-light image from my iPhone. A couple of better shots are here.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @20,379 miles

Next Project?

February 04, 2011

Our time with the GTI is coming up short. I loved every chance I got with the car. I'd love for it to stick around. Maybe we can convince Engineering Editor Jay Kavanagh to take the GTI on as the next project car and give it another year here in our possession.

Remember the W12 Concept?

VW engineers went a little nutty with this one. They crammed their 6.0-liter bi-turbo W12 engine into where the rear seats used to be, widened and lowered the car, then reshaped the C-pillars into vents to feed air into this beast. Cranking out 650 horsepower and 553 pound feet of torque, the GTI blasted off from 0 to 100kp/h in 3.7 seconds.

While we probably couldn't afford the amount of components and engineering that Volkswagen put into this thing, it does offer some beautiful dreams.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer


February 05, 2011

We've taken the GTI in for its 20,000-mile service appointment. We'll let you know how it goes.

(Would it have hurt to say please? Maybe you can't expect politesse from a German car.)

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @20,379

20K Service- From Sweaty Sock to Baby Powder

February 07, 2011

I took our Volkswagen GTI in for its 20,000 mile service on Friday. The 20K service includes an oil change, tire rotation, a cabin filter if needed and various other inspections. I also used this opportunity to address all the lingering issues our editors had pointed out in previous blog posts — the air-conditioner odor described as "sweaty sock," a broken cargo cover strap and a mysterious "ticking" noise from the B-pillar.

When I brought the car in, our service advisor noticed that there was a recall (YW/97T2) that required a software update and addressed an issue with the body control module. On a VW forum, some GTI owners have noticed that their fuel economy has gone up since this update was performed on their cars. Time will tell if we get this benefit as well.

The A/C odor was a quick fix. Technicians replaced the cabin filters and cleaned the system, just to be safe. The cleaning chemicals they used must've had a baby powder scent, because that's what the car smells like now.

The broken cargo strap required a part that was not in stock. We will have to bring the car back in a few days to get the part installed.

As for the ticking noise, I heard it on the way in, but the technicians were not able to duplicate the noise. They checked the clips and panels in the B-pillar area, but did not find anything loose or broken. They even compared it to other GTIs on the lot and still didn't hear the noise in ours. Strangely enough, when I got the car back, I couldn't hear the noise either. So either it fixed itself when the mechanic poked around, or we all imagined it.

The dealership had the car washed and ready at the end of the business day. The total cost for the 20,000-mile service was zero, since it was covered by VW's "carefree maintenance" program. The other items were covered under the car's warranty.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 20,440 miles.

My Day Off

February 11, 2011

Yesterday was a good day. I took a vacation day to attend a family gathering downtown as well as run a few errands. I found myself with an idle couple of hours and decided to hit the Barney's Warehouse sale (got a sweet $300 shirt for $59) and took our GTI out for a spin in Pasadena.

When I first started riding motorcycles, I'd wake up 45 minutes early to get in a canyon ride on the way to work. I learned every turn, every rut and every bump on these roads. So how'd the GTI do?

The GTI performed admirably — for a front-drive car. It railed through turns and always felt solidly anchored to the road. But this canyon run also made me realize why I've owned rear-drive cars almost exclusively.

Accelerating out of a turn requires a careful application of throttle. A little too much pedal and the front tires start spinning and the steering wheel tries to wrestle free of my grip. Sure, stickier tires would help, but only up to a point. Weight transferring to the rear under acceleration and the resulting increase in grip is what I live for, and FWD cars simply can't deliver or compare.

I noted before that the GTI was my top hatchback pick. I think I'll also pick it as tops among front-wheel-drive cars, too. That said, if I had $24k to spend on fun car, I think I'd go with a V6 Mustang or Hyundai Genesis Coupe.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

Which Would You Rather?

February 15, 2011

After observing the grand old LA tradition of Valentine's Day Dinner, we returned to the parking lot to find this sweet Volvo C30 R-design. I haven't thought about the C30 in years, but this one looks great. For a few seconds there in the parking lot, I forgot all about the otherwise handsome GTI. Which do you like better?

In other news, the B-pillar ticking noise is back, and it has joined forces with the leaky driver door seal to annoy the bejesus out of me. Most likely, we'll have to insist on a test drive with a VW dealer service advisor or tech to avoid a "cannot duplicate customer concern" diagnosis — and time permitting, we will do that.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 20,681 miles

Warp Drive Installation

February 16, 2011

How do you travel 7.2 miles in 1 min. 47 sec. while reaching speeds of over 200 mph?

Flux capacitor?

Deal with the Devil?

A new long-term Veyron?

Nah...Movie magic.

John Adolph, Senior Video Specialist @ 20,788 miles

At the Movies

February 22, 2011

Drove the 2010 Volkswagen GTI to the movies on Sunday afternoon.

Found out through a friend that Senna, the documentary about the late F1 driver from Brazil, would be playing at a small theater here in L.A., one of only a handful of places in the U.S. where this movie is scheduled to appear.

There wasn't much public notice about it, but it's funny how the word gets passed along and eventually finds the right people. It was interesting to see that I even knew some of the 75 people or so who had shown up at this anonymous theater late in the afternoon on a Sunday.

Ryan Delane had let me know about the show in the first place and he was there with his Brazilian girlfriend. I stood in line with his father, my friend John Delane, just back from picking up yet another FIA trophy for winning his class again in vintage F1 racing with the ex-Jackie Stewart Tyrrell 002.’s Mark Takahashi had caught the earlier show, but he stood in line with us before he had to leave. photographer Kurt Niebuhr let us know he was on the way, as he’d caught the checkered flag for the Daytona 500 broadcast and would barely make it.

