The car that defined the term “hot hatch” embodies a classic formula: refinement, style, power, and playful performance. It’s a package that has met with great success since the GTI’s U.S. debut in 1983, with the 2015 Golf GTI winning the 2015 North American Car of the Year, along with the Golf. The GTI has been awarded more than a dozen times since its redesign last year.
New for 2016
After a ground-up redesign for 2015, the Golf GTI continues to add to its value package for model year 2016. The addition of a new infotainment system for 2016 provides a comprehensive suite of connectivity features. Volkswagen Group of America is one of the first in the industry to support all three available connected car systems: Apple CarPlay®, Android Auto™ and MirrorLink®. The new MIB II system offers USB and VW-Car Net® App-Connect, allowing owners with these systems to access select apps from their smartphones directly through the vehicle’s head unit. VW Car-Net’s connected vehicle services umbrella also includes connected car services, advanced telematics, and enhanced navigation available by subscription.
For 2016, a rearview camera comes standard on all models. The Driver Assistance Package (available on SE and Autobahn models) has been updated to include a number of new technologies, including Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), Lane Departure Warning (Lane Assist), Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert, and Parking Steering Assistant (Park Assist).
The seventh-generation car is wrapped in sheetmetal that is totally modern yet equally unmistakable as a Volkswagen Golf GTI. The shape and design elements remain as defined as ever, with a distinctive C-pillar and roofline framing classic Golf GTI side windows, but the striking new front end and steeply sloped hood leave no doubt this is different from previous generations.
The look is further accentuated by the sharper headlight clusters and the bright-red horizontal graphic that runs through the optional Bi-Xenon headlights, as well as by the narrower grille, which now leads to a strong character line that travels along the side and all the way back to the taillight clusters, only breaking for the wheelarches. Just above, another body line can be traced from the rear side window all the way back up to the headlights and front horizontal graphic. These subtle body lines help create a poised yet elegant appearance.
In addition to the red-colored horizontal highlight on the grille, the 2016 Golf GTI has several other visual differences from its conventional Golf brethren. The lower front fascia incorporates standard LED foglights housed within a series of horizontal strakes on either side of a unique mesh pattern grille. Red-painted brake calipers peek behind bespoke GTI wheels and subtle side skirts help to give the GTI a more planted appearance. Around back, bright exhaust tips sit on either side of a unique rear diffuser, and a roof spoiler further differentiate the car.
Dimensionally, the Golf GTI grew for 2015 in all directions but up. Overall length increased by 2.1 inches, while width gained 0.5 inches. Overall height decreased, however, by 1.1 inches, making the car look more ready to pounce than ever. Thanks to the MQB architecture, which dictates a fixed relationship between the front-wheel centerline and the pedalbox, the front wheels sit 1.7 inches further forward, giving a premium “cab backward” aesthetic.
Along with the design graphics and shape, these proportions help the Golf GTI achieve a lower visual center of gravity and a more dynamic stance, helped by a sport suspension that lowers the car by 0.6 inches compared with a regular Golf. The Golf GTI is equipped with large 18-inch wheels as standard equipment, wrapped in standard all-season or optional 225/40 summer performance tires. A panoramic power tilt and slide sunroof is standard equipment on the SE and Autobahn models.
A stand-alone Lighting Package is available for $995 for all three Golf GTI trim levels: it consists of Bi-Xenon headlights and LED Daytime Running Lights, as well as Volkswagen’s Adaptive Front-lighting System. This system swivels the main headlight beams by up to 15 degrees as the steering wheel is turned to help illuminate bends in the road more effectively at speeds of more than 6 mph. Automatic rain-sensing windshield wipers are standard on SE models and above, along with automatic headlights.
The large, mature cabin has an emphasis on comfort and a substantial features list. Despite the Golf GTI’s lower overall height, interior space increased all around in 2015, with 93.5 cubic feet of interior room, 16.5 cubic feet up to the parcel shelf and 22.8 cu ft to the roof. That’s more luggage room than even the largest mid-size sedan. The versatility of the load space is enhanced by a trunk floor that can be raised or lowered by 3.9 inches, while the 60:40 split backrest can be folded to give an almost flat cargo area that can easily accommodates a full-size bicycle. With the rear seats folded, the Golf GTI now has 52.7 cu ft of cargo capacity.
