2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Expert Review
By Matt DeLorenzo
What's New for 2015
The launch of the seventh generation of the Volkswagen Golf represents a major turning point in the car's history: No longer is it simply a model – the Golf – but rather a family of vehicles that includes 2-door and 4-door hatchbacks, performance variants like the Golf GTI and Golf R, the Golf SportWagen, and an EV in the form of the e-Golf. Not only does the Golf family offer a little bit of something for everyone, but in its most basic hatchback form, it has grown larger, offers a new family of gasoline, diesel and electric powerplants, while still retaining the practical and fun-to-drive attributes that have served a loyal customer base well.
You'll Like This Car If...
The VW Golf is a bit counterculture. It's a hatch when most cars are sedans, and its German roots go against the grain, since most cars in this segment are either Asian or domestic. The Golf offers tremendous utility and good fuel economy, a fun-to-drive spirit, and one of the best interiors in its class.
You May Not Like This Car If...
The Golf's 2-box shape is not for everyone. Those looking for traditional styling and a separate trunk might prefer sedans like the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. Also, if fuel economy is a priority, there are hybrids that offer as much or more fuel economy than the Golf diesel.
The 2015 VW Golf is all-new, 2.5 inches longer and a half-inch wider. With 5-passenger comfort and the cargo space of a midsize sedan, the new Golf weighs almost 80 pounds less than its predecessor. It features new turbocharged engines, formally adds the GTI to the family and has on deck the Golf R performance version, the e-Golf EV and Golf SportWagen.
Driving the Golf GTI
The Golf's most popular iterations are the 1.8-liter gasoline TSI, the 2.0-liter gasoline GTI, and the 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel, while the niche Golf R appeals to performance junkies and the...
... all-electric e-Golf is available in select states. The TSI and TDI share the same suspension and driving characteristics – turn-in is crisp and the performance on par, though the diesel has an advantage in torque, making it a feel snappier than the 1.8. Still, the gasoline engine model has a smooth linear feel, and with a traditional 6-speed automatic transmission, the Golf has solid road manners and a comfortable ride. If you seek more thrills, the GTI, which can be had with either a 6-speed manual gearbox or DSG automatic, has more horsepower and a willing spirit that invites hard driving. The 292-horsepower Golf R is the best performing model to date. Standard 4motion all-wheel drive transmits that power to the asphalt for 0-60 mph bursts under five seconds while also enabling the Golf R to stick to the road in hard cornering.
CENTER CONSOLE TOUCH SCREEN
Standard on all Golfs is a new 5.8-inch center console touch screen. The device features a capacitive touch sensor similar to smartphone technology, which instead of requiring pressure touch to activate, allows gesture control by swiping and pinch zooming.
XDS CROSS DIFFERENTIAL SYSTEM
Previously offered only on the GTI, all Golfs benefit from this electronic substitute for mechanical limited-slip differentials. If the suspension becomes unloaded in a turn, braking is applied to the inside wheel to prevent understeer, which improves handling.
2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Details
The new Golf continues VW's tradition of having an upscale look to its interior, using high-quality materials, soft-touch surfaces and piano black trim. The cabin has more shoulder room in both rows. Cargo volume is 16.5 cubic feet below the parcel shelf and 22.8 cubic feet to the roof. Loading is easier thanks to lower liftover in the rear hatch. The rear seat has a 60/40 split rear-folding back, expanding the load space to 52.7 cubic feet when lowered. There's plenty of front-seat storage in the center console and door panels, and a nifty mini glovebox to the left of the steering column.
Even though all the sheet metal is new, the car is instantly recognizable as a Golf. While the 2-box profile is the same, all the surfaces appear to be highly tailored with crisp character lines that start at the base of the steeper hood and new narrow horizontal grille, which is flanked by sharper headlight clusters. The distinctive C-pillar treatment recalls earlier Golf generations, adding to the familiarity of the overall look. The car is about 1.1 inches lower in overall height, and the wider track gives it a more muscular, purposeful appearance. The Golf R and e-Golf are 4-door only. The Golf R sits lower than its siblings and is also distinguished by four exhaust outlets.