Chuck Miller, the ex-Disney imagineer who is a member of the R Gruppe club of Porsche hot-rodders (his early 911 has big old Toyo Proxes RA1 tires just like some bad IT-class SCCA race car) came by to say hello. Even Ralph Gilles, the Dodge CEO and Chrysler VP of design, suddenly appeared and walked over to shake hands, smiling and in great spirits as always. (Gilles seems to be having more fun than any other car company president in the business, a good sign for Dodge’s future.)

Senna was released in Brazil and Japan last year, and will be screened elsewhere round the world in 2011. It’s a first-class production that won an award from the Sundance film festival last month. It’s been put together almost exclusively with archival video and film footage, and it’s remarkable that a story can be told so effectively in this way these days. The movie is quite affecting if you are a Senna fan, and while I am not, it certainly told the story of a very interesting time in motorsports.

Afterward, I walked out into the parking lot, and there I found the GTI parked next to a similarly Arctic white VW R32 , a kind of uber-GTI. It’s not like there are a lot of GTIs and R32s in L.A., and yet here these two cars were in the same place at the same time.

That’s how you discover just how good the GTI is. Somehow the word finds you.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 21,056 miles

Even Cool in Four-door Form

February 23, 2011

When it comes to sport compacts that are offered with a choice of two or four doors, I usually prefer the one with a pair of doors. These coupes (or hatchbacks) are generally sleeker and sportier than their four-door counterparts, which can look like an economy car dressed up with side sills and a rear spoiler. Think Civic Si or Cobalt SS. The GTI however, looks good either way, probably because the two-door version isn't much different from the four-door. Either way it's rather boxy which typically doesn't win style points in my book. But in this case it works rather well.

With it's cleanly chiseled lines, the GTI's styling in either body style is more Euro chic than econo box. So running contrary to my normal leanings, I'd be tempted to take the four-door version for its greater practicality and smaller front doors. The latter are an asset here in L.A., where parking lots and garages have designated "compact" spots that are notably narrower than standard spots and thus only allow a short amount of door swing.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 21,139 miles

What Do You Want to Know?

February 26, 2011

Right, so the cleverest amongst us will notice that that blue thing there with the gaping grille and cool, not-phone-dialey wheels, is not our 2010 Volkswagen GTI, but rather a 2012 Volkswagen Golf R. You know the deal: all-wheel-drive and 266-horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque from a turbocharged 2.0-liter, six-speed manual ONLY.

And I'll be driving it on Monday. We've already run a first drive, but is there anything we missed, or anything that you want to know about the US-bound hotter hatch from Vee-Dub? Get questions in early for best chance of an answer.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor,

Hey Cousin, Lighten Up

March 07, 2011

After parking the GTI in front of a Lamborghini Gallardo, I realized something rather strange. This German hot hatch and that Italian exotic are somewhat related. Back in 1998, Lamborghini was purchased by Volkswagen through their Audi division. That union brought Lamborghini back from the near-dead via a couple of all-new models (the Murcielago and then Gallardo), after being owned by seemingly disinterested Chrysler and then Indonesian interests.

That orange Gallardo sitting there happens to be the Superleggera ("Super light") model. It has a 570-hp V10 engine, all-wheel drive and a lot of carbon fiber. It weighs just 2,954 pounds — talk about power to weight! Our GTI, with its turbo four and front-wheel drive, weighs 3,103 pounds. Though I certainly enjoy driving the peppy, comfortable V-dub, it is rather pudgy for a small hatchback. Imagine how much more fun (yes, and expensive) it would be if they offered a 400-pound lighter, enthusiast-focused Superleggera version.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 21,385 miles

What Owners Think

March 09, 2011

Checking out the consumer reviews for the 2010 GTI, it seems that most owners seem very happy with their choice. Although a few of these reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, most seem to be honest appraisals of the car. People are usually eager to share their experience with what is likely their second biggest purchase they'll ever make. For the 2010 GTI alone, there are no less than 59 consumer reviews. Enjoy.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 21,415 miles

Still Great, but Aging Fast

March 11, 2011

OK, maybe "aging fast" is a little strong with the language, but that ticking noise from the vicinity of the driver-side B-pillar in our 2010 Volkswagen GTI has become a persistent squeaking noise. It's very annoying at 70 mph on the freeway and makes our warm hatch feel older than it really is.

It's too bad, because last night I was reminded again why I like this car. The drivetrain is as smooth as it is strong, the engine sounds great through its snorkus, and the six-speed manual is fun to shift. I may have to pay our VW service advisor a personal visit.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 21,448 miles

How Do You Like Me Now?

March 14, 2011

A year ago, regular unleaded gasoline was a mere $3.07 here in the Los Angeles area. And 24.6 miles per gallon could be deemed a small price to pay for the fun of a zippy little hatchback like the Volkswagen GTI.

Today, the average price of gasoline in L.A. $3.97. As you can see from the sign above, it was even higher in West L.A., which is where I filled the GTI today. (Thank heavens it's not one of those cars that requires premium.)

So with the cost of gasoline in mind, is 24.6 mpg still acceptable for a small, albeit spirited car? If we were to get another hot hatch once we sell the GTI, should we expect better fuel economy from it?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @ 21,560 miles

Don't Shoot the Messenger

March 15, 2011

There was a great disturbance in the force yesterday when I wrote that the 2010 Volkswagen GTI doesn't require premium gasoline, and that — horrors — I'd used regular unleaded in the car. I expected someone from Automotive Protective Services to show up and take the innocent little vehicle into foster car because of my alleged abuse.

One reader pointed us to a photo of the label in fuel filler flap as evidence that premium is required. Here's the label in our GTI, and while I don't want to parse its meaning like some kind of amateur attorney, I will point out that it says "unleaded fuel only." Not "premium unleaded fuel only."

See the exclamation-point-on-page icon? It's telling us to go the owner's manual for more information. Let's go.

