On Your MarkVI, Get Set, Go!
by Joe LaMuraglia
Volkswagen just introduced the 6th iteration of the GTI and I was on hand to test the newest hot hatch from the people who invented the category. We spent a day driving in and around Atlanta, GA to experience the MkVI GTI (Mark VI = the sixth iteration of the model) and despite some hangover-induced nausea on the mountain twisties, there was little to fault with the new GTI.
The 2010 VW GTI got a semi-complete makeover. The exterior and interior are all new but the basic running architecture is the same as the outgoing model. It was enough of a difference for VW to claim that the car is “all new” and I can’t argue with them. The engine, transmissions and suspension were good enough to not warrant a change. Who can fault them for that?
Inside Is What Counts
I’ve often preached to anyone that will listen that the interior of a car, specifically the steering wheel, is the most important part of the car. Many companies dump their budgets on exterior styling and the interior – where the driving SPENDS HIS/HER TIME – is a carryover or loses out in the fight for budget. In the recent past, VW was lauded for their interiors but the last generation of the Golf and Jetta didn’t live up to their reputation.
The 2010 GTI re-establishes VW’s leadership in interior design with a GORGEOUS steering wheel, updated materials, a new satellite radio and navigation system and awesome base plaid cloth seats – available with heaters. The steering wheel got most of my attention as it really nicely done. It is the perfect thickness, has a flat bottom like racing wheels and the controls embedded in the wheel are surrounded with just enough chrome to add some flash without being gaudy. VW says this wheel will migrate to Jettas and more mundane Golfs. I say BRAVO!
The new satellite radio and navigation system deserves a mention as well. The current navigation system is slow and out of date. Changing the channel on an old radio with satellite was frustrating to say the least. The channels are sloooow to change. The new system fixes both issues. The optional navigation system we saw in the GTI was up to par with most on the market and the satellite radio interface was quick to react and intuitive – finally!
A new interior ambiance and new gadgets are great but neither matter if after 10 minutes you are in pain from the seats. I am happy to report that the sport seats in the GTI are supportive but also made for real people that wear a size 46 jacket like yours truly. Too often I’ll get into a sport seat and feel like I am being given a bear hug by a sumo wrestler. If you are slight of build, you may find them too generous – something my tall, lean co-driver commented on. For the majority of us, they’ll be fine.
All of the above are attached to VW’s much-applauded 2.0 liter turbo four-cylinder engine that produces 200 horsepower. It is a smooth, sophisticated engine that may actually be too refined. The engine is so smooth and the sound deadening so good in the new 2010 VW GTI, that the engineers had to pipe some engine noise back into the cabin. Otherwise, you would have thought you were piloting a luxury car.
That fact lead my co-driver and I to discuss weather or not the GTI had become too civilized. It handled everything we could throw at it easily and at speed on the highway, it was quiet, comfortable and efficient. With either the 6-speed manual or the dual-clutch automatic (DSG), it was an incredibly easy-to-drive car that put big smiles on our faces but there was no “edge” to the car. Is that a good thing? For me, yes. I’ve come to appreciate a more sophisticated driving experience. Only you can answer if it works for you.
As excellent as the new GTI is, it isn’t perfect. We found a few things that weren’t quite right. First off, the brakes feel a bit odd. They stop the car just fine but the brake feel is a bit odd at first. There seems to be a delay. VW’s PR folk commented that they are “on par with the competitive set” and I have no reason not to believe them. Just note that if you test drive the GTI and you aren’t coming from a recent VW, the brakes will feel different.
We also noticed that it was very difficult to see the settings for the air flow on the ventilation controls. It is a rotary nob and it is close to impossible to see the settings if you are driving. The knob doesn’t feel substantial either. It could stiffen up a bit.
The only other complaint/request is that VW give us a little more horsepower. It is fast and fun but we KNOW there is reserve power in that powerplant. Of course, there are emissions and fuel economy to consider but hey, Europe gets more power, why can’t we? There are plenty of aftermarket tuners to help you if you are interested but it will void your warranty.
The Price is Right
The 2010 VW GTI starts at $23,290 plus $700 destination for a two-door. If you want the functionality of the four-door, you’ll pay $600 more. The most expensive GTI is “$29-$30k” according to VWs presentation. Those prices are on par with one of their primary competitors – the 2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed3 which starts at $23,945 but also comes with a whopping 63 more horsepower.
For more detailed information on the 2010 VW GTI, click on the links below.
If you want to see my tweets from my day behind the wheel of the 2010 VW GTI, click HERE
Photos courtesy of VW
VW is a gay-friendly company.