In addition to the spacious interior, many of the driver controls are positioned for optimum ergonomics and usability. The seat position, height of the shifter and the spacing between the pedals are fine-tuned for driver comfort. This new driver-centric design focus is evident from the center stack, which is now angled towards the driver—a trait frequently seen in premium luxury or performance vehicles.
The Golf GTI’s premium performance personality is further accentuated by the red ambient lighting and illuminated door sills; black headliner and trim inserts; buttons and switches that are backlit in white; and the use of premium materials and soft-touch plastics throughout. A GTI-specific instrument cluster, sporty aluminum-look pedals, the unique shifter knob, and the flat-bottomed sport steering wheel also ensure differentiation from its less sporty siblings.
An equal amount of attention has been paid to helping maximize comfort and convenience. The standard front sport seats, with classic GTI “Clark” plaid seating surfaces, are heatable, and there are six cupholders. Cruise control switches and media controls are housed on the leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel.
The Golf GTI S, which starts at $24,995 (plus $820 destination charge) for the two-door model with manual transmission, includes a rearview camera, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, ambient and footwell lighting with LED reading lights, LED foglights, and Driving Mode Selection.
On top of the standard features of the Golf GTI S, all SE models are equipped with Keyless access with push-button access, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers, and the highly acclaimed Fender® Premium Audio System, as well as leather seating surfaces and a panoramic power tilt and slide sunroof. The top-of-the-line Autobahn variants add the navigation system, Climatronic® automatic climate control, and a 12-way power driver’s seat.
One of the most significant advances in the 2016 Golf GTI comes in the form of its new MIB II touchscreen infotainment system. The all-new infotainment system not only creates the foundation for the next generation of Volkswagen’s Car-Net connected vehicle services platform, but also offers one of the most comprehensive suites of connected vehicle services and features available in the automotive industry today. Features available through the new Car-Net are divided into three key areas, “App-Connect,” “Security & Service,” and “Guide & Inform.”
App-Connect. The Composition Media unit is available on the S and SE models. Featuring an 800×480 capacitive color touch display with proximity sensor, with a 6.5-inch screen, standard features include AUX-in, SD card slots, and a USB multimedia interface with Apple iPhone® and iPod® compatibility, reverse camera display, and Bluetooth® technology with the ability to send and receive SMS text messages with compatible phones, sync two phones simultaneously, App-Connect smartphone integration, two SD card slots, and a JPEG viewer, SiriusXM® Satellite Radio, HD Radio and support for lossless audio file format (Free Lossless Audio Codec FLAC).
Autobahn models feature the Discover Media unit, which captures the features available in the previous two units and adds 2.5D Navigation, one-shot voice destination entry, predicts possible destinations based on often used routes, and Destination Entry with Quick Search and Auto-complete, and Car-Net Guide & Inform.
Security & Service. Consumers have the ability to access the Car-Net Security & Service suite through the innovative online Customer Web Portal as well as an advanced app for smartphones, providing access to all the features available from virtually anywhere your mobile device is connected to wireless internet.
Available security related features include Automatic Crash Notification, which automatically notifies an operator who can quickly contact first responders in the event of an collision; Manual Emergency Call, a feature that allows for quick access to customer specialists at the touch of a button; Roadside Assistance, for added peace-of-mind in the event of trouble on the road; and Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance, which uses Car-Net Security & Service to assist law enforcement with locating your vehicle in the event that it is stolen.
In addition, VW Car-Net Security & Service offers other new features for 2016 model year including new layers of convenience such as remote vehicle access, remote door lock and unlock, remote honk and flash (of lights), last parked location information, and remote status check (doors and windows). Consumers will also be able to send a location from their connected smart device to the factory-installed compatible navigation system on select models. For consumers that prefer a more personal touch, agent destination assist is also available.