Here, on page 3.3-36, it says that the label in the filler flap shows the "recommended gasoline octane rating." Recommended — not required. Is it strongly recommended? I'd say yes, but it's not "required."

And that's why the car is on Edmunds' big list of "premium recommended" vehicles. Our data team gets this information directly from the manufacturers. You won't find the 2010 Volkswagen GTI on our "premium required" list. In fact, there are no 2010 Volkswagen models on that list.

In addition to much castigation, yesterday's post did draw some interesting comments and observations about what happens if you step down from premium. Here's one:

"Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that fuel economy also goes down a bit when the vehicle adjusts to a lower grade. At 25 mpg and 4.00 regular / 4.20 premium, let's say the car drops 1 mpg on regular. With premium, your costs (1/25 * 4.2) are 16.8 cents per mile, with regular (1/24 * 4) it's 16.7 cents per mile. On 10 gallons of fuel, you've saved yourself less than 2 cents ((.168 * 250) - (.167 * 240) =1.92)."

Our engineering editor, Jason Kavanagh, was kind enough to respond:

"It is true that lower octane can reduce efficiency. It depends on the engine. For example, the efficiency of boosted cars at higher load is more sensitive to octane than that of a normally aspirated car. Many normally aspirated cars will suffer no significant efficiency penalty from the lower octane.

"In other words, in a boosted car, the harder you use the pedal, the more the efficiency penalty will come into play. However, if you’re the kind of person looking to save some money by using lower octane fuel, you’re very likely also the kind of person who is driving conservatively, too, in order to save fuel/money.

"In this case – i.e. conservative driving – the efficiency penalty of lower octane fuel won’t be as prominent. Depending on your driving style, you might not measure any fuel economy impact even in a boosted car. You’re more likely to see the impact in city driving in a boosted car. Freeway driving involves long periods where the engine load never strays into a region where octane is a factor. Here, too, you might never measure a fuel economy impact at all."

If you want more on the required vs. recommended discussion, please check out this excellent article.There are trade-offs to the decision to use regular unleaded instead of premium. But if premium is not required, you won't kill your car. Not by a longshot.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @21,664 miles

The Plaid Perseveres

March 16, 2011

Bad news, plaid haters, the cloth seats in our 2010 Volkswagen GTI are holding up great after over 21,000 miles of brutal, indifferent use by 20-odd editors. Whereas the leather seats in various long-term cars have aged rapidly while in our care, these plaid seats are still stain-free with minimal pilling. If I had it my way, all the cars in our long-term fleet would have plaid...Mwahahaha.

Minor signs of wear after the jump.

There's minor pilling (i.e., fuzz) on the widest part of the outboard seat-back bolster on the driver seat. No surprise, here, since everybody rubs against it getting in and out of the GTI.

There are scratches from shoes on the (cheapy) plastic cover over the base of the seat. Again, no big deal.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 21,674 miles

Jealousy Machine

March 17, 2011

"Dude, dude, hey Jacobs... Dude." That's the problem showing up to a friends party really late. I'm driving, I'm not drinking, and my friend's had way too much bad wine long before I arrived.

"What are you driving right now to make me jealous?" my buddy asks while taking a hold of my shoulder, like we're sharing some kind of secret. "The GTI" I replied.

"Chsh!" He blurts out, waving his index finger in a disapproving manner over the red cup clenched in his right hand. "No, no way, no... Wait, what are you driving?"

Trying to explain something to a drunk is a tough, uphill battle. Reason cannot be used in such circumstances. Hard data is useless as well, especially when he retorts with "So what. My cousin's vintage Camaro will smoke your (s-box)." The drunk would never concede, even if your car was jet powered. No, the only argument you can make a roasted comrade truly understand is an emotional one.

I explained to him that the steering wheel has an excellent shape so you can really take control when taking a turn hard. It feels like you have the reins of a galloping horse. The seats are supportive, but you still comfortably sink into them with g-forces. The engine is a hoot from a stop light and responds with a nice crisp roar that only gets better as the turbo kicks in. The best part for me though is the shifter and clutch combo. I can easily throw the gears from one gate to another and the comfortable catch point of the clutch makes blip shifting a snap.

The GTI compliments my driving style very well. I feel like a better driver. In my book, it's simply a great car.

My friend stood there, slowly nodding his head with squinted eyes and "I totally get ya" pursed lips. He then pulled back like he had some revelation, "Yeah, but what color is it?"

"It's white" I replied. "CHSCH!"


Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Dyno Test on 87 Octane?

March 21, 2011

There was some drama surrounding our 2010 Volkswagen GTI last week. We filled it with 87 octane gasoline and it didn't go over well. So now we have another idea, dyno test it on 87 and compare it to performance on 91. What do you think?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 21,828 miles

Bucket List?

March 23, 2011

So our time with our 2010 Volkswagen GTI is drawing to a close. Was there anything about it that you wish that we blogged about? Any dream shoot-outs? Gripes you wished we covered? Question we haven't answered? Speak now...

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor


March 25, 2011

I'm a big fan of the GTI. I dig the plaid seats, I dig the power, and I dig the flat bottom steering wheel.

But I also really like the simple clean lines/layout of the center stack. Easy to find what you're looking for in a brief glance. Way better than the disaster of buttons in the Crosstour, IMHO.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

Farewell Dear Friend

March 30, 2011

There are now 22,145 miles on the GTI's odometer and it's past the year mark, which means it shall soon be departing to the big cloud in the sky (and by cloud I mean "list" and by sky I mean "old long-term cars in the lower right-hand corner of this page"). This makes me sad, because the GTI is not only one of my favorite all-time long-termers but also one of my favorite cars, period. I haven't been driving it that much since new long-term cars began flooding our garage like ... OK, so now's not really the time to be making flooding metaphors, but you get the idea. We have a lot of new long-termers and old ones get less attention.

