Volkswagen America, Inc., for the second straight year, is revealing a showroom full of all-new, highly anticipated cars at the new year’s first major auto shows back to back in Los Angeles and Detroit. For example, the new Passat Wagon debuts on the first public day, Saturday, January 7, at the Los Angeles Auto Show and just a day later on Volkswagen’s display floor during the first press day at the Detroit International Auto Show on Sunday afternoon, January 8.
The German automaker revealed — for the first time at a North American press conference — U.S. production versions of its famous GTI model, whose distinct styling and more aggressive character mark a return to the purity of Volkswagen’s sports car hatchback concept. This new GTI, which goes on sale this month, was built from the beginning for the true Volkswagen purist and promises the brand’s faithful a modern and dynamic technological extension of the automaker’s original hot-hatch approach — one that essentially spurred a new car class in the early 1980s.
Originally, Volkswagen launched the GTI nearly 30 years ago in Europe and, finally, with drivers spreading the news across the Atlantic Ocean, it brought the original ’pocket rocket’ to U.S. shores in 1983. Purists of the GTI concept have anticipated this fifth generation since its critically acclaimed European launch in mid-year 2005, with rejuvenated sports credentials that include the high-tech, 200 horsepower 2.0T four-cylinder engine, a new fully independent, sports-tuned suspension — a first for the GTI-a standard six- speed manual transmission, and an understated but dynamically aggressive style inside and out.
The new GTI is a solid and aggressive sports model with a unique optional automatic manual DSG™ transmission that utilizes the inherent efficiencies of direct manual shifting that can automatically engage the points or take shifting orders at the driver’s whim. Still, the GTI is all about purity, and for those who accept only the added driver’s control of a clutch, the all-new GTI comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission. Top speed is electronically governed at 130 miles per hour in the U.S.
The performance heart of the new 2006 GTI is Volkswagen’s new and highly regarded 2.0T turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 200 hp at 5,100 to 6,000 revolutions per minute and 207 ft.-lbs. of torque from 1,800 to 5,000 rpm.
This transverse, front-mounted engine incorporates dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and maintenance-free hydraulic lifters for smooth, worry-free operation. A fully electronic engine management system includes drive-by-wire throttle control and FSI direct injection for optimal fuel delivery.
The GTI plays devilishly with the famous silhouette of the new Golf. At profile, one immediately notes the new GTI’s striking roof spoiler, lower profile and use of aggressive black valances and side window moldings. Standard on the new GTI are low profile summer performance tires (all-season available) that wrap large 17-inch alloy wheels, with an option to fill the wheel area even further with a new dynamic 18-inch alloy. Distinct red brake calipers nestle tastefully behind each wheel choice.
At the rear, for the first time, the new GTI comes equipped with an advanced multi-link independent rear suspension. This feature promises not only to improve the GTI’s handling characteristics but also helps improve the balance of offering sporty driving dynamics and ride sophistication. This fully independent four-link suspension, with coil springs, telescopic shocks and stabilizer bar, also allowed the designers and engineers to create more space and practicality into the GTI.
As seen on nearly all new Volkswagens, handling performance is honed to perfection by a new electro-mechanical power rack-and-pinion steering system, one which offers an extremely good ’center feel’ and contributes significantly to the new car’s confident straight-line stability. The GTI driver gets that special German connected-to-the-road feel but also the added handling confidence of active-return steering and straight-ahead driving correction assistance.
Additionally the list of technologically advanced standard equipment on the new GTI includes: next-generation Electronic Stabilization Program; and a multi-function trip computer with compass and instant calculations for elapsed time and distance and fuel usage, to mention a few. In addition to its active safety features, the GTI comes standard with a host of passive safety equipment: driver and front passenger front airbags, driver and front passenger side thorax airbags, Side Curtain Protection® supplemental restraint systems; crash active front headrests; and Daytime Running Lights.