Monaco- When we first drove the new GTI more than a year ago (December 2004), it impressed us with its torquey, direct-injection turbo four-cylinder and solid chassis. It felt like a return to the formula that made the original 1983 GTI a cult icon for car nerds: a combination of sports-car handling and station-wagon versatility with the price of a workaday sedan. But that drive was in the European-market GTI, not a U.S.-spec car. Haughty German engineers often decontent and soften the cars they send us to suit their preconceptions of Homer Simpson-like American tastes, but now that we've driven the U.S.-spec GTI, we're happy to report that Volkswagen engineers left our car plenty sharp.
In fact, not much changed for the GTI's journey across the Atlantic. To better survive collisions with trucks and SUVs, the U.S. car rides 0.6 inch higher (the same height as the Golf), but that makes it more prone to body roll, if less likely to crash into its bump stops. Like the Euro GTI, our version can be throttle-steered; if your arc into a corner is too wide, back off the gas, and the front tucks in as if it's reading your mind. The U.S. GTI isn't as stiffly sprung as a Mitsubishi Evo, so it will make a more livable conveyance in the frost-beaten Rust Belt.... Read full article