You get a lot of benefit from a little upgrade package in the Volkswagen Golf GTI Peformance.
Base price: $65,500.
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four, 169kW/350Nm, 6-speed automated dual-clutch gearbox, front-drive, Combined economy 6.4 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 6.4 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4255mm long, 1450mm high, luggage capacity 380 litres, fuel tank 50 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/40 tyres.
We like: Performance pack pleases enthusiasts, GTI is a great base to build upon.
We don’t like: Expensive, especially with options, contrived engine note in sport mode.
How it rates: 9/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The Golf GTI is a car we know well already. But this highly acclaimed hot-hatch gets just a little more serious in the new Performance model.
For an extra $4510 over the standard GTI, the Performance adds an extra 7kW, larger disc brakes, an electronically controlled differential lock, DCC adaptive chassis control and bi-xenon headlights.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The GTI strikes a great balance between everyday usability and sporting prowess. What the Performance model does is increase the car’s ability to thrill.
Don’t be too distracted by the extra 7kW power: that’s probably more useful for marketing purposes than actual driving, especially when the peak torque figure of 350Nm is unchanged (although it does extend 200rpm further up the rev range).
The front differential lock and uprated brakes are what really transform the GTI Performance. The Golf 7 already has a pseudo diff-lock, which Volkswagen calls XDS. It’s really just an extension of the traction control and while it works fine on the lesser-powered models, it does sometimes struggle to contain the GTI’s power.
Not so the mechanical differential lock fitted to the Performance, which does a mighty job of getting the car’s considerable power down the ground in tight corners. In fact, it can send up to 100 percent of power to one wheel if necessary.
Because it works so well, VW has also been able to keep the GTI’s suspension relatively compliant – although the main function of the hardware is to enable you to drive harder and faster.
We’ve tried the GTI Performance on both road and track and it’s equally impressive in either environment. The bigger brakes complete the picture, because what goes fast must also be able to stop. The whole package inspires a great deal of confidence and makes the GTI Performance a great driver’s car: one with a ferocious dynamic character when required, but not at the expense of finesse.
The Performance also comes with the DCC adaptive chassis package, which includes driver profile selection. This means that you can choose between economy, normal and sport modes, which alters the calibration of the steering, powertrain and suspension. But as with Audi’s Drive Select, you can also mix and match: sport powertrain with normal suspension, and so on. It allows you to tailor the car just-so, although the extremes between each setting aren’t massive. Even in its most aggressive setting, the suspension is still fine for everyday driving.
Sport mode for the powertrain does make the DSG transmission a little angry: it holds onto gears far too long unless you’re really roaring along, although the snappy shifts (with accompanying ‘boom’ as the clutches change guard) is endlessly entertaining.
Not so sure about the fake noise that’s piped into the cabin in sport, though. It’s a bit gruff and ultimately intrusive.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The beauty of a hot-hatch is that you lose virtually nothing in practicality compared with a regular small car. The Golf 7 is a pretty polished hatchback even in its entry-level form, so the GTI Performance simply builds more luxury and sporting appeal into an already excellent package.
There’s a lot of shiny stuff surrounding you in the driver’s seat, which may not be to all tastes. But there’s certainly a premium feel to the cabin. There are plenty of pleasing textures and novel features like a touch-screen that has a proximity sensor: as your finger gets close to the unit, the menus expand and extra graphics appear.
Our test car had a bit of extra class, with a $3750 Vienna leather upholstery package, as well as the larger eight-inch screen (the standard unit is 5.8in) for $2750. Tempting, although you can see how the price of your Performance could easily climb into the stratosphere.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? Not if you’re looking for extra status in your street: there’s very little to identify the GTI Performance from the standard model, unless you notice the bigger brakes or the bi-xenon lights, which have the red trim from the grille running through them.
The GTI Performance is for enthusiasts who actually want to use the car’s extra capabilities and those who do will be richly rewarded. Our only real reservation about the regular GTI is that it lacks the edge that makes a hot-hatch truly exciting, but the subtle changes to the Performance go a long way towards addressing those concerns. It’s simply brilliant, losing nothing in practicality but adding a whole lot of driver appeal. Really, the thing stopping the GTI Performance from scoring a perfect 10 is the price: it’s good value compared with the standard GTI but dangerously close to the 199kW, four-wheel drive Golf R ($70,990).
Then again, you could easily argue that the GTI Performance is actually a more rewarding road car than its more powerful sibling. But that’s a story for another day.
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Blind spot warning: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Gas discharge headlights: Bi-xenon
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: Heating only with $3750 leather upholstery
- Keyless entry/start: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Leather upholstery: $3750 with heated front seats
- Parking radar: Yes with camera
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/no
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: $750
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Trip computer: Yes
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