The Car-Net Security & Service also offers Family Guardian, a suite of features that help families. Features including speed alert, which notifies the owner of the vehicle when the pre-determined maximum speed limit is exceeded; and boundary alert, which lets you know when the vehicle has traveled outside of a pre-set virtual boundary.
Diagnostics and maintenance information is also available through Car-Net. A Vehicle Health Report allows Volkswagen customers to quickly check to see if their vehicle is in proper running order. When it’s time for scheduled service, Car-Net Security & Service not only notifies the customer, but provides a simple way to schedule a dealer visit. It can even identify the closest dealer in case you need a recommendation.
Available later this year, the VW Car-Net app for Apple Watch will allow VW customers to control a host of features and functions available through the iPhone app and Customer Web Portal, directly from their wrist. Apple Watch wearers can keep an eye on their vehicle from afar, remotely locking and unlocking doors and viewing the status of doors, windows and sunroof (open or closed). Consumers will also be able to find a parked vehicle quickly, with a map of the current vehicle location, walking or driving directions to the vehicle, and the ability to honk the horn and flash the lights remotely. Drivers will be able to check their fuel level from the Apple Watch as well. As with the Car-Net app for iPhone, Apple Watch wearers will also be able to receive alerts directly to their Apple Watch from the app.
Guide & Inform. Car-Net Guide & Inform offers an enhanced navigation and infotainment experience for VW consumers. Volkswagen has incorporated technologies that enhance existing navigation offerings while adding an additional level of information that empowers consumers.
Satellite navigation is refined with Car-Net Guide & Inform, incorporating several layers of information right onto the screen. MIB II-equipped Volkswagen models with in-vehicle navigation systems will now feature real-time fuel prices, sports scores, movie information and weather data as part of the three month SiriusXM Travel Link trial. VW customers will also enjoy real-time traffic information and a complimentary four-year SiriusXM Traffic trial.
Customers purchasing new Volkswagen models equipped with VW Car-Net connected vehicle services (not including App-Connect) will receive a no-charge trial for six months after purchase. To extend the benefits of this connectivity system, customers can choose from a number of VW Car-Net payment options: 1 year, for $199; 2 years for $378; 3 years for $540; or, month-to-month, for $17.99. App-Connect can be used free-of-charge and is not included as part of the subscription-based services.
In classic Volkswagen style, the Golf GTI is powered by a compact turbocharged engine. The 2.0-liter TSI® turbocharged and direct-injection unit that powers the Golf GTI is a member of the latest, third-generation EA888 engine family and is built in Volkswagen’s state-of-the-art factory in Silao, Mexico. The EA888 engine line is a masterpiece of modern engine design that provides high levels of performance, efficiency, and drivability in a lightweight, compact package.
The EA888 engine produces 210 horsepower at 4,500 rpm, and torque peaks at 258 lb-ft, beginning at just 1,500 rpm and lasting until 4,500 rpm. The available Performance Package modifies the engine programming to hold peak torque for an extra 200 rpm, enabling the EA888 to produce an extra 10 horsepower for a total of 220 at 4,700 rpm.
When equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, the Golf GTI records an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 25 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. When equipped with the optional six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, EPA estimated fuel economy ratings are 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. The DSG transmission also incorporates a launch control feature.
Augmenting the EA888’s 16-valve, dual-overhead-camshaft layout is the latest variable cam phasing system, which controls both intake and exhaust valves, as well as a variable lift system for the valves themselves. The single-scroll turbocharger (commonly engineered by IHI and Volkswagen) feeds intercooled air through the aluminum-alloy crossflow cylinder head. Fuel is delivered by the latest high-pressure direct-fuel-injection system at 2,900 pounds per square inch, compared to 2,176 psi on the previous EA888 engine.
The new engine is designed to be both lighter than the old unit and also to help reduce friction. Weight is reduced thanks to a combination of compact design, streamlined componentry, and a focus on lightweight materials. The cast-iron engine block uses a wall thickness of just 0.12 inches to reduce its weight to 72 pounds, while a lightweight polymer oilpan and aluminum-alloy screws and fasteners also trim mass. Other changes that help the engine to shed pounds include a reduction from eight to four crankshaft counterweights. Internal friction is reduced due to measures such as roller bearings for the engine’s balancer shafts and a reduction in the size of the engine’s main bearings.
