Volkswagen Golf GTI (2010)
Volkswagen Golf GTI
"What else was there in 1976?" calls out "Strietzel", also known as Hans-Joachim Stuck, from the driver's window as he starts up a Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk I after more than thirty years. "Whenever a person had a chance to drive a 911, it was a real experience. And then all of a sudden this experience was possible in the GTI too. Clearly on a different level, but affordable for everyone. That was the genius of this car, and it has stayed that way right up to today. The new GTI is a prime example of this." Stuck - one of the true giants of international car racing - works closely with Volkswagen AG. As a representative and driver in car racing, and as an expert in chassis and powertrain tuning in vehicle development, he also put the final touches on the new Volkswagen Golf GTI together with the experts of team "Hackenberg". On the Nürburgring as well, where development chief Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg and Hans-Joachim Stuck competed in parallel, driving Sciroccos for glory and professional experience in last year's 24-hour race.
Volkswagen is right at home on the Nürburgring's North Loop. It has always been that way. And the GTI too. Even before sales of the GTI began, it was present on the track of the "Green Hell" before thousands of spectators in 1975 - as a pace car in the prototype stage with a two-barrel carburetor instead of electronic injection. The rest is history. Automotive history. "The 110-PS engine of the GTI", recalls Stuck, "had a willingness to rev that was fun from day one. There had been nothing like it before. That is why the first GTI made such a statement."
In 2004, the fifth Volkswagen Golf GTI brought back this legend more powerfully than ever before. Between the debut of the first generation and the production runout of the fifth generation, more than 1.7 million car buyers made the GTI a world bestseller. Now this is being followed up by the sixth GTI, even sharper and more confident than all of the others before it. A GTI whose chassis systems - with standard electronic transverse differential lock (XDS) - redefines behavior in curves and traction. A 240 km/h fast GTI that is more fun to drive with its powerful 155 kW / 210 PS turbo engine and yet only consumes 7.3 liters super unleaded (0.7 l/100 km improvement). A GTI that delivers audible dynamics with a sound generator and new exhaust system design (two tailpipes, one left and one right). A GTI that successfully transfers the tradition of the original version to the future.
And Hans-Joachim Stuck (58) is more than just a figurehead of Volkswagen Motorsports and more than an expert who just looks for vehicle weaknesses. "Strietzel", the nickname given to him as a baby by his godmother, and by which he is still called today by friends, is a GTI fan: "We always had a GTI in the family, from the first to the sixth. The Pirelli Editions too. There were no gaps here. Even when I was under contract with BMW, I preferred to drive to the Nürburgring in a GTI. It was in a GTI that I drove 911 drivers to distraction on the North Loop. My wife was even driving a GTI when she first caught my attention."
Engine of the GTI
In the case of the Volkswagen Golf GTI generation VI, the fascination for Stuck began once again with the engine: "It is extremely important that the current GTI, like the last one, should be another turbo. This boosted high-tech engine fits in perfectly with our times. It is more fuel efficient than a large displacement engine, but thanks to the turbocharger it is just as athletic." And that is a key aspect of the Volkswagen Golf GTI tradition too: As early as the second generation, the G60 had an impressive boosted four cylinder engine (118 kW / 160 PS). Later, the era of boosted GTI engines really gained momentum with the fourth generation in the "Golf GTI 132 kW" (the exact name). The technology and times were ready for this approach. A limited edition (3,000 cars) of the 132 kW / 180-PS version was introduced on the VW Golf GTI's 25th anniversary in 2001. Although there had already been a 150-PS turbo, it did not yet have the aggressive punch of the anniversary version. With the launch of the Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk V, an entirely new turbocharged four-cylinder engine was employed, which delivered a power of 147 kW / 200 PS. On the 30th anniversary of the GTI, a 169 kW / 230 PS turbo engine was introduced in the VW Golf GTI Edition 30. Somewhat later, this new engine also powered the second Pirelli GTI.
