2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0T SE - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
The car I would most like to own!
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
As soon as I bought a new VW Scirocco back in 1977, I wanted to trade it in on a new VW GTI. The first 110hp version of the GTI hit the market just as I was taking delivery of my 76hp Scirocco. The GTI mated a Rabbit chassis to a 1.6 liter fuel injected (the "I" in GTI) four cylinder engine capable of propelling it to a top speed of 110 mph. For the past 46 years, VW has sold the GTI continuously through 7 generations of Rabbit and Golf sedans. Now, for 2022, VW has scrubbed all lesser models of the Golf for sale in North America save 2 versions. The 8th generation Golf is available here only in front-wheel-drive form as the 241hp Golf GTI, and in all-wheel-drive spec as the 315hp Golf R.
Given that background, you might say I was eagerly expectant when a Kings Red Metallic ($395 optional) Golf GTI ($36,880) arrived in my driveway. Initial reaction? It was the first GTI I didn't want to own. Although the slick exterior appearance and the plaid seat inserts kindled familiarity, the re-imagined blacked out plastic dashboard spoiled the fun. VW, like so many manufacturers, seems intent on retraining their customers in basic car operation. To that end, VW's interior designers have eliminated anything resembling a switch or button in favor of countless video screens to confuse you. It took me 45 minutes to figure out how to unearth a simple channel roster for the 350 stations broadcast on SiriusXM, and install 4 as favorites. I remember when this used to be done by twiddling a single knob for maybe 5 seconds.
The same objections can be raised for dealing with climate control, navigation, and countless other menu items buried deep in the frontal lobe of the GTI's obsidian dash facade. All in all, I would take the 7th generation Golf layout in an instant over this grave new world. But in defense of the new system, as the days of my week with the GTI passed, my familiarity with its operational idiosyncrasies increased to the point that I actually overcame my initial dislike and felt quite at home in the very supportive plaid driver's seat. Thankfully, the single biggest selling point of the GTI has always been its handling prowess and zippy spurt. The 2022 version upholds and exceeds that expected high threshold of performance.
Our test car sported the $395 optional "Black Wheel Package" which looked quite understated against the flashy red bodywork. It's a shame that the GTI's trademark red brake calipers don't match the Kings Red Metallic exterior color. The rims mounted all-weather Pirelli P Zero radials (225/40R18) that were quite well suited to the all wet weather we had during the week of my test drive. Make no mistake, the latest GTI is still the hot hatchback screamer it has always been and then some. With the TDI motor now rated at 241hp, and kicking out 273lb.-ft. of torque, the 3,082lb. sedan sports a stellar power to weight ratio of 12.7lb/hp. With 7 gears on offer from the slick shifting "DSG with Tiptronic" transmission, you are never at a loss for instant punch. Pull the stubby DSG lever on the center console back toward you one notch for Drive. Hitting it a second time places the transmission in full manual mode, with small paddles behind the wheel to control all shifts. One of the wonders of the digital dash is that you can select the information it displays from a variety of options. I selected large numbers to indicate the current gear in use. These digits are displayed inside the tachometer. This facilitated intelligent and quick use of the gearbox to maximize acceleration. The GTI will run the standing start 1/4 mile in 14.6 seconds at 99.8mph, and cover the 0-60mph run in 6 seconds.
VW offers 4 modes of driving operation. We chose to leave the selection in "Sport" for the whole week. We are indebted to VW for allowing us to select Sport just once, with no need to re-select it after every restart. Thanks to improvements in shock valving, and the benefits accruing from the VAQ limited-slip front differential lock and the XDS cross-differential system, the GTI never lost traction, even when pressed hard on streaming wet secondary roads. While the ride is a bit stiff and uncompromising in Sport, that's just the way we like it.
By the end of the week, our initial reservations about the newly complicated dashboard were receding as a wave of favorable driving impressions took precedence. The latest GTI is an absolute blast to drive enthusiastically. Once you configure the glass dash to your liking, that aspect of ownership pretty much stays plug and play. In the final reckoning, the 8th gen GTI is still the car I would most like to own.
2022 VOLKSWAGEN Golf GTI 2.0T SE
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, TSI 16-valve DOHC turbocharged
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 25MPG City/34MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $36,880
HYPES: Quicker and Slicker Than Ever
GRIPES: Haptic Dash is Hapless
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10