It’s Still Great

We last tested the Golf GTI back in 2015, with Performance Pack and loved it, especially the trick front diff that virtually eliminates under steer. Now it’s the turn of the 2017 Golf GTI without Performance Pack to be put through it’s paces. For 2017 the range has simplified options and a new Sport trim.

All 2017 Golf GTI models are equipped with the XDS®+ Cross Differential System. This technology acts somewhat like an electronic substitute for a traditional mechanical limited-slip differential (available on the Performance Pack model), working by actively monitoring data from each wheel sensor. If the suspension becomes unloaded, the system automatically applies braking to the driven inside wheel as needed to reduce under-steer. This not only helps keep the Golf on the road, but can also help improve handling and cornering performance. We found it work very well buyt would still spend the extra $$ on the full mechanical suspension.

Under the hood is the well used and tested 2.0 T DOHC 16-valve inline-4 with direct fuel injection. It puts out a respectable 210 hp @ 4700 rpm and 258 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm. Mated to a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters the DSG works pretty well around town, there is some throttle tip in on take off, and we found it was better to set off on a partial throttle then mash it once underway, otherwise some mild lag is evident. The engine sounds good too, particularly on full throttle up-shifts. Strapping put test gear on we launched it, with some careful use of the right foot, from standstill to 60 in 6 seconds dead, 0.2 seconds slower than the PP model which has an additional 10 hp.

On our road course, which consisted of some deserted back-roads East of San Diego the GTI is incredibly impressive for a front-wheel drive car, even without the trick front diff it resolutely held its line and refused to under-steer. Torque steer has been virtually eliminated. It simply bites into the corner, gets it’s power down early and powers out, ready for the next one. I am sure the 18-inch tires help a lot, but it is hard not to be utterly impressed with this car. Even on the wet day it felt super secure and even though our speeds were lower, was just as much fun.

The DCC option which allows you to adjust the shocks between, Comfort, Normal, Sport or Individual, works great too. In Sport mode uneven pavement can cause some jarring but I was grinning too much to notice. Of course we kept it in Sport mode with everything dialed and only steering in Normal. Steering is also the best I have come across, with a great sense of feel of what the front wheels are doing and extremely direct. What defines the GTI is it’s ’s point-to-point pace and the capacity to engage the driver, it simply doesn’t beg for more power such is the composure it offers. Even in Sport mode there is some suppleness, and the car is superbly stable and settled at all times. Weird cambers, sharp corners it takes every single one in its stride. The chassis is so capable it simply filters all this kind of stuff away so you can drive one of the most well balanced and confidence inspiring cars on the market today. It’s simply grin inducing.


The interior will be familiar to Golf GTI owners, having that typically Teutonic style, slightly somber but with all the controls in the right place. In our car we got excellent seats, leather covered with full electric adjustment for the driver and partial for the passenger, a Fender Audi system and a panoramic sunroof, which given a choice, we wouldn’t option. The 5.8 inch touchscreen controls the Nav, Audio, Phone and Car systems and is pretty good except for the voice control, which was very badly behaved and refused to do what it was asked. That aside there is really very little to find fault with this car, and it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Fuel economy was pretty good with an average of worst of 19.5 mpg during performance testing and an overall of 25.7 mpg over the testing period.


Is this the best small car on the market? Yes …’s definitely the best Golf GTI to date (except for the PP version), the chassis is massively accomplished and in my book it’s still in first place ahead of the very good Focus ST. It simply rides better, corners better, is faster and has a nicer interior. It’s also practical, there’s a hatch, the seats fold down and Fido can sit comfortably without craning his neck. We never understand why people choose sedans when hatchbacks are brilliant. Sure you can find faster hot hatches but you won’t find a more complete one.
Unfortunately we only had the car for 7 days, I wanted to keep it forever, and that included a weekend and one day of rain in San Diego; so we had to work fast to get the performance numbers and all the testing complete. I’ve been fortunate to drive many expensive high-performance cars, and yet this GTI is still at the top of my wish list.

2017 Golf GTI SE Numbers

BASE PRICE $31,990
VEHICLE TYPE Front-engine, FWD, 5 door hatchback
ENGINE 2.0L Turbocharged I-4, DOHC, 4 valves
POWER 210 hp @ 4,500 rpm
TORQUE 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed twin-clutch auto.
CURB WEIGHT 3,159 lb
CARGO VOLUME 52.7/22.8 cu ft
0-60 6.0 secs
QUARTER MILE 14.8 sec @ 97 mph
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 miles
PROS Fantastic fun, great engine, superb handling
CONS Some mild turbo lag, premium fuel