Earlier this year, I expressed the opinion that there is now no clear leader in the “hot hatchback” market, but that opinion will have to be revised when the VW Golf GTi 16V comes on the market late this year, reaching Britain in January, 1986. The 16 valve engine which was first shown at the 1983 Frankfurt Show is now in production and it gives the GTi a decided edge in performance, while making it even more refined and, it is claimed, losing nothing in economy. Prices have yet to be fixed for the UK market but in Germany, the new model will cost roughly 11% more than the standard GTi which, if directly translated into Sterling, will price the car around the £9.000 mark.
The official reason for the delay in putting the unit into production was the necessity of making an emission control version, but the VW engineers also spent their time reducing valve gear noise with a belt drive and hydraulic tappets. The result is a quiet, On. fussy motor, which produces a maximum of 137 bhp at 6,000 rpm combined with an impressively flat torque curve which peaks at 124 ft/lb at 4,600 rpm but which also maintains a figure of 118 ft/lb between 2,800 rpm and 6,000 rpm. With full emission control, the engine gives 129 bhp at 6,000 rpm while both the power and torque characteristics are the same to 5,000 rpm at which point both curves tail off, but not by much.
The twin inlet valves are inclined at 25 degrees while the sodium-filled exhaust valves are vertical. A compression ratio of 10:1 is specified on both “normal” and “catalytic” versions of the engine.
To accomodate the new engine, a shorter fifth gear has been fitted, ride height has been lowered by 0.4. modifications have been made to the spring, damper and antiroll bar settings and the disc brakes which are fitted all round have been slightly uprated. Pirelli Pb 185/60 VR-14 tyres are fitted as standard. Externally, the main differences are some discreet badging (discretion is the better part of avoiding a trip to court with a car like this), black twin exhaust pipes, slightly modified spoilers and the fitting of the radio aerial at the rear of the roof.
VW claims a 0-60 mph time of 7.5 sec, and I have no reason to doubt the figure. A maximum speed of 130 mph is claimed (the figures are identical for both the Scirocco and the GTi) and I certainly saw 220 kph (137.5 mph) on the speedometer when driving along an autobahn. The power is transmitted without any torque steer at all, though I have to say that driving conditions were perfect. On the road, the ride seems marginally less refined than on the standard GTi and undulations on one stretch of road were translated into a slight yawing, it was nothing uncomfortable hut the standard car. I suspect, would not do it. The ride,hand
ling compromise is overall, excellent, as we have come to expect from the Golf range but the greatest compliment one can pay the car is that one is rarely aware one is driving with fwd. The many virtues of the current GTi are retained but the detail changes to the suspension give one just that little more feel. The important thing to know is that the Golf GTi V16 looks set to regain the position which VW once held as the undisputed leader of the hot hatchback market. It’s not as sensational or as rorty as the original GTi first seemed to be, but it is a significant advance and a definite cut above its rivals, even if you have to pay more initially. If you desperately want a Scirocco, then go for the current rhd version or hang fire until the new one appears. If it can combine the road manners and refinement of the GTi V16 and the pleasant styling which has marked the first two versions of the Scirocco, then it should be a car worth waiting for.
VW has again thrown down the gauntlet to its rivals. When the company first did this with the GTi, the result was not only a new type of car for the sporting driver, but excellent competitors from other makers. The I6V car does not make the same huge leap of the first GTi but it does establish new standards and not only must its rivals work hard to match it, but we, the car buying public, can do nothing but benefit from the competition. — M. L.
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