At exactly 155 kW / 210 PS, in terms of power level the new Golf GTI's TSI engine is positioned between the last production GTI and the 30 Year Edition. Although its performance and displacement data might suggest an advanced development of the 200-PS engine, this was actually a new powerplant of the "EA888" generation of engines whose technical origins were in the 230-PS version.
The TSI that is used in the sixth GTI is a product of the second development stage of these highly agile engines. Compared to the first "EA888" development stage, this engine - optimized for transverse mounting in the new GTI - has new components such as modified pistons and piston rings, a regulated oil pump, a new vacuum pump, a new high-pressure fuel pump and a new mass airflow sensor. When used in the most powerful Golf today, the engine fulfills limits of the Euro-5 emissions standard.
Performance of the GTI
When it comes to emissions and fuel economy, the new 210-PS engine has advanced far ahead of the two previous GTI four-cylinder engines with 200 and 230 PS. To be specific, the 1,984 cm3 displacement TSI on the new GTI is content with just 7.3 liters fuel per 100 kilometers on average. On the 200-PS GTI, fuel consumption was 8.0 liters, and the 230-PS GTI came in at 8.2 liters per 100 kilometers. So the theoretical range of the sixth GTI is about 750 kilometers between fill-ups.
At 170 g/km, the engine also shows marked improvement in CO2 emissions. "And the new GTI," says Hans-Joachim Stuck, "succeeds in bridging the gap between a serious business car during the work week, and a competitor on the Nürburgring on the weekend." In this context, it should be noted that the first Volkswagen Golf GTI in 1976 had a power of exactly 81 kW / 110 PS and a top speed of 182 km/h, and at that time it was also one of the few cars to perform this balancing act.
The new GTI successfully addresses these aspects while attending to the property of most interest to GTI buyers - besides the car's appearance - which is its dynamic performance. At a low 1,700 rpm the engine already develops its maximum torque of 280 Newton-meter. And this reserve torque is available as a constant value - exhibiting an ideal plateau in the torque curve that is not really a curve any longer - up to 5,200 rpm. Stuck says: "In practice, this means impressive power in all of life's situations." The maximum power of the sixteen-valve engine with 9.6:1 compression ratio can be tapped over a speed range from 5,300 to 6,200 rpm.
The resulting package delivers enormous propulsive force; the car completes its acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in just 6.9 seconds, and the new Golf GTI handles a 1,000 meter sprint from a standstill in 27.3 seconds. Just as impressive is the engine's elasticity. In fifth gear, the Volkswagen accelerates from 80 to 120 km/h in just 7.5 seconds. Even in sixth gear it only takes 9.5 seconds. Not until 240 km/h is a balance reached between air resistance (cw = 0.324) and power. The tachometer indicates 5,900 rpm at this top speed.
Like the previous model, for the new GTI an optional 6-speed dual clutch transmission (DSG) will be offered as an alternative to the 6-speed manual transmission (including standard upshift recommendation as on the BlueMotion). In this case, the Golf delivers a top speed of 238 km/h (at 5,920 rpm). Like the manually shifted GTI, the DSG version also accelerates to 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds. Its average fuel consumption of 7.4 liters (173 g/km CO2) nearly matches the excellent value of the manual transmission (7.3 liters).
Yet the numbers themselves only tell half of the story about the dual clutch transmission. Stuck: "The DSG is incredibly fast and precise. And the way in which the Volkswagen Golf GTI with DSG automatically double declutches when downshifting is a joy for any sports car driver. Interesting is the fact that the pedal position on the very first GTI, and of course also on the normal Golf, was laid out so that well-versed car drivers could double declutch properly." According to forecasts, about 30 percent of all GTI drivers will order the sporty Volkswagen with DSG.
