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Road Test

 

Volkswagen Golf GT Sport

 

VW do it again!


by Ian Barrett


16th July, 2008

 

Volkswagen Golf GT Sport 
Location: Putney, NSW 
Photography by Stephen Walker

Volkswagen's5th-generation Golf has taken the world by storm and here in Australia the various versions have contributed to a resurgence in Volkswagen Australia's fortunes. As we've said before, the world's 4th-ranked car makerseems unable to put a footwrong. And after a week behind the wheel of the new Golf GT Sport, we can say without too much fear of contradiction, that they've moveda fewmore steps in front of the opposition. For, the Golf GT Sportbrings with it, toour shores, Volkswagen's remarkable new'twin-charged' engine technology, which seems certain to have many an embarrassed rival scrambling to catch up. And that's especially the case when this ground-breaking power plant is combined withVolkswagen's clever DSGtransmission, as fitted to our test vehicle.

Faced with theincreasingly urgentchallengeof combiningadequate performance withreduced fuel usage and emissions, Volkswagen have pushed technology to new limits. Under the direction of Dr Rudolf Krebs,head ofengine research and development, Volkswagen have adopted an "intelligent downsizing" approachto reducing fuel consumption. Reducing engine capacitynaturally reduces internal friction andleads to greater efficiency, but we all know that forhighperformance there's 'no substitute for cubic inches' - don't we? Turning that idea on it's head, Krebs and his team have developed a world first: a twin-charged direct-injection 1.4-litre petrol engine.

The new TSI technology provides abelt-driven supercharger tosignificantlyboosttorqueat lowengine speeds, similar to a turbo-diesel.As engine speed rises, an exhaust-driven turbochargerkicks in to provide plenty of power at high revs. At around 3,500 rpm the supercharger is engaged or disengaged by an electronically controlled magnetic clutch. The result is seamless power delivery from the diminutive engine, which puts out 125 kW @ 6,000 rpm, combined with a hefty 240 Nm of torque@ 1,750 - 4,500 rpm! Put into perspective, these are the kind of numbers usually seenwith a 2.3-litre engine. But without the GT'smiserly fuel consumption of 7.7L/100km (combined).

Volkswagen Golf GT Sport 
Photography by Stephen Walker

How does this translate into the real world? On the road it's just magic. Itreally does feel like 2-litres plus under the bonnet and with adecidedly sporty flavour to boot.I fact, we laughed out loud when we first put our foot down - it'sso good! How about a quoted 0-100 km/h figure of 7.9 seconds, on the way to a flat-out 220 km/h! And the accompanying engine noteis pretty special too. Trundling around suburbia at the lower end of the rev range, with supercharger engaged, reminded us of an original old Beetle with extractors - in a subdued, hi-tech sort ofway!But as the turbocharger cuts in and the engine rushes eagerly toward the 7,000 rpm red-line, it's all very sporty and 21st century.

There's no need to say too much about the 6-speed DSG transmission, which complements the GT Sport beautifully. Is this currently the world's best gearbox? With gearchanges happening in single-figure microseconds,never mindthe option of fingertip manual over-ride, others are already following Volkswagen's lead. And nowrival power-plant engineers will be scrambling to catch up with TSI development. Our only comment regarding this magic combination is that engine performance may be a little 'peaky' for some tastes. But only some! And the abundance of power across the rev range allows for tall gearing. A low 2,600 rpm at 110 km/hmeans relaxed highway cruising.

Needless to say, the Golf chassis is also more than a good match for such a sporting performer. With its low-slung sports suspension and fat tyres on 17" alloy rims, the GT Sport certainly looks like it means business, and it very largely delivers. Handling, steering and general roadholding areall designedto keep owners smiling, in the wet or dry. This car feels like itsGTI stablemate in all but a few tight situations, such as roundabouts, where the slightly softer suspension settings mean it doesn't feel quite as sharp as hotter brother. But this is a great car to drive, offering keen drivers real enjoyment behind the wheel.

The GT Sport is also quite well equipped in usual Volkswagen fashion. The exterior treatment speaks for itself. Inside, the surprisingly roomy cabinhas the usual goodies such aspower windows and mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift, cruise control, climate control air-conditioning, auto-on/off headlights andrain-sensing wipers, to name a few. The read-out for the multi-function trip computer sits within a blue-lit instrument cluster which includes a turbo boost gauge. Unfortunately, thisis in thespot normally occupied bythetemperature gauge!

Volkswagen Golf GT Sport 
Location: Putney, NSW 
Photography by Stephen Walker

We found the sports seats very comfortable and supportive over long distances, with great adjustability. Our test car was nicely trimmedin charcoal grey leather, an option at $2,990. Other options fitted werethe $790audio upgrade, with user-friendly 6-CD changer mounted in the centre console; and satellite navigation at $2,990.

Volkswagen have certainly been facing the challenge of reducing fuel usage, while maintaining motoring enjoyment, very seriously indeed. Is this the dawn of a new age for petrol? Continued dependence on fossil fuels is probably not the way of the future. But the TSI is a viable present-day solution to the new reality of $2/litre fuel. It successfully combines turbo diesel-like economy with the free-revving, clean burning characteristics of petrol, in a very clever way.

The Volkswagen Golf GT Sport does all this in a most enjoyable way. Listed from $34,990 (manual) and $37,290 (DSG) plus on-road costs including 3-year/100,00km warranty with free roadside assist, this is a car whose TSI engine will keep owners smiling while avoiding unnecessary trips to the petrol bowser.

We want one.



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