2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years Review
Isaac Bober’s 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Take the garden variety Golf GTI and give it more power and a tweaked body kit and interior.
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years
Pricing From $46,990+ORC (manual) Price as tested $48,990+ORC (DSG) Warranty three-years unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 15,000km or 12 months Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder Power 195kW at 5350-6600rpm Torque 350Nm at 1700-5800rpm Transmission six-speed manual or six-speed DSG Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4361mm (L); 1799mm (W); 1466mm (H) Turning Circle 10.9m Weight 1337kg Bootspace 380L Spare space saver Fuel Tank 50 litres Thirst 7.2L/100km (combined cycle)
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THE GOLF GTI 40 YEARS follows in the footsteps of other celebratory Golf GTIs, like the GTI 35 years, and that is it offers design tweaks and more power. Indeed, this latest anniversary GTI is the most powerful series-produced Golf GTI ever produced, it also gets styling tweaks like the extended roof spoiler which Volkswagen claims produces real downforce beyond 120km/h… Might as well have said it makes the thing capable of interstellar travel (unless you’re driving the Golf GTI 40 Years on a race track, that is).
Our test car was fitted with a six-speed DSG pushing the price up to $48,990+ORC, although a six-speed manual-toting variant is available from $46,990+ORC. The only cost option is a panoramic glass sunroof for $1850.
What’s the inside like?
Like the outside of the car which has been given some styling tweaks and adornments, like the roof spoiler (see picture below) that add a little presence to the GTI the interior has also been dressed up. Indeed, it now has presence, we’d suggest is missing from the garden variety model.
So, this anniversary model gets sports seats partially covered in Alcantara with a neat honeycomb pattern (quilting, essentially) in both the seat base and back, with a GTI badge stitched into the backrest. The seatbelts get a red border, and the gear shifter and steering wheel are wrapped in Alcantara. Open the driver and passenger doors and there’s GTI in red lettering on the door sills.
The seats are figure hugging and my old man, who is bigger boned than I am, found them a little too tight to be comfortable. For me, though, they were great and I didn’t have a huge issue climbing in and out, despite the side bolstering on both the seat back and base. And where these seats come into their own is when you throw the GTI 40 Years into a corner; basically, you stay put, which is as it should be.
From the driver’s seat, you can reach all the main controls, which in typical Volkswagen fashion are all neatly laid out and easy to understand. There’s Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Mirror Link connectivity, which makes connecting your phone and using its functionality a cinch. You must remember, that Car Play and Android Auto will only work when connected via USB and not Bluetooth.
Over in the back seat, the look of the front seats is continued and the shape of the rear seats is good. That said, the middle seat in the back is more of a perch than a real seat and wouldn’t be comfortable for an adult to travel on for any length of time. In fact, the back seat of the Golf feels a little cramped when you compare it to other small cars like, say, the Skoda Fabia.
There are ISOFIX mounts for the two outboard seats and I fitted a booster seat easily and didn’t need to remove the headrest to get it to sit snug against the back rest. In most cars, I test, I need to remove the headrest to get the booster seat to sit flush against the base and seat back, in others the headrest can be raised enough to slip the top of the booster seat underneath. Both my kids complained of rear seat legroom in the GTI 40 Years, and when I climbed into the back, with the driver’s seat set in my driving position I too felt cramped, although head and elbow room is good.
The boot offers 380 litres of storage space which is a decent amount for this sort of vehicle. Underneath the boot floor is a space saver spare which is less awesome, but because the boot floor offers two height levels you could probably source and store a full-size spare. Too many car makers forget about the quality of boot, Mazda, I’m looking at you, but the Golf’s boot space offers just as high a quality and attention to detail as the front of the car.
Indeed, while plenty of car makers are getting closer to the Volkswagen Group in terms of their interiors at this price point, none are yet able to match the precision and quality of materials.
What’s it like on the road?
Well, as you could imagine, the extra power is what makes this vehicle stand out. And the noise it makes when it’s hard charging towards redline, but let’s go back a step.
The Golf GTI 40 Years offers 195kW at 5300-6600rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1700-5600rpm from it 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. In the case of our test car, this engine, which is the latest variant of the engine that runs in the Golf R and features several technical tweaks to make it more efficient and allow for the overboost function (see below), was mated to a six-speed DSG and drinks 7.2L/100km on the combined cycle.