The engine is also extremely compact, illustrated by the way in which the exhaust headers have been integrated directly into the cylinder head. This not only improves the system coolant operation (aiding rapid warm-up, which helps improve efficiency), but it also allows greater thermal management of the exhaust stream. This, along with a turbocharger that can withstand extremely high exhaust temperatures, means the forced-induction system doesn’t require complex fuel enrichments under high load, helping improve both efficiency and longevity.
The A7 Golf GTI is the first U.S.-market vehicle built on Volkswagen’s MQB modular platform. The unitary construction chassis has two solid-mounted subframes with bolt-on front fenders, and utilizes new technologies such as the laser clamp welder, which produces “wobble seam” welds in a wave pattern to maximize strength in a limited space, offering up to four times the strength of a traditional spot weld.
The Golf GTI’s stamped steel body and chassis now boasts 28-percent of its parts in high-strength, hot-formed steel. This technology allows much of the chassis and body to be constructed from thinner and lighter parts without any loss in strength. Thanks to the use of selective thickness for parts, a single component can be tailor-rolled to have as many as 11 zones of varying thicknesses.
The Golf GTI features a strut-type front suspension with lower control arms and a multilink rear suspension, both of which are controlled by coil springs with telescopic dampers. The Golf GTI has a lowered sport suspension, which is 0.6 inches lower than the Golf TSI and TDI® Clean Diesel models. The front suspension includes a 24-millimeter anti-roll bar while the rear has a 20-millimeter version, 2 mm larger at the front and 1 mm thicker at the back compared with a regular Golf TSI model.
The Golf GTI can also be ordered with the latest version of the Volkswagen DCC® adaptive damping system, which manages the suspension’s rebound and compression rates individually, helping to improve vehicle dynamics. This feature is only available on SE and Autobahn models fitted with the optional Performance Package.
The 2016 Golf GTI comes equipped with large 12.4-inch vented front discs and 10.7-inch solid rear discs with standard three-channel ABS with electronic brake pressure distribution. Opting for the Performance Package increases brake disc size even further, to 13.4-inch front and 12.2-inch rear vented discs, with single-piston calipers all around.
All 2016 Golf GTI models are equipped with the XDS®+ Cross Differential System. This technology acts somewhat like an electronic substitute for a traditional mechanical limited-slip differential, working by actively monitoring data from each wheel sensor. If the suspension becomes unloaded, the system automatically applies braking to the driven inside wheel as needed to reduce understeer (the tendency for the front wheels to run wide). This not only helps keep the Golf on the road, but can also improve handling and cornering performance.
The Driving Mode Selection feature was introduced in 2015 for the seventh-generation Golf GTI. There are three modes on cars with the standard sport suspension: “Normal”, “Sport”, and “Individual”. The DCC adaptive damping system adds a “Comfort” mode. Normal and Sport have a different steering heft and throttle response, while Individual allows a driver to tailor the steering and throttle to their own liking, as well as adjust the front lighting on cars fitted with the Lighting Package. On cars with the DSG transmission, the Sport mode gives more aggressive shifts. With the DCC system, Comfort mode puts the dampers in their softest setting for a smooth highway ride and to their firmest setting in Sport for better cornering performance.
Another standout feature on the Golf GTI is the ESC Sport function for very experienced drivers for use on closed courses, such as a racetrack. The system is activated by a two-stage switch on the center console. If the driver pushes the button once briefly, the ASR (traction control) function is deactivated. When the button is pressed longer than three seconds, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) switches to the ESC Sport mode. In high-speed driving, such as on a racetrack, the ESC system operates at a higher threshold for even more agile handling. ESC can also be activated through the “CAR” settings menu.
On Golf GTI models equipped with the optional Performance Package, a torque-sensing limited-slip differential dubbed VAQ is fitted. This electronically-controlled differential works in concert with the existing stability systems (including the related brake-based XDS+ electronic differential lock) and helps improve traction and performance. Tests at the Nürburgring Nordschleife track have shown lap-time improvements of more than eight seconds on cars equipped with the differential.
