VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTD
The fastest diesel-burner around
WITH VOLKSWAGEN FACING THE BRUNT OF THE RECENT DIESELGATE SCANDAL IN THE UNITED STATES, IT WAS QUITE A SURPRISE THAT THE COMPANY WOULD CONTINUE DEVELOPING AND MARKETING DIESELPOWERED CARS AS AGGRESSIVELY AS BEFORE. AND NOT MERE DIESELPOWERED, BUT WITH PERFORMANCE ABILITIES THAT WOULD PUT MOST PETROL-POWERED VEHICLES TO SHAME. BERNARD HELLBERG SR PUT THE HIGH-PERFORMANCE GTD TO THE TEST.
A familiar sight on our roads for the past four decades, the Golf range might sell in lower volumes than the company’s entry-level Polos, but it remains one of the most iconic nameplates on the local motoring scene.
With six models now on offer – ranging from the 999 cc and 81 kW to the mighty 213 kW Golf R – the gap in the line-up was noticeable. Fans of the Golf – and there have been 350,000 in South Africa since launch – needed a diesel-powered performance version that would provide grunt to, almost, rival the outputs achieved by the iconic GTI – but without the fuel consumption that accompanies petrolengined performance cars.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
Wolfsburg engineers seem to have got it spot-on with a four-cylinder turbo diesel that “only” makes 130 kW (when seen against the Golf R’s 213 kW), yet I personally found this to be one of Volkswagen’s most advanced engines with smooth, linear, power coming into play at an extremely low 1,500 r/min. Herein lies the GTD’s secret. The 0-100 sprint time of 7.4 seconds (supplied by VW) is 2.8 seconds slower than the R’s insane time, but still good enough to qualify as a superb effort – regardless of the fuel used.
The six-speed DSG gearbox, as usual, was one of the car’s highlights– posing the question: Why would anyone even consider a manual shifter when such excellence is
available? Considering that the world is now moving (and has moved) into seven, eight and even nine-speed gearboxes, this six-speed version has shown that perfectly matched ratios are more than adequate for all intents and purposes.
Gear changes were imperceptibly fast – adding to the overall feeling of luxury– and explaining not only the great acceleration figures but also the impressively high (230 km/h) top speed. A bonus for those with super-sensitive hearing was the diesel’s muted growl, which was less metallic than the engine sounds emanating from the Golf R and the GTI. It was only during startup that one became aware that a direct injection common rail diesel was at work.
LET’S GO INSIDE
As with all Golfs, the interior is a welcoming space with a perfectly-sized steering wheel, well-shaped semi-sports seats and controls which, at last, make sense at first glance. With VWSA, quite rightly, claiming “big car” qualities for the GTD, they apparently could not hold back on safety and luxury.
Brakes are responsive, all-disc versions and the all-LED headlights are some of the best I’ve ever experienced on the open road at night. Cut-off from bright to dim is instant, and a great safety feature for oncoming traffic as well.
The steering wheel is fully adjustable for height and reach, and all windows and external mirrors are electrically adjustable, while the infotainment screen is another luxury feature that could almost justify the R506,700 asking price.
Perhaps the question is unfair since the Golf range owes its sales successes, I believe, to a design philosophy based on evolution rather than many revolutionary and radical changes. This, I believe, is preferred by owners current and future who would certainly not want to drive a car that’s so thoroughly (and quickly) out of date that one would need to get rid of it at any cost.
Look carefully, and you might see the dual tailpipes, utterly striking 18” wheels, and additional air inlets in the front bumper. There’s no fancy red striping so beloved of GTI owners, but a roof spoiler makes the car look longer, as do the front and rear lights (all LED) that now wrap around for additional dramatic effect.
The new Golf GTD is not cheap but is it much more than just another rather noisy diesel. It’s an exclusive addition to the Golf range for those who demand fuel economy and significant touring distance on each tank of fuel – as well as the mechanical reliability of a Volkswagen diesel. Moving into the R500,000+ bracket means that buyers have a fair list of vehicles from which to choose. The Toyota 86 2.0 High, Renault’s Mégane RS 275 Finale, and the Ford Focus ST3 all undercut the GTD in terms of price but not on fuel consumption, which is a claimed 5.3 litres/100 km. The GTD, in my view, occupies a unique space where there aren’t any competitors, and with its five-year/90,000 km service, as well as its three-year/120,000 km warranty, it’s poised to achieve iconic status in the future.