Golf GTI’s older brother and new sibling driven
The GTI is and will always be the star of the show. The “Vrrrpah” phenomenon was started by this very vehicle. It’s quite peculiar then the actual flagship of the Golf range doesn’t have as much street cred as its younger sibling, to non-car folk. Heritage comes a long way and that’s something the GTI has as an advantage. Those three letters have been engrained in our hearts and minds from a young age. That being said, everyone respects the Golf R and what it represents – a four wheel drive hatchback that can stick with some interesting cars that are more powerful. The Golf R has been a success locally and South Africans will be happy to know that it too has been face-lifted, giving it a more pronounced look and sharper design. Although subtle, the entire refreshed Golf range makes you forget that the 7th generation has been with us for a while. Making us forget even further is the addition of a new variant, the GTD, a sporty diesel version that is loved overseas. Let’s take a look at what’s changed and most importantly answer the question, “Can a diesel Golf really be exciting?”.
Golf R: The looks and drive.
The Golf R has always looked menacing. The updated model now has a different LED light design in the front and rear, as well as a more “smiley” bumper construction. The added black gloss bits are a big differentiator between the old car and the new one. The overall look is pleasing but falls on the slightly softer side compared to the previous car. The wheel design has also been changed, making keen observers look twice as the vehicle drives by. On the inside we have a stunning optional infotainment system to play with, fitted with Navigation and Apple CarPlay. The mind has to get used to not having a volume knob but rather touch sensitive icons to adjust how loud your music is, something you’ll be doing a lot if your car is fitted with the DynAudio sound system. Another new feature is the Active Info Display which gives us a digital dashboard, something all new cars seem to be coming with recently. The most important feature for Golf R lovers is not the trimming but rather the engine. Power is up to 213kW from 206kW giving the car some added oomph and excitement. As much as the GTI is the star child, the R is in a different league in terms of performance. All its power is exploitable, giving the driver confidence that other cars can’t. Since it uses the 4Mototion system, it has no problem getting up to speed, so much so if you’re not careful, you’ll easily break the law without realising. Being a car that uses all four wheels when needed through a haldex system, the car provides massive amounts of grip. If you respect it around corners and don’t come into bends at ridiculous speeds, you can easily power out of corners aggressively without any drama. Overall the car is properly fast, safe and exciting whilst still maintaining a sense of composure about it.
Diesel hot-hatch, really?
Experiencing the GTD after the Golf R shocks the system at first. You almost need a palate cleanser to remove any expectations from the mind. When that is done, you can begin to appreciate what the GTD is, a diesel Golf with the GTI chassis. It only produces 130kW and 350N.m, but together the pairing is delightful. There is no DCC mode in the car so I can’t change from Comfort to Sport mode, it’s just a matter of sticking the DSG gearbox into Sport and riding the torque. On long stretches the GTD reacts like any old diesel, but it’s when things tighten up that you enjoy the constant boost. In town the power-train is also very useful, always ready to give you the torque when you want it. I can imagine the GTD being the car that is bought by the percentage of Golf buyers who previously owned a 2.0 TDI but wanted more. The appeal is understandable and the decision to bring it to SA soil is justifiable. A VW crazy country like ours will have a place for this car.
The recipe that works:
At the end of the day what makes the Golf so popular is the fact that it’s not small. A young family can easily own a Golf and not feel compromised. The GTI has always fused two worlds together and the Golf R takes that fusion to another level. The GTD is a total spanner in the works as it has such a different appeal yet still manages to pull at the heart strings. The biggest issue people are faced with is the cost of new cars in general of late. With a sticker price of R507 700 for the GTD and R647 000 for the Golf R, these are not small amounts at all. Looking at the competition however, you’ll see similar figures. For many looking at a Golf R, the likes of a BMW M140i may be an option as well but it all boils down to preference in the end. Soon we’ll put the M140i and the Golf R head to head and weigh up what comes out on top. One thing is for sure, the Golf is a worthy rival, a car that punches way above its weight.
Golf R & Golf GTD Pricing in South Africa
VW Golf R: R647 000
VW Golf GTD: R507 700
VW Golf R & GTD First Drive.