Among the standard features are power windows and door locks, air conditioning, a touch-screen infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, Sirius XM satellite radio, and a media-device interface with iPod integration. S models feature aluminum-alloy wheels, V-Tex leatherette seating, steering wheel controls, and cruise control. Four-door models also have partial-power front seats. Golf SE models add a rearview camera and Fender Premium Audio System. SEL model features 18-inch alloy wheels, navigation and sport comfort seats with 12-way power adjustment. In addition to blistering performance, the Golf R offers leather seats, automatic climate control, and bi-xenon headlights. All new Golfs include one year/10,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance.
A 6-speed automatic transmission is available on TSI models, as is the exclusive Fender audio system. A driver assistance package – available throughout the Golf line – features forward-collision warning, and front and rear park-distance control. The 6-speed DSG automatic is optional on the GTI and the diesel TDI. On the GTI, options include an $800 adaptive-damping system and a $1,495 performance package, which includes larger brakes. Golf R models can be further upgraded with VW's DCC adaptive damping system that can tailor the car for "comfort," "normal" or "race" modes.
Under the Hood
The Golf family of engines includes an all-new turbocharged gasoline 4-cylinder in 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter displacements. The 1.8-liter engine is available with a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, while the GTI's 2.0-liter comes with a 6-speed manual transmission or, optionally, the 6-speed DSG automatic. The 292-horsepower 2.0-liter Golf R has all-wheel drive and is launching with the DSG. A manual transmission will arrive a few months after launch, debuting in 2016 models. Also new is the 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel on the Golf TDI. Like the Golf GTI, the diesel-powered Golf is paired with a 6-speed manual or the optional DSG automatic transmission. All engines feature cast-iron blocks with five main bearings and aluminum heads. Unleaded regular is recommended on the 1.8-liter TSI, while the 2.0-liter GTI and R require premium fuel. The e-Golf uses an electric motor and has an estimated range of 83 miles. It can recharged in about four hours on a 240-volt outlet and is compatible with DC fast-charging stations.
1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4
170 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm
200 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/37 mpg (manual), 26/36 mpg (automatic)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (GTI)
210 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm
220 horsepower @ 4,700 (optional performance pack)
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/34 mpg (manual), 25/33 mpg (automatic)
2.0-liter turbocharged diesel inline-4 (TDI)
150 horsepower @ 3,500 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/45 mpg (manual), 31/43 mpg (automatic)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (Golf R)
292 horsepower @ 5,400 rpm
280 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/31 mpg (manual), 23/30 mpg (automatic)
AC synchronous electric motor (e-Golf)
115 horsepower @ 3,000 rpm
199 lb-ft of torque @ 0-3,000 rpm
EPA-estimated range per full charge: 83 miles
EPA city/highway fuel economy equivalent: 126/105 mpge
VW offers a Golf Launch Edition, a 2-door hatch priced at $18,815 including destination charges, which is competitive against Kia Forte, Ford Focus, Mazda Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza. The S model is $19,815 for a 2-door and $21,815 for the 4-door. SE models start at $25,315 and the top-line SEL starts at $28,815. Diesel models add about $1,000. The sporty GTI starts at $25,215 and tops out at $31,515, which includes the DSG automatic transmission, navigation and automatic air conditioning. The 4-door Golf R starts at $37,415. Models equipped with variable rate shocks, Navigation and 19-inch wheels have an MSRP of $39,910. The e-Golf begins just over $36,000 before incentives and is available in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. Being all-new, resale prices for the 2015 Volkswagen Golf have yet to be forecast, but historically, Golfs tend to play on the weaker side of the residuals field.
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Volkswagen Golf GTI vehicles for sale near you.