So before the GTI sails off into the sunset (see, get the symbolism of that photo? Clever, I know), I thought I'd drive it home one last time to experience what life would be like if I didn't have this job and actually owned my own car. That's right, barring the funds needed to by an XJ Supercharged or CLS63 AMG, I'd get a four-door GTI modestly equipped just like ours. Hell, even with said funds, I'd probably own one in addition to those. And a ski boat. And this home theater.

Crap, what the hell was I talking about? Oh yes, the GTI. Wonderful car, one of the best cars you can buy today. I shall miss it, but it shall at least forever be placed alongside the 135i, Challenger and S5 on the mantle of my all-time favorites.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 22,145 miles

Nurburgring 24

March 31, 2011

Just the other day I was thinking again that the GTI suits me. It drives the same whether you’re going fast or slow. In fact I was thinking it would be the perfect car for endurance racing and wondered if there are many examples at the Nurburgring 24, the most famous endurance racing event for street stock cars.

Apparently I’m not the only one, because Volkswagen Motorsport is preparing to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Golf by entering a car in the Nurburgring, which is scheduled for 23-26 June.

The 2011 Volkswagen Golf24 isn’t your typical GTI, though. The motorsport engineers started with the chassis of the Audi TT-RS, but you wouldn’t recognize it. The all-wheel drive chassis now carries a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 434 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque, and the GTI-style race-type bodywork is pretty spectacular.

The Nurburgring 24 attracts 200 cars every year, with an average of three drivers per car. About 300,000 people show up to see the carnage. A factory-sponsored Golf last raced at the Nurburgring 24 in 2007, when a 295-hp car finished eighth overall. Last year VW entered a team of Sciroccos, which finished first, second and third in class.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 22,125 miles

The Effect Of Octane On Its Power

April 26, 2011

A few weeks back, one of our editors filled our longterm 2010 Volkswagen GTI's tank with 87 octane. Whether VW intended for this to happen or not, reality has a way of rendering such things moot.

Then we had a bright — if obvious — idea: let's do a dyno test to quantify just how much power this little hatch loses as a result of the lower octane.

It went down like this: We ran that tank of 87-ish octane down to nearly empty and refilled with 87 to ensure that the only thing in the tank was 87 octane. That, and it would give the electronic German brain on board adequate opportunity to recalibrate itself for the lower octane.

Then we dynoed it, performing as many runs as necessary to achieve a stable and consistent result.

Afterwards, we ran that tank down and refilled with 91 octane (that's the highest we get for premium fuel here in California), ran that tank down and refilled again with 91. Same logic as before.

We hit the dyno rollers again a few days later. Here's the result:

Peak Power (hp) Peak Torque (lb-ft)

91 octane 207 219

87 octane 203 216

Peak numbers don't tell the whole story, as the largest observed differences at any given engine speed were 10 hp and 11 lb-ft.

In summary, 87 octane hasn't had a tremendous effect on our GTI's ability to hustle. Surprised? I was. I expected a larger difference than this.

It's likely that although the output is similar, exhaust gas temperatures may not be, as less ignition timing can be run with 87 octane. As a result, there might be:

  • more enrichment on 87 octane, degrading full- or near-full-load fuel economy
  • less altitude margin with 87 octane, and a greater power difference might be observed at high elevation. Sorry, I don't plan on repeating this test in Denver.

Note that modern engine controllers are quite adept at monitoring knock activity and adjusting accordingly. I heard not a single ping when running the snot out of this car on the dyno in either test. If you put 87 octane in your twenty year-old turbo car and gave it the wood, you might make engine soup.

Speaking of dynos, we dyno-tested our GTI on 91 octane last year, so why re-test it? I wanted to ensure similar weather conditions between the two octane dyno tests to eliminate that as a variable to the extent that I could. There are certain things that are still beyond my control, and weather is one of them. Across these two dyno test days, the temperature was within 9 degrees and ambient pressure was within 0.04 in Hg. That's about as close as anyone could ask for.

Weather has a different effect on modern turbocharged cars than it does on supercharged or normally aspirated cars. Here's why: power depends largely on the airflow rate into the engine. Turbo cars have the unique ability to regulate that airflow independently of ambient air density — unlike non-turbo engines, turbo'd ones can actively manipulate boost pressure so that the same amount of flow enters the engine over a very broad range of ambient conditions. There are limits to this, of course, but the upshot is that turbo engines don't suffer nearly the power loss of a non-turbo engine when, say, climbing a long grade.

Temperature, however, does affect how much timing a turbo engine can run (due to knock), so in that respect weather has an indirect affect on the output of a turbo engine. The thing is, weather correction factors only account for density changes, which is why SAE does not apply weather correction to turbocharged cars, and neither do we.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

2010 Volkswagen GTI or 2012 Honda Civic Si

May 04, 2011

Today we ran a Track Tested piece on the 2012 Honda Civic Si. And the discussion there, and in our office, quickly turned to that of 2.0-liter 200 horsepower / 207 torque GTI or 2.4-liter 201 horsepower / 170 torque Civic Si?

It's a question that rears up every few years and 2011 is no different. There's a new Si on the block as the GTI is knocking on two. There is a $1,490 price difference in favor of the Civic. There is an incalculable appearance difference in favor of the VW.

I've made a quick list of performance specs after the jump. But we all know that cars are more than just track numbers.

Which would you buy, and why?


200 horsepower @ 5,100
207 pound-feet at 1,800

225/40R18 Dunlop SP Sport 01 AS

3,097 pounds

0-60: 7.0
0-60 Rollout: 6.6
Quarter mile: 15.0 @ 95.2

30-0: 34
60-0: 130

Slalom: 65.5
Skidpad: 0.87

Price: $23,695


2012 Honda Civic SI

201 horsepower @ 7,000
170 pound-feet @ 4,300

215/45ZR17 Michelin Pilot Exalto PE2

2,845 lbs.

