First Drive: 2014 Volkswagen GTD

Our office lacks a giant water bottle and an exercise wheel, but it's clear that Volkswagen views us as guinea pigs -- at least when it comes to the green GTI it left in our parking lot. Actually, it's not a GTI: It's a European-spec GTD. And Rainer Michel, vice president of marketing and strategy for Volkswagen of America, is imploring his bosses in Wolfsburg to bring the next iteration here after VW begins importing the seventh-generation Golf in 2013.

For the uninitiated, a GTD is essentially a GTI in all but name and powertrain. In lieu of the GTI's direct-injected, 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4, the GTD earns its D by using VW's 2.0-liter turbo-diesel I-4. Most of the GTD's other components, including its body kit, wheels, interior trim, and lowered ride height, are shared with its gasoline-powered GTI sibling.

VW applied a similar formula to the limited-volume 2010 Jetta TDI Cup Street Edition, but there's one notable difference: power. The Cup Street Edition offered the same 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque as any other diesel Jetta, Golf, or Passat. The GTD, however, benefits from a few small intake, exhaust, injector, and turbo modifications and serves up 170 hp and a sizable 258 lb-ft. With those figures, the GTD trails the GTI's 200 hp but offers an extra 51 lb-ft of torque.

From a power perspective, the GTD is no slouch, but with a 0-to-62-mph time of 8.1 seconds, it's about a second slower than a GTI. The GTD pulls admirably and sounds quite a bit like a forced-induction gasoline engine, but its unusual power delivery -- peak torque is served between 1750 and 2500 rpm -- reminds you of what's under the hood.

Michel says the current GTD is a touch softer than today's GTI, but it was a little difficult to discern because our test car had adaptive dampers that aren't offered on any GTI in North America. In its base setting, the GTD felt about as agile and responsive as a U.S.-spec GTI. There's a little more body roll in sharp corners, but Michel says the next GTD will be as stiff as the next GTI.

Perhaps the biggest difference is felt at the pump. The EPA hasn't yet tested the GTD, but Volkswagen believes that it comes closer to the Golf TDI's 30/42 mpg rating than the GTI's 24/33 mpg. We logged 511 miles over a weekend filled mostly with highway driving and averaged a solid 37 mpg.

Will the GTD's increased range and mileage be enough to sway Americans out of a GTI? That's still an unknown, but the premise of a hatchback that can autocross like a GTI on Sunday and hypermile like a hybrid on Monday is certainly appealing. Seeing as how Volkswagen will federalize both the next-generation GTI and a TDI engine for our market, adding a next-generation GTD to its U.S. portfolio would appear to be a relatively low-risk move.

Here's hoping Michel gets his way.

The Specs //
2014, if we’re lucky
PRICE: $25,000 (est.)
ENGINE: 2.0L turbo-diesel I-4, 170 hp, 258 lb-ft
DRIVE: Front-wheel
FUEL MILEAGE: 29/40 mpg (est.)

I'll take one.  I have a 2010 TDI Sportwagon with 52,000 miles and am wondering what to replace it with.  A GTD would suit my needs, combining the practicality of my diesel that can carry stuff, with the driving fun of my 350Z.  Bring them here - I'll buy one
Michael L Bennett
Best car I ever owned?  2002 Jetta GLS TDI, standard, eurotech suspension, rocketchip tuned CPU.  Just a really bada** little VW with 45+ MPG.  Bring the GTD to America.  I'll buy one and I know others will too.  Volkswagen for once lead instead of following the money.  Bring the GTD and it will sell. 
Orlando J.
I want one. Probably not in the WOWEE green paint of the GTD press cars VW sent over.  We have a Jetta TDi and love the range, smoothness, and torque. And that's only 140 hp.  Just a bit more in Golf-sized platform ought to make a great combination of efficiency, long range, and good performance.C'mon VW. Quit teasing us. Bring on the GTD-USA. No dumbing down for the yanks, please.
Bring it! We need a driver's car here that'll get something better than high teens MPG we see in most.Too, the idea that the US doesn't like diesels is obsolete. We just don't want to spend a $10k premium for it. If we can get performance AND good mileage we'll sign up every time.

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