Sound of the GTI
The engine and exhaust system of the new Volkswagen Golf GTI are making their appearance with an entirely unique and typical GTI sound. A sound that makes a very sporty impression yet does not irritate car occupants on long tours. On the exterior, the noise level is fully regulated by the newly developed GTI exhaust system. The only visible components of the exhaust system are the pair of chrome tailpipes integrated in the GTI's black diffuser, one on the left and one on the right. Inside, a complex exhaust routing system produces the typical GTI sound. In parallel, it was possible to reduce the weight of the system and its back pressure. And that has a direct positive impact on driving performance and fuel economy. Moreover, a sound generator ensures that the sonorous engine acoustics are perfectly "mixed" in the car's interior as well.
Chassis of the GTI
"Physical handling limits" always come into play when the safety reserves of a chassis need to be determined. The actual boundaries of the new VW Golf GTI's physical handling limits are revealed when a driver like Hans-Joachim Stuck is at the wheel. Just a few laps in Hockenheim or on the Nürburgring or a few kilometers in the "Maritime Alps" on the mountain roads above Nice are sufficient for the former Formula-1 driver and endurance race world champion to very analytically describe why the Volkswagen Golf GTI drives at the level of significantly more expensive sports cars and - this is crucial - can also excite the drivers of such extremely expensive sports cars.
Stuck: "It becomes immediately apparent just how precisely the GTI tracks steering inputs. And this steering precision is directly reflected in driving quality. The production car chassis offers practically no hint of body roll. The car's quasi lack of roll and pitch results in very safe driving behavior. However, the GTI not only handles with sports car stiffness; it is also very comfortable. The electronic damper control of its new DCC system, in particular, produces an ideal synthesis of great comfort and excellent handling properties in the GTI. There are of course many sporty cars that are simply too stiff. Yet this one is always right. That must be stated very clearly."
The sixth Volkswagen Golf GTI is equipped with a sport chassis; its front end was lowered by 22 millimeters, and its rear by 15 millimeters. The entire architecture of springs, dampers and rear stabilizers was completely re-tuned. In front, the familiar strut-type suspension operates with helical springs and telescoping shock absorbers. In the rear, an innovative multi-link suspension ensures that the ESP system seldom needs to intervene. The braking system is also extremely durable. Distinctive here are the red painted brake calipers.
Sportier and safer with XDS
For the first time in a Volkswagen, the XDS electronic transverse differential lock is being used. It significantly improves traction and handling properties. Technically speaking, XDS is a functional extension of the electronic limited-slip differential (EDS) integrated in the ESP system.
In fast curve driving, as soon as the innovative electronics detects that the wheel at the inside of the curve on the GTI's driven front axle is insufficiently loaded, the ESP hydraulics specifically builds up braking pressure at this wheel to restore optimal traction. So XDS acts as a type of transverse differential lock that compensates for the understeering that is typical on front-wheel drive vehicles when driving fast through curves.
The results: Thanks to XDS, driving behavior is significantly more precise and neutral; drivers perceive this as more like the handling characteristics of a car with all-wheel drive than those of front-wheel drive. Hans-Joachim Stuck: "Beyond the GTI's already good chassis layout, XDS gives the car an enormous measure of driving stability. And it leads to greater driving enjoyment, since it reduces understeering. Experienced sports car drivers will be much more active underway. Yet, XDS is a very important safety feature for normal drivers too, because they will not experience any unpleasant surprises with the GTI. It simply would no longer press ahead."
Dynamic yet comfortable with DCC
In addition, the dynamic chassis control (DCC) system mentioned by Strietzel is available on the new GTI. It continually reacts to the roadway and driving situation and modifies the damper characteristic accordingly. The driver perceives the significant advances in comfort and dynamic performance directly. During acceleration, braking and steering actions, damping is stiffened in just fractions of a second to optimally satisfy vehicle dynamic requirements and reduce pitch and roll movements as described by Stuck.
To let drivers choose the desired system behavior, besides the "Normal" program with a basic medium setting, DCC on the Volkswagen Golf GTI also offers the "Sport" and "Comfort" modes that are activated by a pushbutton above the shift gate. In "Sport" mode, the power steering is also tuned for greater dynamic responsiveness.
