Buying into the Golf GTI has never been a hard call; for the past two generations at least this high-status car has pretty much sold itself.
But Volkswagen has thrown a curve ball with the just-launched and much anticipated generation seven edition by creating, for the first time, two levels of GTI.
There's the standard car here now. From next March there's also a Performance Pack edition that, if negotiations with the factory go to plan, will cost $5000 more.
This potentially creates two levels of greatness, with those buyers with the patience to wait likely to reap a stronger return. The Performance Pack variant will deliver not only 7kWs more stonk but also beefier brakes and a new electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip differential that is a front-drive first.
That's in addition to xenon lights and the DCC system (that alters suspension firmness) that are options on the just-launched car.
So is it advisable to wait? In theory, perhaps. But in reality, on the strength of having completed 700kms' driving in the standard GTI, I think it will be hard not to succumb to the temptation of what is available now.
Even at a price and power disadvantage with the Ford Focus ST and Renault Megane RS Cup, the GTI remains a powerful force. For one, it still attracts with a more premium feel, great dynamic feedback and a strong design. Those familiar GTI trademarks - the tartan trims, telephone dial 18-inch alloys and red bumper stripe - fit comfortably here.
Secondly, it drives with a fantastic sense of resolve that leaves one sure that the car's historic benchmark status is set to continue.
It says much about VW's intent to continue the singular GTI ‘feel' that even with a wholly fresh chassis, a new electric steering system that quickens as you wind on lock and 70Nm more torque from the carryover 2.0-litre turbo four, in dynamic quality this car still translates as an evolution of the last one.
The upgrades to the engine also work to Green good, with this being the first Golf engine to meet the Euro Six emissions standard, but primarily it's about improving the performance.
The 0-100kmh time has increased by 0.4 seconds, to 6.5s. There is more mid-range muscularity too, with an on-track test showing it pulls especially well in the 90-140kmh zone; this is good news for deft overtaking, though the standard six-speed DSG box, while satisfyingly snappy in its shift quality, does become overly helpful by upchanging once it sniffs the redline.
The soundtrack also hardens up, but only for occupant pleasure, with VW being the latest brand to employ a resonator that amplifies the engine and exhaust roar within the cabin, while reducing the overall driveby output. This allows the car to sound pleasingly hoonish from inside, while actually being more socially responsible.
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