A Day With The Volkswagen GTI — Does it Live Up To The Hype?

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I pinch myself just to make sure I'm not dreaming. Yup, there is a Volkswagen in front of me with a GTI badge and I'm still on Indian soil.

Just to make sure, I take a seat inside and press down on the loud pedal and greeted by the sound of the turbocharged engine spooling up and then kicking out all the unburnt fuel out of the exhaust with a bang.

Seat belt on, gearbox slotted into drive and with a firmer push of the accelerator I was racing down the straight of the Meco Kartopia track in Bangalore to experience the Volkswagen GTI at full chat.

Noticed the lack of the Polo in the name did you? Volkswagen has deliberately dropped the Polo badge from the name of its most powerful hatchback in India to differentiate it from the regular car and to emphasise its performance credentials.

In terms of looks, the Volkswagen GTI has a lot more going for it compared to a regular Polo. The front bumper looks sporty and the red insert on the GTI-badged honeycomb grille and the headlamps (which are full LED units with DRLs included) along with the 3-door shape really gives this car a sense of character.

The rear end of the GTI is just plain old Polo, with the chrome exhausts and the slightly tweaked bumper along with the GTI badge, the only warning your racing rivals will get about the fact that this is no regular old Volkswagen.

The interiors of the GTI reflect the sporty nature of the car. The front seats feature extra bolstering and that along with flat-bottomed steering wheel with the paddle shifters just enforces the fact that this Volkswagen is here to go fast.

The rear seats of the GTI which can be accessedby folding down either front seat are best left to the shortermembers of the family as anyone who is even slightly tall will look quite awkward at the back.

The Volkswagen GTI sold in India can trace its lineage back to the Polo GT G40, which was sold in limited numbers in the late 80s and early 90s and used a supercharged 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine that kicked out 113bhp.

The current GTI though, is a much more aggressive beast and uses a turbocharged 1.8-litre engine that produces 189bhp and 250Nm of torque, which is sent to the front wheels through a 7-speed DSG gearbox.

On the track, the GTI zipped about from corner to corner, the hot hatch responding with the eagerness of an overexcited labrador every time i put my foot down as I exited a corner.

The reason for the eager responsiveness is the torque, which kicks in at its maximum potential from just 1,250rpm and remains with you till you're hitting speeds that would see you fined rather heavily if you ever did them on the road.

On the short straights of the track in Bangalore, with my right foot to the floor I managed to hit 120km/h before my nerves and the fast approaching corner made me back off. That 0-100km/h time of 7.1 seconds seems a lot more believable once you've experienced it for yourself.

However, getting the GTI to misbehave around the corners of the karting track proved to be a slight problem, with the ESC aggressively cutting in every time I went in a bit too hard for its tastes.

With the switch turned off, throwing the GTI in and out of corners was a lot easier, though the rather sharp turns of the karting track did expose the GTI's understeer issues.

However, despite being switched off, the ESC was merely lurking in the background and ensured that I didn't make a fool of myself when I came into a corner a bit too hot.

Drive the GTI with a bit more respect and the light steering, along with the big brakes will allow you to turn in smoothly and as you come out. The power and torque on offer is more than enough to make you feel like Bolt without having to really flex those leg muscles.

We also got to experience the GTI at the hands of the one of Volkswagen's motorsport drivers and sitting shotgun, I had the best seat in the house to experience just how crazy the GTI could be.

At the end of the day, the GTI left me with a smile on my face a mile wide and it took me a while to get off my tyre smoke and horsepower induced high.

So is the GTI (manufactured in and imported from Volkswagen's factory in Pamplona, Spain) really worth the Rs 25.65 lakh ex-showroom (Mumbai) price tag that VW slap on it? The answer thanks to the insane amount of fun the car can be and the rather exclusive class of just 99 owners a year in India is ‘Yes'.

Read more on: #review #volkswagen
Story first published: Monday, February 6, 2017, 12:13 [IST]
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