Cruising safely with ACC
For the first time, the distance control system ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) will be offered on the Volkswagen Golf GTI starting in late summer 2009. When ACC is activated, the system automatically brakes and accelerates the GTI within a speed window from 30 to 210 km/h. Above all, when cruising at constant speed, e.g. at the speed limit on the freeway, ACC offers a significant plus in comfort and safety.
Distance control is implemented with a laser sensor in the rearview mirror that continually scans the distance to the vehicle in front of the car and its speed using five laser beams. The system operates successfully in curve driving too. ACC is controlled via a lever on the steering column. Important: As soon as the ACC system reaches its limits, the driver is asked to resume control by visual and acoustic warning signals.
Park Assist Generation II
Another high-end technology on the new Volkswagen Golf GTI is the optional Park Assist park steering assistant. The second generation of the system is used here. It enables nearly automatic back-up parking parallel to the roadway. The driver just needs to actuate the gas pedal, brake and (in the manually shifted version) clutch, while the GTI steers into the pre-scanned space by sensor control. Previously, the space had to be at least 1.4 meters longer than the vehicle; now 1.1 meters is sufficient. In addition, the system now enables multiple forward-reverse stages in parking. Park Assist deactivates itself as soon as the driver manually intervenes in steering. When the GTI is ordered with this system, the acoustic proximity warning system ParkPilot (front and rear) and Hill Hold Control are included too.
Bi-xenon headlights with curve lighting
As an option, Volkswagen is offering the Volkswagen Golf GTI with completely redesigned bi-xenon headlights, including dynamic curve lighting. The headlights swivel through a steering radius of up to 13 degrees to the outside and seven degrees to the inside. The styling of the headlights closely matches the GTI's sporty character. The interior dual modules (xenon outboard, parking light / turn signals inboard) each have a chrome pod through which a very impressive visual image projects. Placed low below the bumper - and also GTI-specific in design - are the vertically aligned and always standard front fog lights.
Interior of the GTI
If there is such a thing as total ergonomic perfection, then it is to be found in the new GTI. Stuck: "This ambiance lacks nothing that a person would have in a luxury sedan. Nonetheless, the interior is uncompromisingly sporty. This begins with the seats. They offer a high degree of long touring comfort and are equally fit to run a 24-hour race. The GTI is super comfortable, super ergonomic. You can adjust everything on the seat. But there is no need to. You just climb in, move the seat forward once then back, and that is it. Sit down. Done. A perfect fit." A genuine compliment.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is equipped with standard sport seats, which - as once before - are upholstered in a tartan fabric pattern ("Jacky"). Leather seats ("Vienna") are available as an option. A lumbar support integrated in the seats is positioned by a lever on the side of the seat. For safety, whiplash-optimized head restraints (WOKS) are also on board. The head restraints precisely counteract whiplash in case of an accident. The GTI logo has been worked into the WOKS material.
Additional features: Naturally, this Golf also has pedals with brushed stainless steel caps, a customized GTI gearshift lever in aluminum look, a leather steering wheel with grip recesses and GTI emblem; naturally there are decorative red seams on the steering wheel, gearshift surround and leather parking brake grip; naturally the roofliner is black, and so is the pillar trim. Naturally, because this Golf is a GTI. That is why the decorative inserts in the doors and instruments are also customized with "Black Stripe" style elements - black, high-gloss accents in metallic look. In any case, the GTI breaks through class boundaries with its high-end surfaces and features that are pleasing to the touch and the eye. The impression made by the materials and their workmanship, details like brushed chrome accents and elegant round instruments give the impression of actually sitting in a car of the next higher class, or in a far more expensive sports car. In contrast to most sports cars, however, the VW Golf GTI offers ample space for five persons. Its cargo capacity of between 350 and 1,305 liters also ensures that GTI drivers can handle nearly all of the challenges of daily life with confidence.
