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2016 Volkswagen GTI S with Performance Package Review By John Heilig

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By John Heilig
Senior Editor
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel

MODEL: 2016 Volkswagen GTI S with Performance Package
ENGINE: 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 220 hp @ 4,700 rpm/258 lb.-ft. @ 1,500 rpm
WHEELBASE: 103.6 in.
LEGNTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 168.0 x 70.5 x 56.8 in.
TIRES: P225/40R18
CARGO: 22.8/52.7 cu. ft. (rear seats up/down)
ECONOMY: 25 mpg city/34 mpg highway/28.0 mpg test
FUEL TANK: 13.2 gal.
CURB WEIGHT: 2,972 lbs.
COMPETITIVE CLASS: Acura ILX, Ford Focus RS, Kia Soul
STICKER: $27,310 (includes $820 delivery)
BOTTOM LINE: The Volkswagen Golf GTI is a fun little sports coupe with excellent power and handling.

I live just down the road from our local high school, and every afternoon at 2:30 the kids speed by my house in their noisy little pocket rockets. In reality, all they do is make a lot of noise, but they think it’s impressive.

In my driveway is a real pocket rocket, the Volkswagen GTI. This fun little sports coupe looks like a Golf coupe, which it is. But turn on the afterburners and it can zoom away from almost anything else in its class, and do it with a lot of personality.

The GTI is not the sexiest looking car in the world, with its squarish body and hatchback design. And in normal driving, it’s “merely” a coupe that you can drive around town and to and from the grocery store. Aside from a firm suspension that might make the ride a bit rougher, there’s little to distinguish the GTI from its stablemates, except for the little emblem on the left of the rear hatch.

Turn it on, though, and you have a tiger in your hands. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four that delivers 220 horsepower with the Performance Package, 210 without it. Working with a 6-speed manual transmission, the GTI can get up and go quickly. I confess that I’m not a smooth shifter, but with the GTI I almost fooled my wife into believing we had an automatic. For example, I like that the gear selected is displayed on the instrument panel. I occasionally mis-shift and hit third instead of fifth, fourth instead of sixth, etc. If I’m not paying attention to the rpms, it’s nice to have the gear displayed.

The exhaust note is raucous over 3,000 rpm, but respectable under three grand. With that firm suspension, handling is excellent. Except for the prosaic body style, the GTI could very well be classified as a genuine sports car.

Front seats are comfortable with good side support. While they are heated, I’m not a fan of the plaid center sections. With the arm rest/center console, your hand falls neatly right where the shifter is, wth its unique knob. The front seats fold and slide forward for rear seat access. Rear seats offer surprisingly good leg room. In addition, rear passengers have their own HVAC controls and good headroom, with the squared off roof. Also, visibility is excellent, thanks to large side windows.  The driver grips a fat D-shaped wheel with cruise, information display and audio controls. Steering is quick, so your hands never have to leave the wheel in normal driving. 

The audio system produces good sound (I’m not sure it would satisfy the teeny-boppers passing  by my house, though). The HVAC system has three simple knobs to regulate temperature, air flow and fan speed. 

A unique feature of the infotainment screen, and one that clearly defines the GTI as a performance car, is the performance monitor you can select. It displays lap times, turbo psi and water temperature. You can also set it to display lap times alone. I have been to car events where the driver’s second lap must match closely the first lap. It would be nice to have a display like this to help.

The GTI has a very good trunk at 22.8 cubic feet. Lower the rear seat backs and this explodes to 52.7 cubic feet. Personally, I would keep the rear seat backs down all the time to enhance the sports car feel of the GTI. I like the exterior rear hatch release that is incorporated into the VW ornament.  To summarize, the VW GTI is the definition of a pocket rocket with all the good points and few of the less good. It is a fun car to drive and at a fairly reasonable sticker price.

(c) 2016 The Auto Page Syndicate