2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI S w/Performance Package

This is the 2015 Golf GTI: The version that you’ll find in a dealership won’t have that sticker on the hood.

This is the 2015 Golf GTI:

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The version that you’ll find in a dealership won’t have that sticker on the hood. That sticker was affixed to the GTI at the North American International Auto Show in January because the Golf was named the North American Car of the Year.

This is on the heels of the Golf being named the Motor Trend Car of the Year.

Golf is clearly on a roll vis-à-vis recognition among those in the automotive press community.

There are actually four Golf variants. The Golf. The e-Golf, an electric car. The Golf R, a recently introduced high-performance vehicle (there have been R’s before, but there is a new one for 2015). And the GTI.

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The GTI with the optional Performance Package is arguably the “hot hatch.” Its turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. (The non-optioned version provides 210 hp and the same torque, which is still rather steamy given that we’re talking about a car with a curb weight of 2,972 lb., when it is a two-door and equipped with the six-speed manual.) Admittedly, the R is hotter, producing 292 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, but when you think of the crowd that would be most interested in a fast hatch, chances are the GTI with the Performance Package is more realistically attainable, as the MSRP for the GTI is $24,995, and the Performance Package adds $1,495 to that, whereas the R has a base MSRP of $36,595, so things are a bit more difficult economically speaking.

There are several cars about which companies claim: “This is fun to drive.”

You can probably count on one hand the number of cars that truly are fun to drive, as in really giving you a kick even if you’re just going to the grocery store. And the GTI is one of them.

Given that this is appearing in February and it is being written in Detroit, it must be said, however, that the standard 18-in. Bridgestone summer tires are not the sort of thing that you want on the alloy wheels until Spring breaks. And even with all-season rubber on the rims, the profile is so low as to make even a couple inches of snow all-but insurmountable except that the vehicle has the power to propel the car and the electronically controlled limited-slip differential helps manage the torque.

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The GTI’s LSD

Still, this is probably the car for hot fun in the summertime.

Because this is a GTI, the standard seats—which are certainly bottom-securing—are “Clark” plaid. Which underscores a sense of fun. And the shifter knob for the manual has golf ball-like dimpling (there is also an automatic, a dual-clutch model, available).

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Yet there is serious stuff, as well, like the 5.8-inch screen with capacitive touch sensing. Or, more mechanically, the “aluminum-look” pedals (which I think means that they are a metallic material of some sort that resembles aluminum, but which doesn’t have an effect on the production of F-150s).

But the point of this car is, I think, that it is a car for people (probably skewing younger rather than older) who are interested in having a car that provides a level of driving enjoyment that is probably otherwise unachievable unless the monthly payment is something that is a large percentage of monthly apartment rent.

And the good news for Volkswagen of America is that there is a comparatively large number of people who understand the appeal of the Golf GTI.

Last year, according to VoA, they sold 15,941 Golfs—but they also sold 17,363 GTI versions. Imagine: the performance version outselling the daily-driver.

Take one for a spin (after the weather breaks if you have winter; as soon as you can if you’re elsewhere) and you’ll probably know why.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder

Material: Cast-iron block, aluminum head

Horsepower: 220 @ 4,700 rpm

Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Steering: Electrical power-assist rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 103.6 in.

Length: 168 in.

Width: 70.5 in.

Height: 56.8 in.

Coefficient of drag: 0.31

Curb weight: 2,972 lb.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 25/34/28 mpg