The VAQ acts as a traditional limited-slip differential—which reacts by transferring a set amount of torque to non-slipping wheels when others lose traction—but adds to its effectiveness by monitoring the data from each wheel sensor at all times. Since this data includes both vehicle and wheel speed, as well as yaw and lateral g-force, the system constantly makes precise adjustments to help maintain an optimum torque balance between the left and right front wheels. Up to a full 100 percent of torque can be transferred to either side, as opposed to the fixed “best guess” percentage seen in traditional limited-slip differentials. The result of this proactive (rather than reactive) system is the elimination of the understeer and torque steer that can afflict sporty front-wheel-drive cars.
The Golf GTI also features the Progressive electric power steering system. This is an elegant solution to a common problem with steering systems, which is that different speeds and maneuvers ideally require different steering rates. In this case, Volkswagen has spaced the teeth on the steering gear’s rack more tightly towards the center. The lower steering ratio in the center means that the car responds more quickly when entering a turn, while the higher ratio at the ends of the rack reduces the amount of effort needed near full steering lock, such as when parking. The steering wheel goes from lock to lock in just 2.1 turns, whereas the standard Golf needs 2.76 turns.
To help keep the occupants safe, the Golf GTI provides a combination of both passive and active safety systems. The Golf GTI has been engineered to meet or exceed all current crash regulations and features no fewer than six airbags as standard along with a number of electronic and mechanical safety systems, including standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
Volkswagen’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking System is standard on the 2016 Golf GTI. This builds on the premise that a collision is rarely a single, instantaneous action, but rather a series of events that follow the initial impact—the most significant of which can cause additional collisions. The Automatic Post-Collision Braking System addresses this by applying the brakes when a primary collision is detected by the airbag sensors, thus helping reduce residual kinetic energy and, in turn, the chance of additional damage.
The GTI also includes Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System that shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors, and switches on the hazard lights if the car is involved in certain types of collisions.
Driver Assistance Systems
SE and Autobahn Golf GTI models are available with the Driver Assistance Package, which adds Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), Lane Departure Warning (Lane Assist), Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert, Park Distance Control (Park Pilot), and Parking Steering Assistant (Park Assist).
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) uses forward facing radar to maintain a set speed while helping maintain a set distance to the vehicle in front. The driver sets the speed and the desired spacing via buttons on the multifunction steering wheel and can use the accelerator, brake pedal, or steering wheel to cancel or override the ACC function. All system messages appear in the central multifunction display.
When the roadway ahead of the vehicle is empty, the system maintains the set speed. GTI models fitted with DSG transmissions and ACC can match a vehicle in front and come to a stop, as well as resume ACC control after the driver presses the accelerator pedal or the “resume” button on the steering wheel. On manual transmission GTI models, the ACC ceases to operate below 19 mph.
Within physical system limits, Forward Collision Warning helps warn the driver of critical front-end collision situations, both acoustically and visually by a warning symbol in the instrument cluster, and, if necessary, Autonomous Emergency Braking is activated to slow the vehicle if the driver fails to brake. If the brake pedal is applied but the driver brakes too lightly, the brake pressure is increased by the system (Braking Support).
If there is an indication that the vehicle is unintentionally straying from its lane, the Lane Departure Warning system actively countersteers to help keep the vehicle in the lane above 40 mph. The system’s camera recognizes visible lane markings (one side suffices) and, using a special algorithm, calculates the risk of the car leaving the lane. If the driver takes their hands off the wheel for a defined period of time, or the vehicle crosses a lane marking without use of a turn signal, the system provides an audible warning and a visual signal in the instrument cluster, asking the driver to take over.
The system works in the dark and/or in fog, but will not engage if it cannot properly detect lane markings. If the turn signal has been set before crossing a lane marking, the Lane Departure Warning system will not engage or give a warning. The driver can “override” the system at any time by applying minimal force, and is not relieved of responsibility to make conscious driving decisions.