Design as Homage to the First GTI
The new GTI was created under the direction of Walter de Silva (Head of Group Design), Klaus Bischoff (Head of Brand Design) and Marc Lichte (Head of Exterior Design). And the car that de Silva, Bischoff and Lichte realized together does great credit to the first GTI. "We wanted a consistently clear GTI design, a car that has power, but style as well", is how Walter de Silva sums it up. "Also cast in stone was the goal of evoking the character of the first GTI a bit more", says Klaus Bischoff. "And that is why it was decided that - with the exception of the aerodynamically important rear spoiler - the new GTI would not have a single exterior add-on, unlike the usual practice in this segment", emphasizes Marc Lichte.
Wide, powerful GTI front end
Even the first GTI generation already exhibited a consistent horizontal alignment of elements in the radiator mask and headlights. The red grille surround is legendary. That made the original GTI look wider than it actually was. But it shared this basic design concept with lower-powered Golf versions. Generation V of the GTI, on the other hand, intentionally set itself apart from its less powerful counterparts. That is why - over five years ago - the team led by Lichte chose a black, high-gloss grille in V form. Since that time, any child was able to recognize it as a GTI. The new one too. It now melds stylistic elements of both of these GTI icons. Details such as the typical honeycomb radiator screen, and the V-shaped engine hood extending over the headlights, were contributed by the GTI V. The clear horizontal alignment, meanwhile, definitely originates from the GTI I.
The entire bumper plus radiator grille and inner design of the headlights are a new creation. The outer grille painted in high-gloss black is a flat surface again; a red stripe frames it at the top and bottom. To the left of the VW logo there is a GTI signature (from the first through the third generation it was always on the right).
On the level beneath, a trim strip in car color extends crosswise. At the center of the bottom section there is another air inlet that is very large. Toward the sides of the car it transitions to three cross beams, left and right, that look like gills; they end in the visually dominant fog lights that are arranged upright, or on edge. The plastic surfaces around the gills are painted in anthracite-metallic color, so that their contours do not disappear into a black hole. The fog lights - located extremely far outboard - visually draw the lower section of the bumper further outward than ever before. This stylistic touch and the basically horizontal formal styling of the front end give the 4.21 meter long Golf GTI a visual appearance that is wider (1.78 meter), lower (1.47 meter) and more dynamic than any other car of this class. A genuine GTI that can be recognized as such from five kilometers away.
Stylish GTI side profile
The sides of the new GTI are dominated by a very prominent character line that is drawn from the headlights to the taillights. Supported on this line - that is modeled as a muscular shoulder in the rear - is the roof. These proportions give the Golf GTI a lot of visual energy.
In its side profile, it is the bumpers extending far outboard and the unique form of the door sills that distinguish this GTI. The Golf GTI V had black sills set above the actual longitudinal beams, which extended from one wheel well to the other. The sills of the GTI VI are also black - but that is where the commonalities end. The aerodynamically sensible sills on the new car do not extend the full length, and this gives them a considerably more refined appearance and make the car appear lighter. The standard 17-inch "Denver" type alloy wheels - and the highly polished 18-inch "Detroit" alloy wheels available as an option - make a powerful statement. Both are classics of GTI styling. While the five U-shaped openings on the 17-inch wheels are designed in silver, the 18-inch wheels have a black piano paint look.
Rear of a GTI
There is hardly a rear section that is so unmistakable as that of the new Golf GTI. Here too the wide bumper was completely redesigned. Under the bumper is a black diffuser that channels air from beneath the vehicle and generates added downforce at the rear axle. A pair of chrome tailpipes is integrated in the outer regions of the diffuser, right and left.
Also redesigned was the roof-edge spoiler. The new rear spoiler - working in tandem with the diffuser - perfects the car's orientation to the road at very high speeds. Since the rear spoiler is larger than its counterpart used on the "normal" Golf, it extends further into the rear window and makes it visually flatter and wider; yet it does not impair the driver's view.