0-60: 6.9
0-60 w/rollout: 6.6
Quarter mile: 15.1 @ 93.1

30-0: 20
60-0: 120

Slalom: 67.3
Skidpad: 0.86

Price $22,205

Which Would You Take to Your High School Reunion?

May 05, 2011

My 10-year high school reunion is this weekend and I began to think about what Edmunds long-term car I would drive to it. Of course, this is ultimately a moot point since the reunion is in Indianapolis and I'll inevitably drive some sort of Hertz rental car, but the question remains.

The obvious high-school reunion move is to show up in something fancy and expensive to flaunt my success (not so much monetarily but kick-ass-job-arily). In our fleet, I suppose the BMW 528i would be our candidate since the R8 is long gone. The Equus and M56 are pretty expensive, but I don't think they properly convey how much better I am than that douche from the baseball team who now works at the H&R Block in Fishers.

The next move would be something that will say "hey, look at me!" The Fiat 500 will do that and I certainly like our little Italian city car, but it may unfortunately also say that I've borrowed my wife's car or that my wife is in fact named Kyle. Not that there's anything wrong with that. So in this case, I'd pick the Chevy Volt. Of all the cars in the fleet, it most frequently gets looks and draws questions, which inevitably will draw attention to me.

The next move would be something that shows I'm now a lot more macho than the guy who you last saw 10 years prior. Ford Raptor, need I say more?

The next move would be to fly the flag of my job. "Oh, that sounds like a bitchin' job Riz, what car did you drive here?" If I answer, "Buick Regal," they're going to walk away and talk to the current vice president of the Indianapolis Colts instead. No, I'd say the Ford Mustang GT is the right answer. It's famous enough for non-car people to know it's awesome, and actually good enough for car people to know it's in fact awesome. (Honorable mention to the Porsche 911).

However, I wouldn't pick any of these. I wasn't a cool kid in high school by any stretch of the imagination, but my time there also didn't suck, so I have no need to prove I've changed or imply that I'm something I'm not. I also think people will see right through your automotive cloak of faux coolness. Be it your BMW in the parking lot, the trophy wife on your arm, the expensive suit or the head of new hair, it's just bound to backfire and appear like overcompensation.

So what would I take? Easy, our Volkswagen GTI. Besides the fact it's the car I'd actually buy today, it would seem pretty fitting to drive to my high school reunion in a car pretty damn similar to the Jetta VR6 I left there in 10 years ago. Hearing, "Yep, that's the same old James" would be A-OK with me.

Of course, if we had a Benz CLS63 or Jag XJ Supercharged in fleet, this would be a completely different story. Not only would I actually make the drive to Indy, but I would finally be able to get Lauren Freedman to notice me.

(P.S. Great, now I have this song stuck in my head)

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

Our Favorite Caption

May 13, 2011

Thanks to boobylortez for this week's favorite caption.

Here are the others that made our hair stand on end:

Just skip to the ending, I'm double parked. (oldchap)
das mullet (e90_m3)
a cow licked what? (snipenet)
A German Brazilian? (snipenet)
VW GTI, a perfect vehicle for a "shag". (ergsum)
I wanted a hare oil treatment not a hair oil treatment. (drhorrible)
Business in the front, party in the hatch! (thegraduate)
Hairvergnugen (monkeybread)
A house of ill re-beaut. (ergsum)
Hairodynamics (ergsum)
farfegroomin (cuthgood130)
Wax on, wax off. (diondi)
I'm having a plaid hair day (rayray633)

What was your favorite?

To the winner:
You can select one of these three prizes:

- Hankook shirt (XL) and hat
- Top Gear Season 15 DVD or Blu-ray
- Top Gear puzzle book (not for kids)

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

You Write the Caption

May 13, 2011

Vehicle Testing Manager Mike Schmidt sent me this photo of our VW GTI getting a hot oil treatment but not in Texas.

What is your caption?

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

Note: The last few winners have not claimed their glorious prizes. I'm going to put a time limit on it. If you don't claim your prize by the time the next caption contest posts, the prize goes back in my prize box. That gives you a week.

Happy Friday the 13th.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Tire Replacement

June 09, 2011

Yep, we still have our 2010 Volkswagen GTI. We sent it on some errands off the radar for the past few weeks. Now it is back, well, until we sell it. Fortunately for the sake of the LTRTB our GTI got a flat while on its secret mission. But not just any flat...

You don't need a magnifying glass to see that puncture above the "P." You do, however, need $275 and a few hours to track down a replacement Dunlop SP Sport. Stokes Tire Pros handled the tire location part. We handled the cash part.

Total Cost: $274.27

Days out of Service: None

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 23,793 miles

That Won't Buff Out

June 10, 2011

Mike Schmidt has already told you that our VW GTI is back from its secret mission off the grid, and that it returned home with a busted tire. Well, it also returned with this curb rash. Bummer.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 23,797 miles

Time for a Bughunt?

June 13, 2011

It's great to have our prodigal GTI back home. A little the worse for wear, it still is a fun drive, and it got a chance to frolic Sunday morning on Pasadena's Arroyo Seco Parkway. (The parkway was the first freeway built in the United States and was designed for the then-maximum legal speed limit of 45 mph. The GTI took it a little faster than that.)

While I didn't hear the ticking and clicking that has bedeviled our car, the squeaking that Erin mentioned in March is louder and more persistent than ever. It seems to come from the area of the back seat and I think it's triggered by bumps and judders in the road. It sounds like an irked cricket, and if I owned the car, I'd tempted to go on a bughunt to find and silence the little sucker.

