Test Drive: 2010 Volkswagen GTI

Palo Alto, Calif. — A Volkswagen representative met me at the airport and rather than being driven to the hotel, I was dropped into the driver?s seat of the new GTI and handed directions to the hotel ? the long way.

What a great way to be introduced to Volkswagen?s latest iteration of the hot hatchback.? Pulling south onto the infamous Highway 101 is always a challenge with five lanes of traffic moving up to about 75 mph ?– it?s organized chaos. ?I was ready for the challenge and the new GTI didn?t disappoint, accelerating quickly up to the speed of traffic. Volkswagen says this new version dashes to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, with the top speed limited to 130 mph.

My route to the hotel meandered through the Santa Cruz Mountains on roads less traveled,? wrapping through the hills and valleys.? It was a perfect display of the fantastic GTI handling.? Pushing hard at times, the GTI doesn?t scream at corners; it carves them with skier-like precision.? Even though the GTI is a puller (front-wheel drive), there was only a hint of torque steer.

Volkswagen?s award winning 200-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is under the hood, with a choice of standard six-speed manual transmission or the quick shifting DSG twin clutch six-speed automatic with Tiptronic and paddle shifters. ?With the efficient DSG transmission, the GTI gets an EPA fuel economy rating of 24 mpg city and 32 mpg.? The manual transmission is rated at 21/32 mpg.

I like the look and the new GTI.? It is about a simple and clean as they come.? Available in a two- and four-door hatchback the new GTI, which is labeled Mk VI for the sixth generation, takes styling cues from the Mk I and later models with the simple lines, small rear spoiler and aggressive front stance.? Because of the special nature of this model, the GTI has an extensive list of standard features like cruise, air conditioning, power windows and locks, 17-inch alloy wheels along with all the performance enhancements.

Pricing starts at $23,990, including the destination charge, for the two-door with a manual transmission. ?The four-door is $600 more and the DSG transmission adds $1,100. Significant option packages include the Autobahn package (leather seating, power sunroof and sport seats) — $2,795; 18-inch alloy wheels with summer tires — $890; Bi-Xenon headlights — $700; navigation — $1,750 and Dynaudio premium audio — $476.? A fully loaded the GTI four-door DSG price peaks at about $32,000.

[Rating:9/10]

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