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2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Review By Larry Nutson

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2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

My usual approach in reviewing a car model, to wit the 2015 VW Golf, is to touch all the various trims and iterations that a consumer could consider.

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By happenstance I’ve hit a trifecta of Golf test-drives within a short time period. I thought rather than cover the entire Golf family in one shot I’d give each model its due. This is the first chapter of my trilogy on the all-new 2015 VW Golf.

The backstory to consider is that the all-new 2015 Golf family of cars has been named the North American Car of the Year as well as the Motor Trend Car of the Year. The Golf family has also won awards from Yahoo Autos, AutoWeek, Car and Driver and Automobile magazine. The 2015 Golf is also an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK. In spite of this tremendous recognition in the U.S. market place sales have been slow to take off.

In today’s world of having “no bad cars”, which is wonderful for the consumer, it is saying something when a car like the 2015 Golf-family gets so much notoriety amidst very good competition from other makes.

And now, at long last, car buyers are taking notice. In May the all-new Golf family of vehicles delivered 6,308 units, a whopping 252 percent increase and the best May since 2000. The Golf GTI delivered 1,826 units, a 65 percent increase. The Golf GTI is around twenty-nine percent of sales, an example of the strong attraction to this model.

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Now in its seventh-generation, the GTI first came on the scene in the U.S. market in 1983. VW’s GTI is THE car that defined the term “hot hatch”. But, back then the GTI only came as a two-door and only with manual transmission.

Today the Golf GTI is available also as a four-door and also with an optional dual-clutch automatic transmission. Both of these features help make this hot hatch fit better into many a family’s household fleet.

The 5-passenger 2015 Golf GTI is offered in three trims…S, SE and Autobahn. Driving through the front wheels, power comes from a much-improved turbocharged 210 HP 2.0-liter TSI engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The optional dual-clutch DSG automatic also has six-speeds.

From stop, the Golf GTI gets to 60 mph in about 6 seconds. That’s adequately quick! Top speed is somewhere around the century and a half mark. And note that VW “recommends” premium gasoline for maximum performance.

Performance and low fuel consumption can and do go hand in hand. The Golf GTI’s engine has 10 more horsepower than the previous-gen GTI and also gets better fuel economy. The six-speed manual transmission model has EPA test estimated fuel economy ratings of 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. With the optional six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission the EPA test estimated fuel economy ratings are 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. Take note that the two transmissions are almost identical in fuel economy ratings.

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The Golf GTI S begins at $24,785 for the two-door model and $25,385 for the four-door. The optional dual-clutch DSG transmission in either body style costs an additional $1,100. This base model is well-equipped and includes: 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; Bluetooth connectivity; a touchscreen infotainment system; Sirius XM Satellite Radio; a Media Device Interface (MDI) with iPod integration; a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, handbrake, and shifter knob; VW Car-Net connected services; ambient and footwell lighting with LED reading lights; cloth sport seats with heritage GTI design; LED foglights; heatable front seats; and a new Driving Mode Selection feature.

The Golf GTI SE begins at $27,785 for the two-door model and $28,385 for the four-door version. As with the Golf GTI S, the six-speed manual transmission can be replaced with the DSG automatic for $1,100. The SE includes all the features of the S and adds: a power tilt and slide sunroof; Keyless access with push-button start; a rearview camera; automatic headlights; rain-sensing windshield wipers; the Fender Premium Audio System; and leather seating surfaces. The DCC adaptive damping system is available with the Performance Package for an additional $800 at this trim level.

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The Autobahn trim is at the top of the Golf GTI lineup, and begins at $30,045 for the four-door with six-speed manual transmission. There is no two-door option, but the DSG automatic transmission is available for $1,100. This model adds a navigation system, a 12-way power driver’s seat, and Climatronic automatic air conditioning to the list of standard equipment on the SE.

A Performance Package is available on all trims, and includes: larger front and rear brakes, a torque-sensing electronically-controlled limited-slip differential, and a 10 horsepower boost over the regular GTI, for $1,495.

A Lighting Package is available for $995 and adds Bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and the Adaptive Front-lighting System.


A $695 Driver Assistance Package adds a Forward Collision Warning system and front and rear Park Distance Control.

My media-loaner was a two-door S model with the six-speed manual and a see-me Tornado Red exterior. I believe Tornado Red has been a VW offering for at least 40 years. The car I drove also was shod with the optional 225/40 Bridgestone Summer performance tires instead of the standard all-season tires.

I’ve gotten used to having a rearview camera in all the various test cars I drive and I missed not having one on the S model I drove. A camera proves its worth in tight parking maneuvers. You need to step up to the SE model for the rearview camera.

The new Golf GTI is longer, wider and yet lower by over one inch compared to the previous model. And the Golf GTI has a 0.6 inches lower ride height compared to other Golf models. There’s more interior room and lots of room for your stuff in the rear with 16.5 cuft up to the parcel shelf and 22.8 cuft to the roof…bigger than the trunk on most midsize cars. The 60/40 split-fold rear seat will open up cargo volume to 52.7 cubic feet. The versatility of a hatchback over a sedan is one of the strong points and makes the hatch body style one of my favorites.

In the VW tradition, ride and handling are sporty and provide a confident feel. The steering is nicely weighted and very comfortable for city maneuvering. My driving style is spirited and the Golf GTI fits that style very well. The 40-series summer tires made city street imperfections a bit more noticeable but not uncomfortable.

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Ingress and egress is quite easy and the high bolstered seats very supportive.
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The feel of the steering wheel was perfect to me and since I was shifting a six-speed very often my right hand transitioned easily between wheel and shifter. And that gear shifting was light and positive with easy clutch action with all my around-town stop-and-go driving.

More detailed information and specs on the Golf GTI model line is only a mouse click away at If you want to compare the Golf GTI to other sporty compacts you can do that right here on

Check back here on The Auto Channel in a couple or three weeks for the next chapter in my Mark VII Golf trilogy… the Golf TDI Clean Diesel.

2015 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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