The Golf GTI 40 Years has an extra trick, and that is its ability to boost to 213kW, or 7kW more than the Golf R and 380Nm, up from 350Nm. This boost function can be accessed only when you push the accelerator pedal hard up against the bulkhead and I think this is a better way of doing it than hiding the functionality under a button, Renault, I’m looking at you here.
And, should you ever find yourself on a race track and driving a DSG-equipped version of the GTI 40 Years then you’ll have access to launch control, which gives you access to the full 213kW. We didn’t get to a race track, and so didn’t test out launch control, but I’d suggest for a road car this sort of thing is a gimmick. And, let’s not forget, hard accelerating away from, say, a set of traffic lights, even if you don’t exceed the speed limit is likely to be looked on dimly by the police. Indeed, a colleague of mine was once pulled over for doing just that; no wheel spin, no speeding. He just planted his foot and raced to 60km/h. But I’m off topic.
Don’t for an instant think that the Golf GTI 40 Years is a bit of a gimmick. Nope. Rather, it takes the Golf GTI to a whole new level that makes the thing properly appealing as a driver’s car, rather than just appealing because it feels quick-ish. I’m not suggesting the GTI 40 Years is the equal of a Golf R, but it’s a lot closer than you might think.
The engine offers all the real-world usability we’ve come to expect from it, but with the extra grunt it’s been made properly exciting when you want to push it a bit harder. And, when doing that, you’ll get a growly engine note with the hot hatch must-have of pop and crackle on overrun. Indeed, the best way to describe the GTI 40 Years is that it always feels like its straining at the leash, but not in an unpleasant this-is-annoying-to-drive-on-the-school-run way, just that there’s a depth of aggression lurking beneath the throttle pedal.
But this isn’t a case of all mouth and no trousers, and while the grip is no doubt helped by the sticky Bridgestone Potenzas wrapped around the 19-inch alloys, the GTI 40 Years can be hustled into a corner very quickly indeed. And much, much quicker than a standard GTI.
Once you’ve got used to grip, you start to notice how flat the thing sits through the corner, which is helped in no small part by the steering which feels meaty in the hands, is well weighted, quick and consistent in its action and offers the sort of feedback through the wheel that drivers lust after.
While the ride is firm it’s not hard and while it might not sound like it, there’s a difference between the two. For instance, you’ll feel every single bump and rut in the road and they’ll jiggle your belly as you ride across them, but the damping is finely tuned to the point that it dials out the jolt into the cabin. In fact, the ride is about as good as it gets in a hot hatch.
But. The Golf GTI 40 Years doesn’t like the rain. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t pitch you into the bushes when the road is damp, but it will become a little squirmier. Press the throttle and you’ll notice the torque overwhelming the front end, something that you don’t notice in the dry. And, even if there’s the slightest lump on a corner when you get back on the throttle will see the traction control light flashing.
And this is what made me like the GTI 40 Years even more. See, I’ve never been a fan of the Golf GTI because it always felt too conservative and capable and I know that probably sounds like a daft argument, but… the GTI 40 Years, on the other hand, feels alive. It’s not perfect in the rain, but it’s excellent in the dry. What I’m saying is that the GTI 40 Years is a car that needs to be driven and surely that’s what owning a car like this is all about?
What about the safety features?
The Golf GTI 40 Years piggybacks on the rest of the Golf range which was rated based on EuroNCAP testing and scored 35.92 out of 37, giving it a five-star rating. This rating applies to all Golfs except the Alltrack, which is unrated.
The Golf GTI 40 Years gets seven airbags: driver and passenger front; driver’s knee; driver and passenger side; and curtain airbags front and rear. There’s an alarm which includes a tilt sensor – it was common for car thieves to simply drag a car up onto a flatbed to get around the car alarm.
It gets the usual braking safety features, like ABS, electronic brake distribution, automatic flashing lights under emergency braking, multi-collision braking and auto-hold function. It also offers adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with rear traffic alert, city emergency braking, rear parking sensors, and reversing camera with static guidelines.
The GTI 40 Years also offers remote central locking with keyless entry and remote start, traction and stability controls with a front differential lock.
Why would you buy one?
Most anniversary models are usually just cosmetic models, but that’s not the case with Golf GTI anniversary models. The GTI 40 Years is another step up from the Golf GTI and the size of that step is out of proportion with the price premium. Basically, if you’re looking for something you can drive, then the Golf GTI 40 Years is an absolute bang for your buck’s bargain. There aren’t a lot available, though, so, this is likely to be a used purchase opportunity.