Panty-Wettingly Sensational, the VW Golf GTd (around $39,900 plus on roads)
I have been waiting an age to get my mitts on this tasty little morsel and I was not going to waste a second of precious time with it. The GTd is the newest of the Golf Mark 6 models. The 2.0l Turbo Diesel gives a decent 125 kw of power and huge 350 nm of torque. I couldn’t wait to jump onboard and go for a really long thrash, errr, a calm and gentle road trip from Sydney to Brisbane. The GTi has long been the favourite of sports car lovers so the diesel could have gone horribly wrong, but VW must have done their homework because the GTd is every bit as much a star as the stunning GTi.
The huge 17” wheels have the merest smear of rubber so it sits very low especially at the front. The diesel model is lower than the petrol sister and the grille doesn’t have the red highlights but other than that, there is little difference. It has a solid look of quality with good panel fit and faultless paint. The side mirrors have enormous LED blinker lamps in them which can be seen from the moon when flashing. It is a very handsome 5 door hatch (in the test car but is also available with 3 doors). VW have avoided my pet hate of having headlamps the size of a small suns wandering half way up the bonnet. It looks ghastly. Instead Golf has a neat set of headlamps, including an awesome set of high beams and daytime running lights with clear lenses round back on the tail lights. To sum up the outside, it HOT!
As with the outside, there is a feeling of quality. And in a nod to GT Golfs of the past, there are touches of chrome and aluminium on the pedals and dashboard and black and white tartan on the seats. The instruments are clear and easy to read and everything is well laid out and easy to use. I always think if you can jump into a car and drive it without having to read the user guide, which usually looks like “War and Peace”, it’s a well designed piece of engineering. I did miss the phone interface which these days is more of a safety issue than a luxury. The cruise control was super easy as was the touch screen radio/media interface. The dual zone climate control was a simple set-and-forget affair with no need for endless phaffing about. I have to mention the seating. When you say “racing seats”, you think of the back breaking no-give-hard-as-nails seats that leave your kidneys battered and your discs ruptured. Not in this car where loads of thought went into the different types of bums that they will have to accommodate. 2 hour rest breaks don’t seem necessary (but take them anyway). They hug firmly so that should you pull 3 g’s in a corner you won’t finish up with your face smeared on the side windows. They are covered in the GT tartan and the whole cabin is a melange of muted monotones in greys and black with only a smidge of red on the dials and radio screen.
There are auxiliary buttons on the steering wheel and column mounted stalks for some functions which mean no taking your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road. Everything is in full sight and is easily read, so no need to consult the oracle when you want to crank up the volume or change the multi function display. With everything squared off and the fun red trim, there is a slight retro thing going on which just adds to the ambience. I love it.
The Drive, a Road trip Syd-Bris
Diesels have come a long way since the gutless, rattly, soot-belching suet puddings of 20 years ago. Apart from a little extra noise under the bonnet, there is little to give the game away until you’re refilling at the pump. On the 2,000 k round trip, the whole package performed faultlessly and was a joy to behold and we easily achieved the claimed 5.5 l/100k so went 1,000 k’s on a single tank. Not too shabby eh?
The test car had the super-slick 6 speed manual which was a bunch of fun especially in the mountains but the DSG semi auto is also very good. Although the clutch took a bit of getting used to, it was very rewarding with each change lifting the nose slightly. The clutch, like the steering, has an odd vague feel but takes only a jiff to master. You might find that you snuff the life out of the motor until you do master the feel, so make sure you turn the key all the way off before you try and restart or you might find yourself on the harbour bridge in peak hour feeling like a bit of a knob because you can’t fire the old girl up. The electric steering, although hugely responsive and direct, provides bugger all road feel. But, once you trust the engineering, the car goes exactly where you point it every time, even when driving a little too enthusiastically on deserted mountain roads.
The real surprise was the engine itself. Under hard acceleration, there was a pleasing growl right up to the bit where all diesel engines reach the ‘flat spot”. At red line, it simply stops accelerating and you think you have broken something. It’s off putting at first, but jump a cog and she is good to go. It feels very much faster than the 8.2 seconds to 100 kph, but maybe that’s just the rosey glasses which I refused to leave at home.
Corners come up fast but the fat tyres stick like glue and the electronics make sure you don’t go spearing off into the underbrush every five minutes. I remember riding in a Peugeot GTi 180 that nearly broke my back in several places. The good handling was achieved by making the ride so hard there was little give in the suspension or the seats. The only cushioning was in your back, but in contrast, the Golf ride is more like a luxury sedan. It is supple and soft yet in corners is firm and reassuring and just gagging for more. Bumps and potholes were soaked up and even roughest sections of the goat track (the Pacific Highway) felt more like a gentle massage from a nubile wench.
There is waterfall lighting in the form of little red LEDs in the over head console and handy footwall lamps. The AUX inputs for your iPhone/Ipod/MP3 player has no inbuilt controls unless you go for the full monty when you order your car then the touch screen will do the lot. I thought I would also mention that like all Euro cars, your highway Etag will only work in the little painted area at the top of your windscreen because of the stuff in the glass interferes with radio waves.
The auto lights and wipers worked very well and got a thorough workout. My only nitpicking gripe would have been the lack of GPS and Bluetooth, but my portable device sorted all that out.
Likes: There is not enough space, or time, to go into the complete list of likes so just let’s say “Everything”
Dislikes: the lack of GPS and Bluetooth but that is just nitpicking.
The conclusion surely must start with the phrase,” OMFG”. If this car was a drag queen, her name would me Miss Sue Perb. I would be ticking the boxes for park assist sensors and GPS/Bluetooth which are worth the extra money. This is, without a doubt, the best sports car under $50k and might just be the best car period for under $50k. Some of you may have seen the ad on the tellie for the standard diesel golf. For a change, the product exactly matched the advertising. It will leave a smile on your face which is worth every penny VW are asking. To buy better, would mean spending almost 3 times the money. Yes Veedubs are expensive, but think of the money you will save not needing any other form of entertainment.
If it sounds like I am a walking advert for the GTd, I apologise, DO I BUGGER! There simply is not a better drive for this price, unless of course you’re considering a Golf GTi…
Other cars in the same price bracket
Peugeot 308 Diesel, Holden Commodore, Mazda 6, Honda Accord Euro to name but a few.
General Car Buying Tips
As always we try and impart a few pearls to steer you in the right direction. The sales staff will point out the features of the vehicle so take a brochure to remember what you’ve been shown. It is always worthwhile doing a quick online search to find any known faults or other issues. Perhaps you may fall across a great deal. Importantly, know your options. Is it the car you really want? I was once told that only full sized spare tyres were safe and that steering wheel buttons set off airbags, so you have to use your nut. If something sounds like bollocks, it probably is.