Blind Spot Monitor uses two radar sensors at the rear of the vehicle to scan the approaching traffic and help warn drivers of potential danger in adjacent lanes. If the driver uses the turn signal to indicate a lane change while a vehicle is detected in a blind spot, the system utilizes a flashing LED symbol in the outer area of the side mirrors.
The system is designed to help alert drivers in specific situations; stationary objects or oncoming vehicles do not trigger warnings, nor will vehicles more than one lane across.
The Rear Traffic Alert system not only helps alert the driver to stationary and moving vehicles directly behind, but also helps detect vehicles approaching from the side that may be difficult for the driver to see while reversing. It offers a sizable range of about 65 to 80 feet, depending on model, and will present a visual and an acoustic warning, before applying the brakes if a potential impending collision is detected. The system is activated either by selecting reverse gear or by the optional Park Distance Control when starting off.
Park Distance Control (Park Pilot) uses ultrasonic sensors located in the front and rear bumpers to monitor a range of up to five feet in front or behind the vehicle. The system is activated when reverse gear is engaged or below a speed of 9 mph and helps provide guidance when parking or in tight situations. The system has audible and visual warnings when the car starts to approach parked cars or static objects from the front or rear.
The Parking Steering Assistant automatically steers the car into parallel and perpendicular parking spaces in reverse. After pressing the Park Assist button—once for parallel and twice for perpendicular—the driver only needs to activate the accelerator pedal and brake once a gear is selected, as Park Assist automatically helps steer the vehicle into the parking space.
The driver can override or deactivate the steering assistance at any time by turning the steering wheel, disengaging reverse gear or pressing the button. Below 25 mph, the system scans both the left-hand and right-hand sides of the road, for example in a one-way street, for any parking spaces as it drives past. By activating the turn signal, the driver stipulates which side of the road they wish to park on.
All 2016 Golf GTI models are offered with Volkswagen’s standard five-year/60,000-mile powertrain limited warranty and three-year/36,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty.
The Golf GTI S begins at $24,995 (plus destination and delivery) for the two-door model and $25,595 for the four-door, both with six-speed manual transmission. The dual-clutch DSG transmission in either configuration costs an additional $1,100. This base model comes incredibly well-equipped and includes: the 210-hp 2.0-liter TSI engine; 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; Bluetooth connectivity; a rearview camera; a MIB II Composition Media touchscreen infotainment system with USB, VW Car-Net App-Connect and a 6.5-inch display; Sirius XM Satellite Radio; a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, handbrake, and shifter knob; VW Car-Net connected vehicle services; ambient and footwell lighting with LED reading lights; cloth sport seats with heritage GTI design; LED foglights; heatable front seats; and Driving Mode Selection feature.
The Performance Package includes: larger front and rear brakes, a torque-sensing electronically-controlled limited-slip differential, and a 10 horsepower boost over the regular GTI, for $1,495. A Lighting Package is available for $995 and adds Bi-Xenon headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights and the Adaptive Front-lighting System.
The SE lies in the middle of the Golf GTI range, beginning at $28,025 for the two-door model and $28,625 for the four-door version. As with the Golf GTI S, the six-speed manual transmission can be replaced with the DSG automatic for $1,100. The SE includes all the features of the S and adds: a power tilt and slide sunroof; Keyless access with push-button start; automatic headlights; rain-sensing windshield wipers; the Fender Premium Audio System; and leather seating surfaces. It can be ordered with the Performance Package and Lighting Package. The DCC adaptive damping system ($800) is available with the Performance Package ($1,495) at this trim level. The $1,495 Driver Assistance Package adds Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), Lane Departure Warning (Lane Assist), Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert, Park Distance Control (Park Pilot), and Parking Steering Assistant (Park Assist).
The Autobahn trim once again sits at the top of the Golf GTI lineup, and begins at $30,135 for the four-door with six-speed manual transmission. There is no two-door option, but the DSG automatic transmission is available for $1,100. This model adds a navigation system, a 12-way power driver’s seat, and Climatronic automatic air conditioning to the list of standard equipment on the SE. As with the SE model, it can be optionally equipped with the Driver Assistance Package, Lighting Package, and Performance Package, with or without the DCC system.