Thursday, July 8, 2010

VW's lastest GTI still gets the heart racing

This review originally appeared in the June edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin' News published out of Folsom, California -- mg

Sacramento, California -- It’s the classic pocket rocket, one of my favorite cars of all-time.

And it has been jazzed up for 2010.

It’s the 2010 Volkswagen GTI sedan – yes, it can also be had as a coupe – and VW is to be praised for making this latest model just as spicy-looking and scoot-serious as olden, golden versions of the GTI.

In truth, it’s pretty hard to screw this thing up. History buffs will recognize that the current model has some of the styling cues from the legendary Mk I.

The exterior look is short-stocky bully that you don’t want to mess with, but there’s some stylish flair in the design as well. The black honeycomb grille is a sexy garment. Even the rear hatch area is aerodynamic. Particularly cool are the 17-inch, five-petal-style wheels that turn heads standing still and blur into roadrunner gray on the roll.

Those wheels are wrapped in high-performance tires, by the way.

Man, I love this VW’s all-black interior – a combination of menace and comfort. Everything is within easy reach, and you feel a little bit like Mario Andretti gripping the flat-bottomed, three-spoke steering wheel.

But the best part of the latest GTI remains unchanged from GTIs past. Look no further than under the hood, where you will find a 2-liter four-banger juiced up to 200 horsepower via an instantly responsive turbocharger.

Yes, the GTI leaves rubber and embarrassed sports car pilots when it blazes away from the crowd from a standing start. It’s nimble enough to pull off quick lane changes you might not try in other sporty rides. Steering is equally responsive on city streets and highways. A sweetly firm suspension makes the ride rock solid, yet road imperfections are swallowed up nicely.

Figure on making the zero-to-60 mph run in less than 7 seconds. You can take it from there: Uphill climbs are no problem. Power to get out of harm’s way is delivered in an eye-blink and efficiently.

The GTI’s drive-by-wire throttle control and VW’s patented fuel-injection system make 21 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway – not bad numbers for a turbo screamer.

Interior comfort for five was actually pretty nice in the tester. Ditto cargo-carrying capacity.

All this for a reasonable starting price of about $24,000 on the nose. The GTI coupe starts around $23,500.

Customizers can count on having a field day with this GTI. I’ve seen older GTIs stretched and cut so low to the road that they could double as a street sweeper. That’s fine with me on this latest GTI, but I kind of like the engine as is. Tweak the look, save the turbo. That’s my motto.

And thanks to Volkswagen for not screwing with a legitimate legend.

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