2007 Volkswagen GTI Four-door

Tom Salt Charlie Magee

VW engineers (including, presumably, the guy with the white coat in the TV ads) wanted to make sure you'd notice the GTI's throaty growl at low revs, so they added a tube to carry the sound from the engine's air intake tract into the passenger compartment. While you're listening to the sweet music from the direct-injection, sixteen-valve four-cylinder, you'll be pleasantly surprised how far you get thrown back into the supportive seat. With almost no lag, the 2.0-liter turbo makes tremendous torque from an ultralow 2500 rpm, and it pulls strongly all the way to its 6900-rpm fuel cutoff.

The controls work so harmoniously that you feel instantly comfortable driving the GTI hard. The shifter is so precise you never miss a shift. The electric power steering is well weighted and spot-on accurate, and the brake pedal gives progressive, reassuring feedback.

For 2007, VW is giving America even more GTI good stuff, in the form of a four-door body. Previous U.S.-market GTIs have had only two doors, but the four-door GTI gives maximum performance and maximum utility in a small package. The back seat is entirely livable, especially when you don't have to convince your friends to contort themselves over a folded front seat to get there. And, when the rear seats are folded, the four-door swallows piles of cargo that almost appear bigger than the car itself.

The two extra doors will cost you $500, and if you're particularly fond of your rear-seat buddies, you can protect them with side-impact air bags for an additional $350. The four-door weighs only 62 pounds more than the two-door, so you won't notice much difference in the way it drives.

This new, more versatile GTI represents a great value and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. For another $1075, you can get the dual-clutch DSG, which is the best manu-matic in the business. All 2007 GTIs gain a standard tire-pressure monitoring system, an auxiliary audio input in the glove box, and impact-optimized headrests for the standard seats. Further updates are expected mid-year, as are, unfortunately, some cost-cutting measures. The 2006 model's headlight washers will be phased out, and the soft-touch material used on the doors and the dash apparently was too expensive, because it's being replaced with harder, cheaper plastic.

None of those changes, however, interferes with bringing the GTI closer to its original mission--to be the most enjoyable jack-of-all-trades on the road. The four-door provides everything we want in an economical, fun, modern car but without making us feel like we've sacrificed anything at all. The GTI really is back.

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