2017 Volkswagen GTI Autobahn: Standout!

9 May 2017 | 1,002 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds Some cars I test drive are wheels that I do not wish to give back to the manufacturer. Volkswagen has an inordinate number of cars in its lineup that  I have tested which I would just as soon keep. The latest? The 2017 Golf GTI Autobahn is the latest of those cars. I have no idea where to begin to explain why this car captivates me so much.  Maybe its the really ultra-cool styling.  VW has managed to make the Golf a classic, iconic presence the world over. As a result, they have managed to come up with a hundred gazillion variations of the car, and wisely kept the basics, because, at least as far as I am concerned, the basics are flawless and now above reproach or replacement. Maybe I love this car because it is so incredibly agile in city driving.  It corners like a bobsled, has instantaneous, almost explosive acceleration, and perfect, dead center steering with virtually no correction needed.  The brakes?  Solid. They "got you."  No worries whatsoever. Maybe I love this car because the use of materials, trim and design, is absolutely superb.  Better than any compact or subcompact car I have driven. We are talking luxury sports car accoutrements in a little four door sedan. Or maybe because it has that undefinable something called charisma.  It oozes performance. It oozes heritage.  It oozes tradition with its right-out-of-the box driving fun. I will just say it up front.  I found absolutely nothing to fault in the GTI Autobahn.  Well, maybe I would have loved to have had all wheel drive, which  would have made it my number one choice for replacement of my personal car next year.  As of now, it's surely in the top two or three! By the way, you may not be familiar with the Autobahn trim level.  It was a new one on me, to tell the truth. While the lower level GTI models are already lavishly equipped, the Autobahn goes a bit further with offering an adjustable suspension system so you won't feel quite as rugged on the open road.  On the other hand, if you want to put it to the test on your local neighborhood twisties, feel free.  The GTI Autobahn will rock your world on them, believe me. Power for the GTI ordinarily comes from a  turbocharged 2.0-liter, 210 horsepower four-cylinder engine that puts out 258 lusty pound-feet of torque. But should you order the Autobahn, or for othat matter the Sport or SE, you get the standard Performance Package, which bumps the horsepower up to 220 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic (VW's DSG) is optional. In terms of fuel economy, the GTI Autobahn  is rated at 27 miles per gallon overall, 24 city and 32 highway. It uses regular gas, and uses 3.7 gallons of gasoline to drive 100 miles.  Annual fuel costs are $1,350 based on 15,000 miles of driving for five years. So what's new for the GTI for 2017? Despite the fact that the car was just redesigned for 2015, there are a few things to point out.  First, there's that new GTI Sport trim. The GTI Sport is a 4-door model with standard Performance Package—brakes from the Golf R; electronically controlled, torque sensing, limited-slip VAQ differential; and a 10-horsepower increase to 220 horsepower (achieved with premium fuel) — as well as 18-inch “Nogaro” aluminum-alloy wheels and Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED Daytime Running Lights. The Sport also features unique floormats, KESSY® keyless access with push-button start and black mirror caps. The Performance Package is no longer available on the 2- and 4-door S trim, but is now standard on the SE and Autobahn trims. A Lighting Package that features Bi-Xenon headlights and the Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) is standard on the SE. The Driver Assistance Package for the SE models (sold order only) includes: Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert. Compared with 2016 models, the 2017 Autobahn trim adds standard Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert and Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED DRLs. An available Driver Assistance Package (sold order only) adds front and rear Park Distance Control (Park Pilot), Parking Steering Assistant (Park Assist), Lane Departure Warning (Lane Assist), and High Beam Control (Light Assist). When activated, this latter feature automatically turns on the high beams above 40 mph, if it detects that there is a low likelihood of dazzling oncoming traffic.   In terms of styling,  VW says its mostly all about refinement.   "The seventh-generation car is wrapped in sheet metal that is modern, yet equally unmistakable as a Volkswagen Golf GTI. The shape and design elements remain as defined as ever, with a distinctive C-pillar, roofline framing, and classic Golf GTI side windows, but the striking new front end and steeply sloped hood leave no doubt this is different from previous generations. The look is further accentuated by the sharper headlight clusters and the bright-red horizontal strip that runs through the available Bi-Xenon headlights, as well as by the narrower grille, which leads to a strong character line that travels along the side and all the way back to the taillight clusters, only breaking for the wheelarches," a news release said. "Just above, another body line can be traced from the rear side window all the way back up to the headlights. These subtle body lines help create a poised yet elegant appearance." In addition to the red-colored horizontal highlight on the grille, the 2017 Golf GTI has several other visual differences from its conventional Golf brethren. The lower front fascia incorporates standard LED fog lights (not available on Sport trim) housed within a series of horizontal strakes on either side of a unique mesh pattern grille. Red-painted brake calipers peek behind bespoke GTI wheels and subtle side skirts help to give the GTI a more planted appearance. Around back, bright exhaust tips sit on either side of a unique rear diffuser, and a roof spoiler further differentiates the car. "Dimensionally, the Golf GTI grew for 2015 in all