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1995 volkswagen golf gti vr6
You just can’t keep a good car down. Following a decade of successfully courting the affections of enthusiast drivers across America, Volkswagen abruptly turned around and put its legendary GTI through some pretty grim paces here in the U.S. After offering a rather emasculated variant for model-year ’93, the automaker dropped it altogether from the abbreviated ’94 Golf lineup. But the bad days are gone. The GTI is back for ’95, and back in a big way. Charged with replacing the slow-selling Corrado SLC, this latest iteration of the original hot hatch adds a VR6 to its formal nomenclature and a huge dollop of newfound firepower to its performance portfolio.
A number of subtle styling tweaks distinguish the GTI VR6 from a standard Golf III two-door hatchback. Up front, an airdam, foglamps in a color-keyed bumper fascia, and a dual- rather than tri-bar grille are the prime tipoffs. Body-color outside mirrors, side moldings, and rear bumper fascia; a roof-mounted radio antenna; a discreet rear spoiler; and darker taillamps complete the look.
Interior changes on the GTI VR6 are similarly understated. Save for a 160-mph speedometer and slightly “sportier” instrument markings, all of the gauges and switchgear remain Golf III. The GTI does have a longer list of standards-including air conditioning, cruise control, a trip computer, leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt column, a full range of power-assisted amenities, and a premium sound system-than other Golf models. But only toned-down op-art upholstery fabric and heavily contoured sport seats bear overt witness to its added go-fast potential.
While some may criticize the GTI VR6’s passenger compartment for being rather trailing edge when it comes to visual excitement and ergonomic refinement, few-if any-of its competitive contemporaries can equal this high-velocity VW ‘s overall roominess. Complementing its firm, supportive, front buckets is a 60/40-split folding rear bench that’s designed with regulation-size humans in mind. Along with its ability to transport four adults in relative comfort and five in a pinch, the GTI VR6 can tote a formidable 17.5 cubic feet of assorted baggage.
Unlike any previous Volkswagen carrying the GTI badge, this Gen-III spinoff uses a six-cylinder engine in place of the traditional four. VW’s ubiquitous narrow-angle VR6, also found in the Jetta and Passat, packs a formidable power punch coupled with exceptional flexibility. In this application, the compact 2.8-liter SOHC engine churns out 172 horses at 5400 rpm and 173 pound-feet of torque at 4200 rpm, with 80 percent of that twist available from 2000 to 6000 rpm. Major enthusiasm doesn’t manifest itself until the tach needle sweeps by the 3000-rpm mark, but from there on to its 6600-rpm redline, the VR6 revs smoothly and strongly. We have mixed feelings about the GTI’s mandatory five-speed manual transmission, the benefits of its well-chosen close-ratio gearset being somewhat compromised by vague, notchy shift linkage.
The GTI underpinnings retain the basic MacPherson-strut/torsion-beam-axle design found throughout VW’s lineup. But the VR6 model merits a full-sport workover. This consists of shorter coil springs, stiffer shock absorbers-gas-pressurized in the rear-and larger-diameter anti-roll bars. Other performance-enhancing upgrades include a quicker ratio on the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, low-speed electronic traction control, and ABS that’s paired with a beefier brake package (larger-diameter front vented discs and solid rear discs in place of drums). GTI-to-ground contact is maintained by 205/50HR15 Goodyear Eagle GA tires wrapped around 15×6.5-inch five-bolt, cast-aluminum rims. These replace the 185- or 195/60HR14 rubber on four-bolt wheels fitted to other Golf models.
So how well does the package work? Empirical test numbers tell only part of the story-though a 7.1-second 0-60-mph clocking, 118-foot 60-0-mph stopping distance, 0.81-g lateral-acceleration capability, and a 65.2-mph sprint through the slalom aren’t to be taken lightly. To really appreciate the essence of the GTI VR6, you have to turn it loose on a deserted stretch of serpentine backroad. Once in its element, this exceptionally capable front-driver will happily carve through the most intimidating twisties with the grace and balance of a motorized ballet dancer. Responding equally well to measured inputs of steering, throttle, or brakes, the GTI VR6’s fundamentally forgiving nature prevents minor over-the-limit transgressions from becoming terminal excursions.
The original GTI was a legend, a Teutonic wunderkind borne from Volkswagen’s gutsy decision to endow a lowly econobox with a previously unattained measure of real performance. The new VR6 version is orders of magnitude better in virtually every functional area. VW expects to sell 3000 to 5000 GTI VR6s here in ’95, roughly one quarter of its total U.S. Golf volume. With a base price of $18,875 and a miniscule option list (consisting of metallic paint and a six-disc CD changer), the GTI VR6 will remain, if not a consummate bargain, at least a solid value. More important, it also remains a first-rate fun-runner with a distinctive personality, one well worth test driving.
Second OpinionI, for one, was really happy to hear the news of the performance GTI’s return to VW’s U.S. lineup. At first glance, its rounded contours make the new GTI VR6 look even smaller than its predecessor. But once inside, there’s plenty of room for both front and rear passengers. The instruments and controls are dated, but the firm, grippy front buckets indicate what’s to come when the 172-horsepower VR6 sparks to life. The GTI is one of those cars that demands to be driven. The harder you push, the better it gets, begging for more ups and downs, more lefts and rights. Its raw performance numbers aren’t the best in class, but the overall driving experience darn near is. Link this with the fact that Volkswagen has priced this performance hatchback at or below comparably equipped competitors, and the GTI becomes a serious contender.-Michael Brockman