New Car/Review

1999 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GLS

By Tom Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 16,350
Price As Tested                                    $ 16,875
Engine Type               SOHC 8-valve 2.0 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 121 cid/1984 cc
Horsepower                                   115 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               122 @ 2600 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                   98.9"/68.3"/163.3"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     2854 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  14.6 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                          P195/65R15 all-season
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            24/31/28
0-60 MPH                                         11 Seconds
1/4 mile (E.T.)                       18.5 seconds 76.0 mph
Top speed                                           113 mph
     * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

Sweeping changes are in full swing at Volkswagen. The New Beetle energized its corporate image and the company has been revitalized.

Parenthetic to all the hoopla, a new Golf is quietly arriving on our shores. And Golf, many remember, is the vehicle that took over the successful compact spot once held by the VW Rabbit. As always, it can be had in many trim levels and a multitude of colors. It also has several different engines available. This week we test a Golf GLS.

OUTSIDE - Available with either two or four doors, Golf still has a unique exterior that centers on its original boxy shape. But it hasn't been re-invented like nearly all of the other VW vehicles. Rather, it's been "massaged" to look like an evolutionary ancestor of its predecessor. The raked windshield is noticeable as different from the last Golf, as is the "bubbled" look of the hatchback. It's overall appearance is certainly more appealing, with a smoothing of all corners and a lower and wider look. The body-color bumpers are integrated and use a black rub-strip that continues across the doors at around knee-level. While the GLS sedan comes standard with very basic 15-inch full wheelcovers and steel wheels, our test car wore optional five-spoke alloy wheels and 195/65 all-season tires.

INSIDE - Golf's simple dashboard is virtually identical to the instrument panel of the new Jetta, on which the car is based. Large rotary knobs control the ventilation and headlights while pushbuttons activate the emergency flashers and rear window defroster. The knobs and buttons on the stereo are small, so it takes a few days behind the wheel to change the music intuitively. Both front bucket seats are bolstered well, and have cloth upholstery that is not slippery. Both features are handy when driving through twisting roads. The padding inside them is quite hard, however. We loved the blue-ish hue displayed by the dashboard's backlighting at night, offset by glowing red gauges and needles. Standard features on all Golf models includes air conditioning, power door locks, anti-theft alarm, floor mats, rear defroster, and a rear wiper/washer. Golf GLS models add power/heated outside mirrors, cruise control, uplevel stereo, folding center armrest, upgraded cloth upholstery and power windows.

ON THE ROAD - While Golf's standard powerplant continues to displace 2.0 liters, like the last Golf model, it has been changed from the previous version. It is more compact in design, smoother-running and features a new cross-flow cylinder head and a new two-piece intake manifold. Horsepower and torque figures have remained the same, at 115 and 122, respectively, but maximum torque arrives at 2600 rpm, 800 rpms sooner than before. What this relates to is better off-line jump, and less waiting for the engine to wind up before power appears. Also available is a Direct Injection diesel engine that is cleaner and more powerful than ever, and can deliver up to 49 miles per gallon. The top-line GTI GLX VR6 offers a 174-horse narrow-angle V6 engine, which turns Golf into a road rocket. The standard transmission is a five-speed manual, while a four-speed automatic is optional.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Golf uses front-wheel-drive and unit-body construction. The suspension system is standard-issue small car: front MacPherson struts with coil springs and tube shocks, and a rear torsion-beam axle. The rear axle has been enhanced, however, with a new location for the coil springs, which allows for the elimination of the suspension strut turrets, which used to intrude upon cargo space. Golf's chassis is stiff and the suspension is taut, so hustling down winding roads is a pleasure. It sometimes has a tendency to bob on undulating roads, although the standard Golf models aren't made for road racing. For weekend warriors, the Golf GTI model, with its stiff suspension and 16-inch performance tires and wheels, is the best bet. Four-wheel disc brakes and an anti-lock braking system (ABS) are standard on all Golfs.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, dual side airbags, side-impact steel door beams and ABS are all standard on all Golf models.

OPTIONS - Our tester had no options.

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