But if you saw "Aliens," you know why Pvt. Hudson (pictured, above left) was so skeptical of bughunts. They involve time and treasure (assuming the car is out of warranty). And there's about a 50/50 chance you'll be able to source and kill the noisemaker before you lose your mind. That's been my experience with such squeaks and creaks, anyway. What's yours?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @24,013 miles

Denver vs Detroit

June 16, 2011

In 2010, all Volkswagen GTIs came standard with 17-inch "Denver" wheels (left photo). They were carryovers from the previous generation GTI. However, these were quickly overshadowed by the larger 18-inch "Detroit" wheels (right photo). They are pretty much the same design except for the inner portion of the horseshoe cutout being painted glossy black (in the case of the Detroit wheel).

When we were shopping for our GTI last year, every car we saw on the lot came equipped with Detroit wheels. Whenever I saw a photo of the GTI, either in the VW brochure or on the media site, it would always be one with Detroit wheels. Back then, the Detroit wheels were a $750 option. But perhaps due to their popularity, they became a standard feature on the 2011 GTI.

If it were my car, I would opt for the smaller wheel. The 17s probably ride better and it would cost less to replace the tire. But I do like the glossy black look of the Detroits, so I would probably paint the horseshoes like this person did.

Which ones of these wheels do you like best? Have you seen any 2010 GTIs with Denver wheels? To pitch another horseshoe into the discussion, what do you think of these 18-inch "Huff" wheels, which were offered on the previous generation GTI? These are basically Detroit wheels with gray gloss instead of black.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 24,161 miles

Edmunds Rating

June 17, 2011

A few months ago John DiPietro asked you to check out the consumer reviews for the 2010 GTI. This time it's our Edmunds Rating. Check it out. The GTI get high marks.

Should it? What do you think? Are we right or wrong?

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

What It Means To Me

June 19, 2011

G: Great powertrain. The smooth and eager turbo four also sounds great when you lean into it. And the tranny has a light, progressive clutch and a fairly slick shifter.

T: Timeless styling. This is what a hot hatch — a vehicle that combines a spirited driving personality with the practicality of roomy passenger/cargo areas — should look like. A cleanly chiseled form that's functional yet somehow still Euro chic.

I: Intuitive controls. For example, the proven, old-school three knob layout for the climate control and likewise user-friendly radio with volume and tuning knobs on either end. The steering wheel controls also become second nature in short order.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 24, 262 miles

Two-Door or Four-Door?

June 22, 2011

I saw this four-door GTI yesterday. Got me thinking about what body style I'd get if I was going to buy a GTI. I think I'd get the four-door. What about you?

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Odd Ride Quality

June 27, 2011

Driving the GTI again this past weekend reminded me why so many people have different impressions of this car. I've spent most of my time driving the GTI in the city. In that environment, the suspension has always felt remarkable comfortable given its low-profile tires.

Get on a broken and rutted freeway like the 405 here in L.A. and it's a different story. More than once this weekend I felt like I was behind the wheel of a Nissan GT-R. At highway speeds, the GTI feels considerably less compliant. Those 40-series tires suddenly feel more like they look as every crack comes through to the interior. It's not quite as awful as the GT-R, but it's still more road intrusion than your average hatchback. I don't mind it that much, makes the car feel a little more serious. Wouldn't be surprised if other didn't agree though.

Ed Hellwig, Editor,

Strong Money

July 06, 2011

We've been given the word to put our long term Volkswagen GTI up for sale. So I took our long term Volkswagen GTI to get appraised at Carmax. We do this to set a baseline price for ourselves to either improve on in a private party sale or take the Carmax's offer. Take a guess as to what we were offered before you follow the jump.

Carmax offered us $19,000. For reference, Edmunds trade in TMV is $18,273. The Carmax offer is a solid price, but we think we can do better. Since the $19K is guaranteed for seven days, we will try to beat that by a grand or two in the coming week.

Any predictions as to what price we will end up at?

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 24,517 miles

The Magic Number

July 08, 2011

After being offered $19,000 in cold cash (well, a cashier's check) by CarMax for our GTI, our motivation to top that number is low. The problem is that a new GTI can be had for about $24,000. So any asking price over $20,000 begins to bump into the new car price. We did throw up an ad on eBayMotors and got one inquiry. And we also posted this YouTube video. But at this point, we might just take the CarMax money and move on to other things.

Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor @24,567 miles

Auf Wiedersehen

July 12, 2011

Our Volkswagen GTI was sold to Carmax today for $19,000. We tried to improve the price with our Criagslist and eBay classified ads, but only got a few tire kickers via email. Perhaps we could've beat it, if we had more time and took out an Autotrader ad. But like the GMC Terrain before it, this was one of those times when the Carmax price was very competitive. And it wasn't worth the time and effort to improve on the price by a couple hundred dollars.

I really liked this car. We bought it at the same time and at the same dealer as my Golf TDI. I would get a kick out of comparing the subtle differences on the inside and outside of the car. It was fun to drive and was relatively fuel efficient. After a year of ownership, the GTI held up well, with only a few minor scrapes to speak of.

Did your opinion change on this car? Would you buy one now?

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 24,606 miles

Time Marches On, 2012 GTI Revealed

August 02, 2011

Always liked the clean styling on our long-term 2010 VW GTI, but for the 2012 GTI, Volkswagen couldn't leave well enough alone. It's got LED DRLs. At least it does based on this shaky-cam video made by an enthusiastic salesman at Georgetown VW, which evidently just received its first shipment of 2012 Volkswagen GTIs. I think the LEDs are kind of horrible, but Magrath assures me they're rad.

Of course, there are other changes, too.

It appears the Detroit 18-inch wheels are gone in favor of a new design reminiscent of the wheels are on our long-term Mini Countryman. Ah, but this isn't quite true. These new "Serron" wheels are only for the Autobahn trim level, as smrtypants44 points out. Elsewhere, the Detroit wheels continue on.

