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Thursday, September 27, 2012

The new Volkswagen Golf GTI

I don’t care if you’re getting tired of me mentioning it every time I get a chance, but I love the GTI. Always have. It all started in Austria in 1981 when I was fortunate enough to be staying in the beautiful village of Nußdorf am Attersee near Salzburg as a refugee (courtesy of the generous taxpayers of Austria).

I was hitch-hiking to another mountain resort in Bad Mitterndorf to visit some of my refugee friends who were staying there (also courtesy of the generous taxpayers of Austria).  The 80 km stretch of the road was all twisty and curvy black tops over two mountain ranges that just begged to be driven hard. After standing on the side of the road for a good hour (I looked like a refugee), a black GTI went by me and hit the brakes hard, stopping a fair distance away. I run, he backed up and rolled the window down: “Wohin gehst du?” and I got in.

The driver (a middle-aged man wearing a wool sweater), after establishing that our conversation would not get too complicated due to my broken German, decided to focus on the driving. And focus he did. I was 18, had limited experience driving fast and to me it seemed like he was trying to scare me to death while testing the absolute outer limits of the GTI’s performance envelope. I was terrified, but amazed at the same time and the GTI performed flawlessly. The seat held me firmly in place, the engine sang nicely almost always near redline as the car smoothly rotated from turn to turn. It was poetry in motion and I was hooked.

The new GTI is almost here and, although evolutionary in concept, it promises to be the best one ever. Now, the GTI is not about devouring a race track at full pop. Rather, it’s a compact and economical machine that can multi-task and be very enjoyable to be driven quickly on any road. Its comfort levels, ergonomics and balance are superb. The basic driver’s car ingredients are there: proper driving position, steering feel, good seats, strong brakes and balanced chassis.

Maybe I should get me one of these…

Autoweek: GTI

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