Car Review: VW Golf GTI Autobahn: High-priced, sophisticated hot hatch

WTOP's car guy Mike Parris said the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn is more sophisticated and refined for a better driving experience all-around.

WASHINGTON — One of the original hot hatches is still in the game. Even with stiff competition, the Golf GTI excels with refinement with a fun-to-drive attitude that handles comfortably on highways as it does on empty back roads. So how does the top-of-the-line Golf GTI Autobahn change things for Volkswagen?

First is the price.

Its $37,110 fully loaded price tag is no cheap date. But spending that money gives you one great handling front wheel drive car that’s very fun in the curves, thanks to the beefed up suspension of the (DCC) Dynamic Chassis Control. You can choose different modes for your suspension setup depending on the amount of sport you want in your drive.

While not the most powerful hot hatch, it still pleases with a punchy Turbo 4 that’s very smooth in its power delivery. My ride for the week also came with the optional DSG automatic. I would rather save $1,100 and choose the manual, but the DSG changes gears very quickly and it was smooth most of the time. It has a strange start and very slow driving on hills, almost like a manual car.

Fuel economy is a bright spot with this Golf GTI. I managed 29.2 mpg in my 500 miles on regular grade fuel.

Where VW has stepped up its game lately is on the technology front. Now, it’s standard for VW to include Adaptive Cruise Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking and Blind Spot Monitoring. The car also comes with the $1,095 GTO Autobahn Driver’s Assistance package that adds Lane Departure Warning with lane Assist. It can even assist in parking the car, though I found it strange to let the car do the work for you.

Inside is a hit for this hot hatch, with great space for a car this size. Heated front seats and the driver’s power seat has plenty of adjustments to get that perfect seating position. Rear seat riders have a good amount of space for this compact hatch with ample headroom and usable leg room for most. I fit three children in the car, tightly, with car seats and a booster, but two adults would be all I would try. You also have more cargo space than a sedan so you can carry larger items than you would expect with a compact vehicle. Only the touch screen is a bit small now at just 6.5 inches but the premium fender audio system sounds good with full sounding audio.

The looks of the VW Golf GTI is a more mature, understated look than some of the hot hatch competition. There are no huge wings or fake vents on the hood or body, which gives it a businesslike attitude that sets this souped-up Golf apart. It’s not boring to look at either, with a more aggressive look when compared to the base Golf model with a larger front grill and red stripe across the front that hints at the sporty intentions. The GTI model also has unique front and rear bumpers and the red brake calipers hide behind larger 18-inch wheels. Out back, there is a tasteful spoiler on the top of the rear hatch and dual exhaust tips peak out the back of the Golf GTI.

If you’re looking for a hot hatch that doesn’t scream it for everyone to see, then the VW Golf GTI is for you. The Golf GTI has been around for decades to fill the small, fun-to-drive category. In 2018 it’s still fun but more sophisticated and refined for a better, all-around driving experience with this Golf GTI Autobahn edition.

Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI, FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.


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