With VW leading the way in US diesel sales, there’s always been one question on our minds. While we’ve enjoyed the Jetta and Golf TDI models, we’ve always lusted after the European GTD variant that blends GTI style with turbo-diesel economy and longevity.
Well it appears VW either read our minds or heard our prayers because they flew us out to Berlin to sample the new European Golf GTD. This is based on the latest Mk7 MQB platform, which is part of VW’s new modular construction technology and offers several advantages over the outgoing Mk6 monocoque.
After listening to several technical and marketing briefings, it looks as if the North American GTD will be a 2016 model, although Volkswagen of America representatives stressed that this was an estimate ahead of final approval for the car’s introduction. But since we reasoned they wouldn’t have flown us all this way if the car wasn’t coming, we’ll proceed under the assumption that it will!
This European Mk7 GTD boasts 184hp and 280 lb-ft from its 2.0L turbo-diesel – that’s up 14hp and 28 lb-ft on the Mk6 model, yet achieves 56mpg on the European test cycle. Of course, it remains to be seen whether the US version would maintain exactly the same specification. However, we decided to strap ourselves into a six-speed manual GTD and hit the streets of Berlin.
To our delight and expectation, the low-end torque had us zipping through the city streets like a cyclist on cocaine. We couldn’t get enough of the power delivery and smooth shifting gearbox.
The gearing is shorter than the GTI to compensate for the 5000rpm redline, so rattling through the six gears was quicker than expected. This could have caused some problems on the autobahn, but simply planting your foot in sixth allowed us to overtake all obstacles.
As we entered the unrestricted speed zones on the A2 autobahn, we found ourselves grinning like hyenas as we reached terminal velocity within a very short time. There’s an enormous satisfaction in hitting a 143mph speed limiter on public roads and not risk punishment in the process.
Our route would divert into the picturesque Harz Mountains, where we could drop a few gears and see how the new adaptive damping of the Dynamic Chassis Control (not previously available in the US) would handle the twisty roads when set in Sport mode. With its lighter and longer chassis, plus being 0.6" lower than a regular Golf, we would see how the electronic XDS+ limited-slip diff and variable ratio steering of the GTD would hold up.
Its GTI-inspired suspension kept body roll to a minimum, with precise corner entry. Thanks to its prodigious torque, the car had true point-and-shoot ability. While a touch of inevitable understeer was detected, the GTD behaved similarly to its GTI counterpart, and provided one of the most pleasurable diesel driving experiences we’ve yet had.
One anomaly was the engine noise, or rather the simulated sound of a gasoline engine piped into the cabin. Because we were unfamiliar with the system, it could become confusing where you were in the power band when overtaking or downshifting into a corner. We found ourselves leaving our foot planted because the engine noise suggested we still had more to come, yet the engine had actually run out of puff and required another gear.
If you overlooked that oddity, the rest of the car was a delight. The cabin, for example, was dominated by the larger, revamped (optional) touchscreen infotainment system. The major functions are situated on buttons around the screen, with lesser functions flanking the display itself.
The navigation was very impressive, compensating for our directional errors and taking just a few seconds to re-route us to the destination.
The seats have been redesigned, offering sportier buckets with heritage-inspired grey plaid cloth inserts.
With Europe’s high fuel prices and car taxes, sales of the GTD are about the same as the GTI. And having driven one, it’s easy to understand why since it offers many of the advantages and few shortcomings. With US city congestion at an all-time high, gas prices continually creeping upwards and road trips becoming a regular alternative to air travel, the GTD offers maximum accommodation without sacrificing the fun factor.
While US pricing isn’t set, expect it to be close to a well-equipped GTI when it finally arrives in 2015, assuming VW of America gives it the nod.
As a final thought, the GTD will provide plenty of opportunities for the aftermarket, with a set of coilovers, sway bars and 19" wheels enhancing the handling. You can also expect software upgrades for the TDI motor since Europe will have been tweaking them for several years before we see it. So stock or modified, the GTD will make a very appealing package for US motorists thanks to the peace of mind diesel brings at the pump.
2016 VW Golf GTD
Layout transverse front-engine, FWD
Engine 1968cc EA288 four-cylinder 16v turbo-diesel, dual balancer shafts, direct injection, variable valve timing, intercooler integrated into intake manifold, dual loop EGR system
Drivetrain six-speed manual transmision (DSG optional)
Brakes 12.3" rotors f, 10.7" r
Suspension MacPherson front, multi-link rear
Wheels & Tires 17x7.5", 225/45 R17 (optional 18x8", 225/45 R18)
Power 184hp at 3500rpm
Torque 280 lb-ft at 1750-3250rpm
Top Speed 143mph
Economy TBD (40+mpg estimated)
Weight 3036 lb