The GTI Phenomenon
When car drivers are asked why they purchased a GTI, they first mention the car's exterior styling, followed by its overall performance, i.e. the combination of a sporty chassis and an agile engine. Precisely these two aspects - styling and performance - were rearranged by the Generation VI development team to bring the sports car's character into even greater harmony with the original GTI concept. And that means: clear styling plus pure dynamics. No more, no less.
And because the Golf GTI is no ordinary car - it is also an automotive perspective on the world - it is worth taking a look at the facts behind the "GTI phenomenon": the Golf GTI is the global market leader in the high-performance section of its class. The same holds true in Europe and Germany. 84 percent of buyers are men, and six out of ten of them are married. 70 percent of all GTI drivers have more than one car, have no children and are under 50 years of age (average age is 39). Their three favorite colors are black, white and red. 78 percent of new customers always wanted to drive a GTI sometime. Volkswagen also asked the GTI drivers about their dream car. The key wording here: if money were no object. And the response was truly resounding: for nearly 30 percent the GTI would be their first choice, even if they had all of the money in the world. An extraordinary compliment. Incidentally, taking places 2 and 3 of this hit list were the Porsche 911 and the Audi R8, two super sports cars from the same Group.
Inception of the GTI
The Golf GTI is a phenomenon, a brand within the Volkswagen brand, an automobile world view and an unmistakable design statement that has now attained sales of 1.7 million units. It is an original among sporty compacts. Spectacular stories have always circulated about how the first GTI (Gran Turismo Injection) came into being. At the center of these stories there is always a "secret society" of people who pushed through the GTI right up to production stage against the clock and opposition from their superiors. Many of the tales about these developments that have been passed down are true, but just as many of them have become distorted over the decades and are often wrong. The fact is that the Golf GTI was the ingenious idea of a few men. This is their story and the story of the first GTI.
Everything began, as always, with the Beetle
Let us fade back to 1973 when Volkswagen launched a very sporty version of the Beetle. The "Yellow and Black Racer," as it was called, differed from the normal Beetle in that it had a black hood and engine cover, slightly wider tires (5.5 instead of 5 inches), sport seats with head restraints (!) and a proper leather steering wheel. Technically, it was still the same old Beetle with 1,600cc, 50 horsepower, no more. Despite its relatively modest output, this "aggressive model from Volkswagen" even caused a stir in the German parliament.
Yet, to the dismay of a few insider experts it was popular among the public. This fast looking Beetle model sold out in no time at all, and this paved the way for a two-year project in Wolfsburg that - even within the company - only a handful of people would know about.
The founders emerge
It is still 1973, March 18 to be precise. On this day, memorable from today's perspective, test engineer Alfons Löwenberg wrote an internal memo to a few colleagues from the Research & Development department. He proposed that Volkswagen should consider putting together a proper sports model. After all, a new vehicle with the project code EA 337 (the internal code name for the future Golf) had reached the final stages of development - and a modern front-wheel car with high-performance would open up a completely new group of customers for Volkswagen.
Recipients of the memo were reluctant at first. Only chassis specialist Herbert Horntrich and development chief Hermann Hablitzel were at least somewhat receptive to Löwenberg's idea. However, Löwenberg kept at it and found other like-minded colleagues such as marketing man Horst-Dieter Schwittlinsky and Anton Konrad, Volkswagen's PR director at the time. Konrad - who had been manager of the Formula V association for many years and enjoyed race car driving as a hobby - was particularly taken with the idea. He was also aware, however, that the seedling called sportiness needed to be cultivated with extreme discretion within the company. The high development costs for the new model that would be launched as the Golf in 1974 had already put a strain on the company's finances.
Secret meeting over beer and sandwiches
Konrad invited the secret developers of this "Sport Golf" work group to meet at his home. Over beer and sandwiches, Hablitzel, Horntrich, Konrad, Löwenberg and Schwittlinsky sorted through the possibilities like co-conspirators. Hablitzel was now definitely on board, and his tacit approval allowed Löwenberg and Horntrich to get down to work. Taking a Scirocco prototype with a rock-hard chassis, they lowered the suspension dramatically, souped up the basic 85 PS 1.5-liter Scirocco engine to about 100 horsepower with a two-stage carburetor and crowned it with an exhaust pipe that resembled a stove pipe and sounded like one too.
