If you were to ask me what generation is my favorite GTI, I’d answer Mk2 without blinking. If you asked me what GTI I’d want as a daily driver, I’d unhesitatingly say Mk7. The sentimental side of my brain may have an irrational love for the older car, but the rational +side realizes that the fastest, most refined GTI ever would be the only choice for commuting and for track days.
Although this new generation GTI is packed with technology, at its core it remains a GTI. Fanatics have been clamoring for a limited-slip differential since the Mk3 VR6, and they’re finally getting one. It isn’t like the Torsen or clutch-pack diffs common to the tuning industry, but the GTI uses an open diff augmented with an external clutch-pack locking unit. The advantage is that the diff can now be coupled to the stability control and be adjusted in real time according to driving conditions. In high steering angle, low throttle situations, it can be fully open, while in a straight line, it can be fully locked. And unlike a regular LSD, it can select any locking percentage in between.
The trick differential came in handy when dealing with the Mk7’s substantial increase in torque: it has an extra 51 lb-ft over the previous car. Horsepower is also up to 210 hp, with an additional 10hp with the optional Performance Package.
The engine itself is 8 lb lighter thanks to a thinwalled crankcase, plastic oilpan, lighter turbo housing and aluminum fasteners. It also has variable valve lift, with two-stage lift on the exhaust side, as well as a new head design with a water-cooled exhaust circulation loop to reduce MPG under heavy loads. Technology such as this and further weight saving measures means the GTI is projected to return an impressive 34mpg on the highway.
In Europe, the Performance Package will also include a brake upgrade to 13.4" rotors from the standard 12.4", plus the previously mentioned LSD. And while VW has committed to bringing the Performance Package to the US, it remains uncertain whether it will be a stand-alone option or a separate model level.
The Mk7 will be the first VW in the US to use the MQB platform. Although the new car has a larger footprint, it’s roughly 100 lb lighter than the outgoing Mk6 thanks to 22% ultra-high strength, hot-formed steel used in the unibody.
Parts like an ultra-high strength steel front subframe and suspension arms save 4 lb up front, while a hollow anti-roll bar saves a little more. There aren’t huge weight savings in any one place, but the entire car has been optimized.
On the road, the new GTI feels familiar, but improved. The car rotates better than the Mk6 and is less of a point-and-shoot car.
While the Mk6 could be turned-in and would chase after the cornering line, the back-end always seemed to follow along while the action happened up front. In the Mk7 GTI, however, it now operates as a single unit. The GTI has better fluidity in direction changes, rather than being so abrupt. The extra torque is immediately noticeable and, unlike past GTIs, everything the engine produces is put to the ground. In fact, tire spin is almost nonexistent.
It isn’t just about being a better driver’s car, though. The Mk7 is also the quietest and most comfortable GTI ever. Cars like the Focus ST and MazdaSpeed3 aren’t in the same league in terms of refinement; the GTI is closer to 3 Series or A4 quality.
VW hasn’t announced GTI pricing yet but it’s said to be similar to the current model. The new car won’t hit dealerships until the first half of 2014, when it will not only be the best GTI ever but also the best value.
2015 VW GTI
Engine Gen 3 EA888 2.0-liter four-cylinder DOHC 16v TSI direct injection turbocharged, variable valve lift
Drivetrain six-speed DSG automatic or manual transmission, XDS+ electronic diff lock, optional torque-sensing LSD
Brakes 12.4" rotors f, 11.8" rotors r
Suspension MacPherson strut f, independent r
Wheels & Tires 18x7.5", 225/40 R18
Torque 258 lb-ft at 1500-4400rpm
Top Speed 152mph
Weight 2978 lb
Economy 24/34/27mpg (city/highway/combined - estimated)