2007: Volkswagen GTI
“Don’t get us wrong. We’ll never look down our noses at 500-hp screamers with roofs so low you can slip in and out from under semitrailers without a scratch. But if the last year has shown us anything–with its punishing fuel prices and growing recognition of the dire effects of global warming–it’s that what the world really needs now is not cars that are fast, but cars that are practical, fuel-efficient, and fast. And that’s where the new GTI, reborn for the Volkswagen Golf’s–excuse us, Rabbit’s–fifth generation and once again immensely fun to drive, comes in. It’s the right car for our times. Hell, it’s the right car for any time.
“Keys to the reborn GTI’s success are numerous, but the combined effect is to recall the glory of GTIs long gone. First credit goes to VW’s superb 200-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four, a modern case study of successful internal combustion marriage, hitching exemplary, almost lag-free drivability and superior economy–more than 30 mpg on the highway–to ample urge for when the going gets frisky. The well-chosen ratios of its standard six-speed manual suit it well, but we’re here to tell you, for perhaps the first time ever, that you might want to consider the self-shifting option. Volkswagen’s DSG gearbox–an electronically controlled, twin-clutch device–is simply the best automatic-type transmission we’ve ever driven, and it posts better performance and around-town fuel-economy numbers than the manual.
“We marvel, like everyone else, at the excellent fit and finish of the GTI’s Japanese competition. But while Volkswagen reliability has often failed to prove out, this GTI feels like it has more build quality than anything within miles of its price point. It exudes substance in ways that worthy, sometimes faster speed machines from the Far East–the Subaru Impreza WRX, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and the Mazdaspeed 3, for instance–just don’t. We hope that this feeling of quality is a gift that will keep on giving. Because that would make this super car for our times even superer.”