Breaking my land speed record on a Volkswagen GTI
I was down at the VW service station bringing my sweetheart Vento for waxing when, for no apparent reason fate decided to be very kind on me. I saw two VW GTIs before even breakfast today and I thought ‘Today’s a good day’ but I was soon to be surprised. I saw a red GTI here at the service station so I kindly asked for the keys to see the car. I hadn’t intended on asking for a test drive, I was just keen on seeing the 3-door with tartan seats and a very appetising exterior. But as soon as I got in the car, it started begging to be driven. I heard the call and I decided to go for it. Now before you start saying ‘Its just a Polo’ let me give some context on what I’m talking about. This folks, is the VW GTI, one of just ninety nine that VW decided to bring to this country. It has a 1.8L TSI engine producing 190bhp and capable of doing a 0-100kmph run in just 6.7 seconds. Now that’s almost 3 times the power of the base version Polo and about 2 times the power of the Polo GT TSI which itself is regarded as a fast car. If the GT TSI is a display of fireworks, this is a pound of dynamite. The only thing that could give it a thrashing would be an Octavia vRS or a Mini Cooper S. So considering this is cheaper than either of them by more than Rs. 10 lakh, this car would be the grand daddy of performance hatches in India. Even internationally, it falls in the hierarchy of performance cars as a younger sibling to the Golf GTI which as we know is the benchmark for entry level performance. I could go on about this, but that’s not what I’m here for. So let me get down to business and drive it like I stole it.
But well, the GTI is the best horse in the stable and it wouldn’t be fair if you just got to drive it without pulling some strings. I was asked to book for a test drive and they’d inform me a date when I could come and pick it up. But since the car had begged me to drive it today, and since I was in no mood to wait, I called up the AGM of After Sales & Service whom I knew personally and asked him if he could put me inside the car. Fast forward 5 minutes and I’m inside the red GTI fumbling with the controls and chatting with the executive about my love for Tartan seats and flat bottom steering. He had stayed back during the lunch break and so did I, because this was totally worth staying hungry for.
The car started up to a very subdued but crisp exhaust note which pretty much described the character of the car as a whole. We approached the nearby Container Terminal road and I slid it into Sport mode and flicked the paddle to shift down a gear and before thinking twice my foot weighed down like lead and I mustered all the courage I had. Next thing I knew the car flicked me like a slingshot and I was doing well above speeds considered legal. The response was unlike anything I’ve seen so far and it was a truly visceral experience. I was just preparing to be amazed at how well the car behaved at speeds. This was bound to feel insane as I was propelling 190 ponies around. But these weren’t any normal ponies, they were thoroughbred German ponies that would go mad if you unleash them but would obey to your gestures as small as the flick of a finger. The car felt very tame even though it was a beast deep down. This was partly down to the DSG gearbox. I reckon if this was the manual version it would have blown my brains out. Traffic was not quite absent and I had to brake hard once in a while when morons riding scooters would come into the fast lane at 40kmph, an act they wouldn’t have done if they saw me hurling a red GTI towards them at speeds above 150kmph. I had to brake pretty hard and the road undulations weren’t even so what impressed me the most was the traction the car provided in braking the car on a dime. It maintained the line I instructed it to down to the last inch and didn’t hesitate to let all hell break loose when I planted my foot down again. In front of me was a GT TSI that over took another car and was quite happy about it. I was right behind whispering ‘Thats cute’ before flinging past him and leaving him to eat my dust. The thrust just pins you down in your seat and with it any hopes of you getting up from there. But you just surrender to it with a smile that extends from ear to ear. The handling was spot on, the steering felt adequately weighed and not too light like most VWs of late. The suspension was set up as hard as you could take but without compromising on ride quality. One point VW have done too well is equipping this car with all sorts of safety and luxury features. I was never a fan of this but let me tell you, this is impressive. To my luck, the road opened up twice and I held the wheel tight and floored it to find the car ripping the tarmac at speeds I cannot reveal on a public forum as I looked down at the speedo. I was sure to be classified as a mad man by everyone on that road.
But Gott im Himmel (God in Heaven, but as the Germans would say it), I’m calling it Christmas today. Here’s to the car that redifined speed to me. The car that raised my bar of performance driving. But to be honest I feel less innocent now. Cause I have driven an actual performance car and it didn’t seem scary to me. I feel I’m less of the 17 year old who got intimidated and later fell in love with an Abarth Punto. I have been diagnosed with the problem of a horsepower addiction. And this can only be solved by providing more and more horsepower on a daily basis. Preferably when there’s not much traffic.
The Volkswagen GTI has a 1.8L TSI engine also found in the Audi A3 Petrol and pushes 190 bhp which is fed to a 7 speed DSG gearbox. All suspension components are different from the normal Polo and car rides on 215/45 R16 tyres that stick to the road like anything. The package tips the scales at 1273 kgs and it is as good a deal as you can get. The GTI was launched at Rs. 32 lakhs (on-road Kochi) but now the price has been cut down to Rs. 24 lakhs. So if you have that kind of money lying around, do yourself a favor and add some sweet German horses to your stable.
I apologise for it if I offended any Tesla fans with the heading but to be honest I know that Roadster does 0-100 in 1.9 seconds and yeah it’s quicker than a Chiron. But please understand that cars are more than the sum of their parts and not just the figures on paper. Cars are about the experience you have and what bond you develop with it. Unfortunately you can’t measure them and put it up on the internet. So buy cars that mean something to you. Not the ones that seem better on paper. This is the reason I concentrate on writing about the experience of driving a particular car rather than brood over technical details.
That said, the initial lot of 99 GTIs have been sold out but VW have commissioned 200 more for India. That’s the best news of 2017. Now that’s a way to end the year with a bang! So here I am wishing you all happy and safe motoring experiences in 2018! And may you always feel the need for speed!