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Thursday, September 18, 2014

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI – Driving impressions

Driving the new GTI around the city is so easy and uneventful, that you quickly forget the car is there. It simply becomes and extension of you once you get behind the wheel and fire it up.  For the most part, it just doesn’t get in your way.
The front seats and the driving position are excellent and it only took me about 30 seconds to find the sweet spot for the seat and steering wheel angles. The range for adjustments is very wide for both the steering wheel and the driver’s seat. The Germans are good at this, so do not fear this car, no matter if you’re big or tiny.
The steering is precise, light, and very quick, so tossing the car around town is a breeze. At city speeds, you don’t have to slow down for any corners. You simply turn and the car obeys, nicely holding the line in the process.

Forward visibility is excellent, but rear quarter view is terrible with those very large C-pillars wrapping around well into the rear of the car. On top of that, the side mirrors are about 50% too small. Quick lane changes become an issue.

Those lane changes can also quickly mushroom into a situation with possible severe consequences. The transmission responds fairly OK in normal mode, and instantly in the sport mode. The engine is always ready with gobs of torque. What it means is (and it happened several times to me), that when you instinctively press the gas pedal when going around some slow poke, all of the sudden you’re driving at 120 km/h in a 50 km/h zone. Automatic loss of licence territory in our beautiful province.

The engine sounds a little boomy at city speeds and the car could be quieter all together, but the GTI transforms itself when you hit the highway. Heading up Highway 400 and then 11, towards Muskoka, the car sounds great, tracks as straight as an arrow and it feels like you’re standing still at 140 km/h. The Germans are good at that too.

It was raining for the duration of my trip up around Bracebridge and Huntsville area, and I was thinking - “This is good. It’s going to keep speeds down and I’ll be able to get a little closer to the car’s limits”. Boy, was I wrong. I covered a large loop on highways 117, 35 and 118 on wet and twisty two-lanes and, at driver’s licence cancelling speeds, the car felt not at the limit, but maybe at 50%. It was hard to tell, because there was never any hint of instability, even under hard braking in sharp turns.

After 550 km, I arrived back in the city feeling fresh and with a big grin on my face. The car drives excellent and it is by far the best GTI ever. And, perhaps for the first time, it also looks great, with nice lines and hardly a misplaced detail anywhere. Add to that a first-rate and comfortable cabin, and this could be one of the best cars on the market. It is in my top five for sure. Not a babe magnet you say? Let me put it this way; the car attracts the right kind of attention. I can live with that.

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