New Cars - Volkswagen Golf GTI G60

Volkswagen Golf GTI G60

If ever there was a hardy annual, it was the Golf. The progenitor of the hot hatch, it has survived in basic form for over 14 years. In that time, it has very rarely played second fiddle to any other make.

But the time must come, though, when the old gunslinger must face up to the latest local punk who's hit the town with the aim of usurping his position. In Volkswagen's case, it is General Motors Vauxhall Astra/Opel Kadett. In 16-valve form, this young pretender is getting too entrenched, and he is about to walk away with the goods.

Although the Golf as we know it must be getting near the end of the line, the powers that be at Volkswagen refuse to take second best and have turned up the notch another click by adding a supercharger to the 1.8-litre engine.

Curiously enough, the notion of boosting the Golf's performance was investigated at the end of the Seventies in the wake of mounting bids for supremacy from rivals, but was discarded in favour of the 16-valve. We have now gone full circle, therefore, with this car's introduction.

Designated the G60, this supercharged version of the GTI produces 160 bhp at 5800 rpm which gives the car a top speed of 216 kph (135 mph) and 0-100 kph in 8.3 seconds. It is not these figures that are its most impressive attributes, though, for it is the willingness of the engine to pull away cleanly and without baulking from 1500 rpm right up to the red line. For those ruthless enough to do it, indicated top speeds at the electronic cut-out were 50 kph, 90 kph, 140 kph, 190 kph and 230 kph.

The interior trim will be instantly recognisable to all GTI owners except for the different seats, while it will take more than the casual observer to notice the red flash G60 markings front and rear and the 15 in. BBS wheels which distinguish this car. Underneath, though, the G60 has the great advantage of being fitted with ABS brakes and power steering as standard. An electronic diff, unit, as used on the Formula One Williams to improve the traction, is available on this model as an optional extra.

Before we all get excited about it, the bad news is that it is only available in left-hand drive. The official reason: the MQ gearbox; the unofficial reason: the hydraulic clutch system. This is a shame because in Britain the Golf GTI has 31% of the market segment with sales of 15,600 which, incidentally, is the same number as sold in Germany itself.

At the time of going to press, the price still had to be determined, but with a German price of DM35,610, (compared to the DM30,210 of the 16-valve which becomes £13,885 in sterling) the mark up for the British market cannot be too great as customers would otherwise be too tempted to purchase it from one of the Benelux countries. A four-wheel drive Syncro version will be available from the middle of the year. WPK