Porsche may be right that “There is no substitute”, but VW’s new GTI is nearly there – at half the price of a Boxster. Having read Road & Track’s April 2006 comparison test of the 197 HP Civic Si, the 207 HP JCW Mini Cooper S, and the 200 HP VW GTI, we went out and drove the winning GTI. (By the way, we got squat from Wolfsburg for this piece. We just like the car.)
Apart from a Porsche 930 turbo we once gingerly piloted, it’s the fastest car we’ve driven. It feels stiff, so solid and substantial, and corners beautifully, with hardly any lean. The manual was great fun and we shifted as often as possible, just to hear the expensive-sounding machinery sing out. The salesman was a bit tense, but then it’s his job to worry about the car, ours to enjoy it and buy it – which we did.
But we didn’t buy the manual. While the purists may wail, the tiptronic (in VW-Audi language, “Direct Shift Gearing” or DSG) is, once it becomes intuitive, a marvel. There are paddle shifters on the steering wheel. This transmission is at the heart of a faster car than the humanly shifted model. Six point three seconds to 60 mph, and six seconds when launch control comes next year, according to one report.
Never pay list price. Do pay dealer invoice – which is $27,569 for the very well-equipped standard car. However, dealers are banking on the fact that there are relatively few of these to go around, and on the good press, so they’re stubbornly selling above dealer invoice. Sign up to www.carhelpcanada.com and for a $50 fee they’ll come up with a better bargain than you’re likely to get on your own. They saved us $1000, which, after all, is a year’s worth of gas.