2010 Volkswagen GTI: 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