Evolution of the VW GTI

July 30th, 2014 |

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The VW GTI, Golf, has a pretty interesting, 40 year history, and though it isn’t as popular as it once was; it would be a major understatement for one to label it as a used car, as some mistakenly does.  The well-known German automaker, Volkswagen, first introduced the Golf in 1974.  Critics and experts alike often debate that the import’s nameplate stems from Volkswagen’s assumed tradition of titling their autos from famous “winds”; although there has never been any solid evidence to support this.  The VW Golf also undertakes different names/titles according its geographical location; i.e. in Mexico it’s known as the Volkswagen Caribe, but in the United States and Canada it’s the Volkswagen Rabbit, while being entitled “Golf” elsewhere.  The VW GTI was designed as a “Compact Car” to succeed the ever-popular VW Beetle, and now has a production life that spans 4 decades and 7 generations!

ü  1st Generation (1974 – 1983) – Volkswagen would unknowingly enter into an era and rewrite ‘compact car’ history with their introduction of the VW Golf/GTI.  It was FWD, with a diesel engine, and came available as a 3 or 5-door hatchback, and convertible in some markets.  The Golf/GTI would undoubtedly exceed expectations and become not only VW’s second most selling car of all time, but the world’s as well.

ü  2nd Generation (1983 – 1992) – The Golf Mk2 held true to the Mk1’s overall appearance and rounded form, however, Volkswagen had given this generation slightly larger dimensions on both, the interior and exterior of the vehicle, and including the wheelbase.  The 2nd generation Golf/GTI would usher in 4WD capabilities, ABS braking, and supercharged engines to crank out 160hp—“used car” cars can’t do that!

ü  3rd Generation (1993 – 2001) – The 3rd generation came in with a bang!  It included a 2.8L V6, turbocharged/TDI engine that went 0 to 60mph in 7.1 seconds, and even set a new record for the quarter-mile, running a 15.5.  It ranged from 26mpg to 38mpg, which also contributed 363mi highway.  The 3rd generation also unveiled a “Special/Limited Edition” as well as mother the 4-door Golf.

ü  4th Generation (1997 – 2004) – For the sake of argument; if there was ever a “used car” to invest in; it would be the 4th generation.  This was the “high-performance” generation and boasted a new 3.2L V6 engine with a 1.6L turbo, new headlight and taillight design, performance stereo system, and even sportier tires with alloy rims—Volkswagen was definitely aiming for the younger consumer with the 4th generation, and it seems as though they hit it right on the bullseye.

ü  5th Generation (2004 – 2008) – This generation was born in Europe and re-introduced the Volkswagen Rabbit to the U.S. in 2006, and has a 2.5L, odd-numbered, 5-cylinder engine with 150hp.  The 5th generation also has a GTI model, the VW Rabbit-S, with a turbocharged, 2.0L TFSI engine.  While this generation earned criticism for fuel economy and its uncomfortableness; it received praise and high remarks from Car and Driver Magazine for its engine, handling, and instrumentation.

ü  6th Generation (2008 – 2013) – The Volkswagen MK6, designed by Walter De’Silva, made its first appearance at the 2008 Paris Motor Show and was an instant success.  The MK6 offered better fuel economy, a completely re-fashioned interior, and a sleeker, more aerodynamic look and shape.  It also did well in “hushing” the nay-sayers of its predecessor.  Additional “fun-features” included a turbocharged engine, 5 or 6-speed manual or a 6 or 7-speed dual clutch manual, and 177lb-ft of torque.  It was made available for purchase in the U.S. in October 2009 as the 2010 Rabbit, and also provided a diesel engine alternative.  Not bad for a “used car”huh!?

ü  7th Generation (2013 – Present) – Finally, we’ve reached the 7th Gen!  The newest VW Golf GTI, VW Rabbit, or whatever you want to call it—is the full package!  Launched off the Audi A3 at 2012 Paris Motor Show, and is slightly bigger than the MK6, but also slightly lighter.  It retains a 2.0L, turbocharged engine, but puts out more horsepower at 296hp, has a Hybrid option and diesel option, as well as 4WD, and has produced excellent sales.

The VW GTI has made a significant impact in auto racing and motorsports; claiming 2 victories at the “APR Motorsports Grand Am” and “KONI Sports Car Challenge” while competing in the “Street Tuner” division.  Other accolades include; “1992 European Car of the Year”Kelley Blue Book listed it among “Top 10 Green Cars for 2010”; and it became the first import to win “Japan’s 2014 Car of the Year” award, as well as “2013 World Car of the Year”.  It’s very difficult to fathom the thought of the VW GTI being considered a “used car”—the two don’t belong in the same sentence—especially since its been in production for nearly half a century and is still going strong today!

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