The addition of the Performance Pack to the Volkswagen Golf GTI range should offer a better driving experience on paper at least, but is there enough of a difference to make it more enticing than the already excellent standard GTI? We spent a week with a Tornado Red Golf GTI Performance Pack and got under its skin.
It's easy to understand why the Volkswagen Golf GTI sells in the numbers it does. It combines performance in a practical five-door body, with splashes of luxury and excellent build quality. If there was a car that could tick most boxes for Joe Average, this is it. What makes the Golf business case interesting is that the GTI accounts for more than half of the sales and out of all the Golf models sold, the majority being twin-clutch DSG units. As good as the manual is, the DSG-equipped is faster and better for day-to-day driving.
With a price difference of almost R100 000, VW has spotted a gap between the GTI and its Golf R brother that needed filling. GTI Performance Pack slots perfectly between the two cars, but is closer to the GTI than the R on the performance scale.
What's The Difference?The differences between the GTI Performance Pack and its sibling is a bit more power on tap as well as Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) being fitted as standard. There's a fancy new electronic front differential which makes for sharper handling. Enthusiasts will spot the subtle red GTI badging on both the front grille and rear bumper as well as red brake calipers. The wheels pictured here are optional, but they look terrific.
The engine in the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Pack is a solid piece of engineering and the output is upped to 169 kW, with the torque figure of 350 Nm remaining the same as the normal GTI. Volkswagen is claiming a 0.1 second improvement on the 0-100kph time, which doesn't sound like much. We didn't feel any noticeable difference in performance either.
The handling does feel a little sharper, and when used in its Sport setting, the DCC works well. Essentially DCC tweaks the dampers in the suspension to be soft or firm, making for a more comfortable or sportier ride respectively.
How Does It Drive?What does this mean on the road? Driving the GTI in Comfort or Eco mode, you'd be fooled into thinking you're driving a normal, semi-luxurious Golf, but when you engage Sport, everything changes. There's a sharp induction bark, the responsiveness of the engine and DSG 'box are sharpened and the car feels taut. It's in the corners where you notice a difference. We're not saying the Golf GTI was a poor performer in the cornering stakes at all, but the GTI Performance Pack is the more precise driving tool of the two.
When you're not pressing on, the GTI Performance Pack still retains those qualities which make the Golf GTI so successful. It's smooth, comfortable and the ride is supple and forgiving when in Comfort mode. At times it's easy to forget you're actually in a performance model, that's how relaxed the GTI can get. Naturally you can go from Comfort to Sport at the touch of a button and this dual persona makes living with this car so effortless.
Drive it responsibly and in Eco mode, and you'll get pretty close to the claimed fuel consumption of 6.4L/100km. During its week-long tenure with us, the GTI Performance Pack returned a figure of 8.9L/100km - a fair result considering it was a mix of spirited driving and peak hour commuting.
Still Sensible In Many WaysA hot hatch being sensible? Yes, the Golf GTI can be very sensible and practical while offering some driving joys. There's five-door practicality, a handy 380L boot and plenty of kit fitted. Things like daytime running lights, cruise control, climatronic air conditioner, rain sensing wipers, auto headlamps as well as a 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system are just some of the things available as standard. Safety features include 7 airbags, ISOFIX child seat mounts, ABS and ESP with brake assist.
Conclusion and SummaryThere's a lot to like about the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Pack. In reality, as good as it is, we feel there's not enough difference to separate it from a standard VW Golf GTI DSG. If you get too happy with options, the list price of the Golf GTI Performance Pack becomes dangerously close to Golf R territory, and we know what we'd rather have. If you're after more driving thrills then you can look to the RenaultSport Megane range, otherwise stick to the excellent day-to-day hot hatch champion which is the Golf GTI.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Pack Price in South AfricaThe Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Pack DSG retails for R447 800. Our particular test car came with numerous add-ons such as panoramic sunroof (R9 200), Park Distance Control (R4 500), Bi-Xenon headights (R10 000), Light Assist (R1 100), 19-inch Santiago alloy wheels (R7 650), media in with iPod adapter (R2 050) and keyless entry (R4 700). This pushed the price up to R487 000. Included in the price is a 3 year/120 000km warranty and a 5 year/90 000km service plan.
Team OpinionsThe Golf GTI performance pack doesn't really do enough to make it stand out. It's not as comfortable and pure as the standard GTI and not hard enough to be considered as a track toy. The performance pack seems like a half-hearted attempt to fill the gap between GTI and Golf R. -Ashley Oldfield
We Like: Performance, premium feel, build quality, spaciousness ... but are these qualities of a hot hatch?
We don’t Like: Not special enough, a normal GTI DSG is fine thank you.
Also consider: Renault Megane RS, Opel Astra OPC, Ford Focus ST