And inside, the golf ball shift knob is back, at least on this DSG model.

The touchscreen nav unit and Dynaudio sound system, of course, were among the upgrades Volkswagen made for MY2011.

So, LED DRLs... hate 'em or love 'em?

Long-Term Test Wrap-Up: 2010 Volkswagen GTI

And had I bothered to check, I would have pointed out earlier that the LEDs and golf ball shifter were previewed on the Europe-only GTI Edition 35.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

The 2012 VW Golf R

August 23, 2011

(Photo courtesy of Volkswagen of America, Inc.)

Our departed 2010 Volkswagen GTI caused some derisive opinions in the office. It was like red states versus blue states or cat people versus dog people, but in this case it was editors who loved our GTI (i.e., Riswick) and those who, if not hated, at least disliked it with a fair amount of passion (i.e., Jacquot).

But soon there could be a solution to make both camps happy — the 2012 Volkswagen Golf R. A meaner, more powerful version of the GTI, this R32 successor could be the car that turns the GTI haters' frowns upside down. But it could also still be refined enough to keep the GTI lovers in their "Das Auto" T-shirts.

So how does it shape up? I got to drive the 2012 Golf R in Herndon, Virginia (near Volkswagen's headquarters) today to find out.

First, some background that's more up-to-date than our first drive. The Golf R gets the same variant of 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that's used in the 265-horsepower Audi TTS. In Golf R spec, it produces 256 hp and 243 pound-feet of torque. According to VW, the detuning is to ensure durability as the Golf R's front fascia doesn't have as much air flow cooling potential as the TTS'. But as a nod to the car's enthusiast audience, a six-speed manual is the only transmission offered.

The 2012 VW Golf R continues the R32's distinction of standard four-wheel drive. Power is routed to all four wheels through an updated Haldex four-wheel drive system. Unlike a WRX STI, for instance, the Golf R's system is front-wheel drive until additional traction is needed. But compared to the R32, the new system is much quicker and predictive when vectoring torque — up to 100 percent of it — to the rear.

The suspension tuning is firmer than the GTI's, with a 0.6-inch drop in ride height below the GTI's already lowered height. European models actually get an adaptive suspension damper option, but it won’t be available for the U.S. Even so, the U.S. car isn't defanged — tuning for the R's suspension is pretty much the same as if you were to set the Euro adaptive suspension to the most aggressive "Sport." The R's steering is still electric assist and has the same ratio, but effort has been retuned to be sportier.

(Euro-spec Golf R. Photo courtesy of Volkswagen of America, Inc.)

As with the GTI, both two-door and four-door Rs will be sold. Specific changes for the R include unique front and rear fascias, unique 18-inch wheels, dual center-exit exhaust, sport seats and special interior trim details.

I only got to spend about 30 minutes with a Euro-spec two-door R, but even in that short amount of time the changes over the GTI were readily apparent. Slip inside and you'll find the front seats have thicker side bolsters, particularly the lower bolsters for the seat cushion. Personally, I would have liked to see even thicker bolsters for the seatback. It was tricky to determine how the official U.S. car will be compared to the Euro version in terms of minor interior trim details, but it seems safe to say it'll be pretty much like the GTI but with a few variations. Leather is standard (no plaid cloth, sorry), and the smattering of "R" logos is a nice touch.

The manual shifter feels pretty much just like the GTI's, with somewhat long throws but a nice, precise action. The biggest differences, however, come down to power and handling. The Golf R is noticeably quicker than the GTI and gives you a nice shove in the back when you wood the throttle in a low gear. Torque is abundant, lag is minimal and redline is set at 6,500 rpm. The engine/exhaust note is gruffer, though to be honest I think I preferred the more refined sound of our GTI.

I only had one chance to see what the four-wheel-drive system could do — from a rolling stop, I turned left mashed the throttle. There wasn't any drama or torque steer — the Golf R just gripped and ripped. It'll be interesting to see how it does in terms of acceleration runs once we get one to test. For what it's worth, VW says it'll hit 60 mph in less than 6 seconds.

The R's suspension is certainly firmer, with less body roll than the GTI. It's a more willing partner for driving aggressively, with sharper responses and meatier (though it's still not particularly communicative) steering. The stability control system has also been dialed back for the R to be less intrusive. However, it's still not fully defeatable. Also, the R will come with all-season tires standard, with no option for summer tires.

The last two bits will probably disappoint hard-core enthusiasts. After all, the car has an "R" in its name, right? But it wasn't Volkswagen's intent to build an Evo. The traditional GTI traits of a stellar interior and an agreeable ride quality are still intact. Basically, what you have here is a GTI that is quicker, more athletic and cooler-looking but still the adult in the hot-hatch segment. And I suspect for just about everybody, that's something that they can be happily non-partisan about.

No official pricing has been announced, but the Golf R is set to go on sale in early 2012. Look for a full test in the coming months.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor


We owned a 2010 Volkswagen GTI for the last 16 months and it was one of the most polarizing long-term test vehicles we've had in awhile. One early blog entry stirred up controversy between GTI supporters and opponents.

"This VW GTI is some great car," it began. "It's not that it's less than half the price of an M3; it's that it's more than twice as good as an M3.

"I'd argue that the GTI is better than an M3 because it combines the M3-style virtues in a car that is not only affordable but also responsive and nimble. The disappointment we all felt when the BMW 2002 was replaced by the BMW 3 Series had to do with size and weight, and we preferred a nimble, lightweight car.... I'm tired of driving 4,000-pound sedans masquerading as coupes.... For me, the Volkswagen GTI is the kind of M3 I prefer, less like a V8-powered truck and more like the Whispering Bomb. It's a great car."