Prototype 1 is over the top
Today, Konrad remembers the car as "a roaring monster". The secret team soon agreed that this was not what they wanted. The Sport Golf should have a sporty image, but it should be civil. So, Löwenberg and Horntrich decided to build a more reasonable version. The result was not quite as ferocious, but it was still quite fast. The whole undercover group felt much better about this new model, and Hablitzel plucked up some courage. He informed development chief Professor Ernst Fiala about the sporty car and asked him what he thought. Fiala delivered a fatal blow: "It's far too expensive, you're all mad," he retorted briefly and succinctly.
However, Hablitzel and his men would not be deterred. The prototype based on the Scirocco was officially declared a chassis test platform, but its development continued unofficially. Löwenberg fine tuned the engine, while Horntrich configured the chassis for the proposed beefy tires. 205/60 HR 13 would be the tire size, which back then would have even put a Porsche 911 to shame - the quintessential Teutonic sports car still ran on 185/70 tires in 1974.
Management says it's a "go" in Spring 1975
Not surprisingly, the "chassis test platform" caused a great stir when Hablitzel & Co. demonstrated their latest projects to Volkswagen management at the Ehra-Lessien test center in Spring 1975. Even Professor Fiala was now taken by the Sport Golf in a Scirocco outfit - and he gave his approval. At the end of May, an official vehicle proposal was sent to the development department: A sporty version of the Golf is needed.
The Golf becomes the GTI
At the same time, Sales sensed the good market opportunities for a sporty Golf, and Volkswagen still needed a crowd pleaser for the upcoming International Motor Show in Frankfurt. The project suddenly acquired momentum from all quarters. Six prototypes with different configurations were created, ranging from a speedster trimmed for maximum sports car performance to a modestly understated version. Chief designer Herbert Schäfer was responsible for all the fine details that would set the future GTI apart from its less powerful rivals. The red stripe on the radiator grille, for example, and the larger front spoiler, modest plastic wheel well extensions, matte black frame on the rear window, black roofliner, golf ball knob on the gearshift lever and checked pattern of the seat covers.
Technical fine tuning
Herbert Schuster, the new test manager, immediately declared chassis development a top priority. To cut costs, he reduced the width of the wheels from 6.0 to 5.5 inches and shrunk the tire size to 175/70 HR 13. He did, however, also add stabilizers for the front and rear axles and developed a spring/damper configuration that provided a perfect synthesis of comfort and sportiness. In collaboration with Audi, an ultra-modern 1.6-liter fuel-injected engine delivering 110 PS was produced.
World premiere in 1975 at the IAA in Frankfurt
The former undercover team finished its work right on schedule. When the 46th Frankfurt International Motor Show opened its gates to the public on September 11, 1975, a red wonder celebrated its debut at the Volkswagen booth: the Golf GTI concept car. "The fastest Volkswagen ever" boasted the advertisement - and that was no exaggeration. The GTI accelerated from a zero to 100 km/h in about nine seconds, leaving considerably larger and more expensive cars behind. The cautiously announced price of "under 13,000 German Marks" was still at least 5,000 German Marks less than its key German rival. As a result, car show visitors were so enthusiastic about the car that company management had no other choice than to build a special series of 5,000 cars.
GTI mania begins
The GTI ended up costing 13,850 German Marks when it was launched in mid-1976. Despite the higher price, dealers still managed to sell ten times the planned sales volume in its first year on the market. And that came as no surprise: "Climbing an Alpine pass in the GTI - this is one of the most exciting driving tasks that a car enthusiast can have" is how the German automotive magazine "auto motor und sport" extolled the GTI. That sums it up, even 33 years later.