directions but up," VW said. "Overall length increased by 2.1 inches, while width gained 0.5 inches. Overall height decreased, however, by 1.1 inches, making the car look more ready to pounce than ever. Thanks to the MQB architecture, which dictates a fixed relationship between the front-wheel centerline and the pedalbox, the front wheels sit 1.7 inches further forward, giving a premium “cab backward” aesthetic." The news release said that "Along with the shaping and the horizontal design emphasis, these proportions help the Golf GTI achieve a lower visual center of gravity and a more dynamic stance, helped by a sport suspension that lowers the car by 0.6 inches compared with a regular Golf. The Golf GTI is equipped with large 18-inch wheels as standard equipment, wrapped in standard all-season or optional 225/40 summer performance tires. A panoramic power tilt and slide sunroof is standard equipment on the SE and Autobahn models." A stand-alone Lighting Package is available on the Golf GTI SE trim for $995, and comes standard with the Sport and Autobahn trim levels: it consists of Bi-Xenon headlights and LED Daytime Running Lights, as well as Volkswagen’s Adaptive Front lighting System. This system swivels the main headlight beams by up to 15 degrees as the steering wheel is turned to help illuminate bends in the road more effectively at speeds of more than 6 mph. Automatic rain-sensing windshield wipers are standard on SE models and above, along with automatic headlights. The large, mature cabin has an emphasis on comfort and a substantial features list. There is 93.5 cubic feet of interior room, along with 16.5 cubic feet up of luggage space up to the parcel shelf and 22.8 cu ft to the roof. That’s more luggage room than even the largest midsize sedan. The versatility of the load space is enhanced by a trunk floor that can be raised or lowered, while the 60:40 split backrest can be folded to give an almost flat cargo area that can easily accommodates a full-size bicycle. With the rear seats folded, the Golf GTI has 52.7 cu ft of cargo capacity. In addition to the spacious interior, the driver controls are positioned to help optimized ergonomics and usability. The seat position, height of the shifter and the spacing between the pedals are fine-tuned for increased driver comfort. This new driver-centric design focus is evident from the center stack, which is angled towards the driver—a trait frequently seen in premium luxury or performance vehicles. Inside all GTI models, you will see  red ambient lighting and illuminated door sills; black headliner and trim inserts; buttons and switches that are backlit in white; and the use of premium materials and soft-touch plastics throughout. A GTI specific instrument cluster, sporty aluminum-look pedals, aunique shifter knob, and the flat-bottomed sport steering wheel also ensure differentiation from its less sporty siblings. An equal amount of attention has been paid to helping maximize comfort and convenience. The standard front sport seats, with classic GTI “Clark” plaid seating surfaces, can be heated, and there are six cup holders. Cruise control switches and media controls are housed on the leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel. The Golf GTI S includes a rearview camera, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, ambient and footwell lighting with LED reading lights, LED fog lights, and Driving Mode Selection. The new Golf GTI Sport is a four-door model with manual transmission, 18 inch “Nogaro” wheels, KESSY keyless access with push-button start, Black painted mirror housings, body-colored moldings, door handles, and bumpers. The Sport also comes equipped with the aforementioned Lighting package as standard. In addition to the standard features of the Golf GTI S, SE models are equipped with KESSY keyless access with push-button start, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers, and the highly acclaimed Fender® Premium Audio System, as well as leather seating surfaces and a panoramic power tilt and slide sunroof. The top-of-the-line Autobahn variants add the standard navigation system, Climatronic® automatic climate control, and a 12-way power driver’s seat. All 2017 Golf GTI models come equipped with a MIB II touchscreen infotainment system. The infotainment system offers one of the most comprehensive suites of connected vehicle services and features available in the automotive industry today.  Features available through Volkswagen Car-Net® are divided into three key areas, App-Connect, Security & Service, and Guide & Inform. App-Connect is a pretty terrific feature too.  It features large, colorful graphics and illustrations.  The Composition Media unit is standard on the S, Sport, and SE models. It features an 800x480 capacitive color touch display with a 6.5-inch screen and proximity sensor. Standard features include AUX-in, an SD card slot, a USB multimedia interface for compatible Apple iPhone® and iPod® devices; Reverse camera display; Bluetooth® technology with audio streaming and the ability to sync two compatible phones simultaneously and send and receive SMS text messages with compatible phones; App-Connect for compatible smartphone integration, a JPEG viewer, SiriusXM® Satellite Radio with three-month trial, HD Radio and support for lossless audio file format (Free Lossless Audio Codec FLAC). Autobahn models include as standard the Discover Media unit, which captures the features available in the Composition Media unit and adds 2.5D Navigation, one-shot voice destination entry, predicts possible destinations based on often used routes, and Destination Entry with Quick Search and Auto-complete, and XX month trial of Car-Net Guide & Inform.       