Why We Bought It
For 2010, the new VW's 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 ranked it among the most powerful GTIs to date. Yet each generation of GTI seemed to arrive with a little less edge and a bit more comfort. The latest version followed that trend and we wondered if the GTI we knew so well was finally gone.

The fact that we already had a redesigned 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 in our long-term test fleet would help the comparison. There was a time when the GTI was the car to beat. Now the Mazdaspeed wore those shoes. Would time favor the seasoned, sophisticated VW? Or would its softened edges push us toward the all-or-nothing performance attitude of the Mazda? Only a long-term test would tell.

We answered one question early on. Volkswagen officially hung up the keys to the GTI we once knew. A nondefeat stability control system and conservative suspension tuning reflected the GTI's transition from a performance-only hatch toward broader acceptance.

A large contingent disagreed with VW's use of the GTI badge for this vehicle. And the discontent in our hallways ranged from mild to extreme. "It's lacking all of the character and personality the earlier generations had. This car is soft, the steering is over-boosted and not informative," chimed one editor. Another added, "Why can't I disable stability control on this sport compact car? Silly. Just silly." Also overheard, "There's too much sound deadening. When you have to funnel engine sound into the cockpit with a tube, you might have gone too far." Not everybody agreed with the hallway banter.

Executive Editor Michael Jordan spoke for the opposition. Jordan wrote, "As before, the GTI is cheap, with a price that we suspect is actually thousands of dollars less than the real cost, as VW uses it to build showroom traffic. As before, the GTI is comfortable, a car spacious and poised enough to help you withstand a cross-country trip. And most important of all, the GTI offers the same, honest high-performance dynamics for which Volkswagen has always been noted. There are guys who wish this car was some raspy Japanese piece for fan boys, all roll stiffness, limited suspension travel and torque steer. But the GTI was never like that before, and it makes more sense to be different than the Mazdaspeed 3 or Subaru Impreza WRX rather than the same."

Inside the cabin our 2010 Volkswagen GTI was accommodating and the build quality was excellent. The front seats were supportive and highly adjustable, though we found the seating position favored the slight whistle from the B-pillar on the highway at various times.

Routine service on the GTI was easy since there was free maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles. The only qualifier was that we had to take it in at the prescribed intervals of 6K, 10K, 20K and 30K miles. In addition to the usual items, Volkswagen Santa Monica performed two warranty repairs. At the damaged irreparably.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 16 months): None
Additional Maintenance Costs: $274.27 for 1 new tire
Warranty Repairs: BCM update, YS campaign
Non-Warranty Repairs: Replace one tire
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None
Days Out of Service: None
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None

Performance and Fuel Economy
We track-test our long-term cars twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of each test period. The 2010 Volkswagen GTI stuck around longer than the usual 12 months. Since it was around, the VW was subject to a couple of additional tests.

First, let's compare standard instrumented test results. After 24,000 miles acceleration from zero to 60 mph remained unchanged at 6.6 seconds (with 1-foot rollout). The elapsed quarter-mile time was 0.10 second quicker, 14.9 seconds at 95.0 mph. Veteran brakes stopped the GTI from 60 mph in 120 feet, which was 10 feet less than during its first test.

From a dynamic perspective, the GTI was improved slightly in both the slalom (66.7 mph) and around the skid pad (0.90g). Road Test Editor Mike Monticello noted, "The GTI does not have a true ESP off button even though it is labeled as such. It only eliminates traction control. Smoothness is the key to keep ESP from intervening too much. Despite being overly soft, the chassis feels like it would be willing if not for the nanny state."

Extra time with the VW allowed for more tests. We entered the GTI into a front-wheel-drive burnout contest with our long-term Mazdaspeed 3. The GTI lost in yawn-inducing fashion and taught us to stick with RWD burnout contests for the future. Spurred on by our readers, we also put the GTI through an 87-octane-versus-91-octane comparison test on the dyno. To our surprise the cheap sauce reduced peak output by just 4 horsepower and 3 pound-feet of torque. The largest observed difference at any engine speed was 10 hp and 11 lb-ft, still less than expected.

After more than 24,000 miles of testing the 2010 Volkswagen GTI returned respectable fuel economy. We averaged 25 mpg, though the VW proved capable of nearly 34 mpg on long highway cruises. And on such cruises we traveled as far as 391 miles on a single tank. Not too bad for a sport compact.

Best Fuel Economy: 33.6 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 16.9 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 24.7 mpg

Retained Value
We turned into the CarMax driveway with more than 24,000 miles on the odometer of our 2010 Volkswagen GTI. Edmunds' TMV® Calculator valued the VW at $20,934 based on a private-party sale. So when CarMax offered us a competitive $19,000 we accepted.

Just over 16 months ago we purchased our GTI for $25,454. And after an extended test it depreciated 25 percent of its original purchase price. Its main competitor in the long-term fleet, our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, depreciated 26 percent under similar circumstances.

True Market Value at Service End: $20,934 private party
What It Sold for: $19,000
Depreciation: $6,454 or 25% of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 24,315

Summing Up
One year with the VW supported our full test conclusions. Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton summarized, "For all its just-shy-of-class-leading performance, the GTI is still a very attractive, comfortable and competitive hot hatch. That it is not the hot hatch of the hour only shows a sense of maturity that comes from age and experience."

This was no longer the GTI of old. Volkswagen gradually altered the hatchback to appeal beyond its traditional niche. Along the way VW traded some raw fun for softer edges and refinement. A strong resale value suggests this combination was well-received. To find a private buyer who would pay $19K for our used VW was one thing. When a dealer franchise like CarMax offered that amount, it told us the car was in even more demand than our calculations predicted.

Like it or not, our 2010 Volkswagen GTI took everything we threw its way. No breakdowns. No mechanical issues. No routine maintenance costs. In the end, this is one of the cars we'll miss.

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.