Test Drive: 2007 VW GTI 4-Door
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By David Haueter

When looking back at the years in my life where automotive tastes and preferences were established, 1985 was a big year. It was in that year that I drove my first BMW, a 2002 that was loaned to me for two weeks while performing house-sitting duties for the owner. Another memorable auto experience I had that year was spending a lot of time riding in and driving the first generation VW GTI, owned by my college roommate. The 2002 and GTI are both responsible for developing the attraction I still have today to small, tossable, fun-to-drive cars. There have been several versions of the GTI since that first version back in the early 1980's, but none have managed to capture the spirit of the original, until today that is.

Much of the credit for the GTI's rise in stature with driving enthusiasts goes to the engineers that developed the chassis for the Audi A3, as the GTI shares the same platform and powerplant (which is also used in the Audi A4). The 2.0-liter turbocharged and intercooled engine is one of the best four-bangers on the market today, producing 200hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, which is delivered from only 1,800rpm up to 5,000rpm. The engine also features VW/Audi's FSI Direct Fuel Injection, which enhances performance with efficiency - the GTI can get 32mpg on the highway. For the suspension, the GTI is equipped with independent McPherson strut architecture in the front and a multi-link independent suspension in the rear. A notable option for the GTI is the excellent Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), which uses dual clutches to engage one clutch on the next gear that is needed, as it releases the clutch from the previous gear. The car comes standard with a six-speed manual, which is what our test car was equipped with.

First impressions from the driver's seat of the GTI proved to be accurate after spending a week in the car. Overall, the GTI is very well balanced and has enough power to be entertaining to drive without upsetting the chassis or delivering too much torque steer to the front wheels. Yes, there is a bit of torque steer when you get on the throttle hard, but its never enough to be bothersome and is felt more as a slight twitch in the wheel, not a strong pull to one side or another. Despite carrying a weight of 3,100 lbs, which is more than some of its competitors, this modern GTI also likes to dance on twisty back roads, just like the original. VW has done a nice job of developing the suspension, as the GTI corners and handles very well, but is also comfortable for driving on the interstate. You can feel the weight of the car in some of the sharper corners in the form of body roll, but the suspension strikes a great balance of comfort and performance for most driving. The Brakes work well, though they aren't the greatest in terms of progressive pedal feel, and we question how they would ultimately hold up at a track day with the stock pads. Of course, drivers that want to improve performance further can choose from a wide range of VW tuners to get that job done.
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