As for safety,  the Golf GTI provides a combination of both passive and active safety systems. The Golf GTI has been engineered to meet or exceed all current crash regulations and features no fewer than six airbags as standard along with a number of electronic and mechanical safety systems, including standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC). Volkswagen’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking System is standard on the 2017 Golf GTI. This builds on the premise that a collision is rarely a single, instantaneous action, but rather a series of events that follow the initial impact—the most significant of which can cause additional collisions. The Automatic Post-Collision Braking System addresses this by applying the brakes when a primary collision is detected by the airbag sensors, thus helping reduce residual kinetic energy and, in turn, the chance of additional damage. The GTI also includes Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System that shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors, and switches on the hazard lights if the car is involved in certain types of collisions. You might want to consider opting for a higher value driver assistance system on GTI SE models are available with a higher value Driver Assistance Package that features Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert for just $595 (sold order only). The2017 Autobahn trim features standard Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert and Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED DRLs. An available Driver Assistance Package adds front and rear Park Distance Control (Park Pilot), Parking Steering Assistant (Park Assist), Lane Departure Warning (Lane Assist), and High Beam Control (Light Assist). Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) uses forward facing radar to maintain a set speed while helping maintain a set distance to the vehicle in front. The driver sets the speed and the desired spacing via buttons on the multifunction steering wheel and can use the accelerator, brake pedal, or steering wheel to cancel or override the ACC function. All system messages appear in the central multifunction display. When the roadway ahead of the vehicle is clear, the system maintains the set speed. GTI models fitted with DSG transmissions and ACC can match a vehicle in front and come to a stop, as well as resume ACC control after the driver presses the accelerator pedal or the “resume” button on the steering wheel. On manual transmission GTI models, the ACC ceases to operate below 19 mph. Within physical system limits, Forward Collision Warning helps warn the driver of critical front-end collision situations, both acoustically and visually by a warning symbol in the instrument cluster, and, if necessary, Autonomous Emergency Braking is activated to slow the vehicle if the driver fails to brake. If the brake pedal is applied but the driver brakes too lightly, the brake pressure is increased by the system. If there is an indication that the vehicle is unintentionally straying from its lane, the Lane Departure Warning system can actively countersteer to help keep the vehicle in the lane above 40 mph. The system’s camera can recognize visible lane markings (one side suffices) and, using a special algorithm, calculates the risk of the car leaving the lane. If the driver takes their hands off the wheel for a defined period of time, or the vehicle crosses a lane marking without use of a turn signal, the system provides an audible warning and a visual signal in the instrument cluster, asking the driver to take over. The system works in the dark and/or in fog, but will not engage if it cannot properly detect lane markings. If the turn signal has been set before crossing a lane marking, the Lane Departure Warning system will not engage or give a warning. The driver can “override” the system at any time by applying minimal force, and is not relieved of responsibility to make conscious driving decisions. Blind Spot Monitor uses two radar sensors at the rear of the vehicle to scan the approaching traffic and help warn drivers of potential danger in adjacent lanes. If the driver uses the turn signal to indicate a lane change while a vehicle is detected in a blind spot, the system utilizes a flashing LED symbol in the outer area of the side mirrors. The system is designed to help alert drivers in specific situations. Stationary objects or oncoming vehicles do not trigger warnings, nor will vehicles more than one lane away from the vehicle. The Rear Traffic Alert system not only helps alert the driver to stationary and moving vehicles directly behind, but also helps detect vehicles approaching from the side that may be difficult for the driver to see while reversing. It offers a sizable range of about 65 to 80 feet, depending on model, and will present a visual and an acoustic warning, before applying the brakes if a potential impending collision is detected. The system is activated either by selecting reverse gear or by the optional Park Distance Control when starting off. Park Distance Control (Park Pilot) uses ultrasonic sensors located in the front and rear bumpers to monitor a range of up to five feet in front or behind the vehicle. The system is activated when reverse gear is engaged or below a speed of 9 mph and helps provide guidance when parking or in tight situations. The system has audible and visual warnings when the car starts to approach parked cars or static objects from the front or rear. The Parking Steering Assistant can automatically steer the car into parallel and perpendicular parking spaces in reverse. After pressing the Park Assist button—once for parallel and twice for perpendicular—the driver only needs to activate the accelerator pedal and brake once a gear is selected. The driver can override or deactivate the steering assistance at any time by turning the steering wheel, disengaging reverse gear or pressing the button. Below 25 mph, the system can scan both the left-hand and right-hand sides of the road, for example in a one-way street, for any parking spaces as it drives past. By activating the turn signal, the driver stipulates which side of the road they wish to park on. All 2017 Golf GTI models are offered with Volkswagen’s standard five-year/60,000-mile (whichever occurs first) powertrain limited warranty and three-year/36,000-mile (whichever occurs first) new vehicle limited warranty.        

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