First Drive: 2010 Volkswagen Golf GTI

To avoid inside wheel spin in corners, a new chassis system, called XDS, anticipates conditions where one front wheel is likely to break free and preventatively applies braking force. Its interventions are smoother and more effective than those of the previous electronic differential lock, which responded to one-wheel peel after the fact and with a heavy hand. Drivers of a Mazdaspeed 3 or a Mini Cooper S equipped with a limited-slip diff might smugly raise a hand to mock open-diff GTI drivers, except that they wouldn't dare take their hands off the wheel for fear of torque-steering into a tree. Although XDS isn't a real substitute for a true limited-slip diff on the racetrack, it's a better - and far less expensive - solution for the street.

No significant suspension changes were made - a larger rear antiroll bar, which improves the GTI's cornering balance, is the only update. The Golf's all-new interior, however, is a different matter. Blessed with upgraded materials and sound deadening throughout the cabin, the sixth-generation GTI is downright churchlike in its quietness. Wind noise is notably absent, and road roar levels are commendably low. Our only ergonomic complaint is that the power window switches, which were previously mounted too far rearward, are now placed too far forward, at least in the four-door model. As before, the GTI offers an ideal driving position - in comfortable and supportive seats - and a steering wheel that you'll want to reach out and fondle.

The 2010 GTI goes on sale in the United States this October, along with the 170-hp, gasoline-fueled five-cylinder Golf. A 140-hp turbo-diesel Golf is slated to follow in November. We expect the GTI's price to rise a little compared with the last generation, but the new found interior refinement and better looks are worth it, because this is undoubtedly the best GTI yet.

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