Golf trio heads NZ performance charge

Three rounds of performance Golf – a giant-killer wagon, a birthday celebration GTi and an associated electric-assisted model – are set play a key role in helping restore any lustre lost from Volkswagen’s local reputation as result of diesel-gate.


HOW much longer Volkswagen’s reputation here will be blackened by ‘dieselgate’ is anyone’s guess, the brand’s New Zealand distributor acknowledges.

As the year draws to a close, the shame of the emissions scandal that has no bearing on the New Zealand motor scene is still impacting; there’s a sense that if not for this, VW New Zealand would also be enjoying the boom sales that are reaping reward for almost all its rivals.

However, it might also have been worse. Back in October, VW sales were down 17 percent year-on-year. Since then there’s been bounceback.

A stronger than anticipated sales rally in December has sufficiently offset an earlier trough that brand boss Tom Ruddenklau is thinking overall the annual registrations count will be down by two to four percent.

Losing ground is never palatable, but it compares favourably with a predicted 5.3 percent global average loss facing Wolfsburg.

Ruddenklau agrees there’s no easy remedy to fixing VW’s image problem. The expected release in March of a software fix that removes the cheater code from the engine management setup of the one affected 2.0-litre diesel engine – a powerplant that goes into just seven percent (5548 cars) of the 75,000 VWs on our roads – will be a big step forward.

For now, though, he’s thinking the best way to end a tough year is to focus on a more positive future.

With that in mind Motoring Network has been provided insight into a three-pronged specialist model assault for 2016 involving the volume crucial Golf.

He’s announced intention to introduce two performance editions – a hotter Golf GTi to celebrate 2016 being the type’s 40th year of production plus something truly different: A Golf R in wagon format that will stand as the first new performance load-all from Wolfsburg since the V6-engined Passat R36 was discontinued.

These are set to be end of first quarter arrivals. The third part of this fresh Golf round is a plan to bring in the Golf GTE, the plug-in electric equivalent of the Audi A3 e-tron that has been here since mid-2015.

No firm launch schedule has yet been set for Golf GTE, but Ruddenklau says it is “absolutely” part of a 2016 schedule that also delivers the new-generation Tiguan. That car has already actually felt New Zealand roads under its tyres; several were briefly brought here last month for the filming of an international television ad for the new model.

But back to the Golfs, starting with …

GTI Clubsport.

A limited-run model to mark four decades since the release in Germany of the original Golf GTi, this special treat is set to land around April, if not slightly earlier.

Whether it will be able to maintain the Clubsport moniker given in Germany remains to be seen – that tag, of course, is already used here by Holden Special Vehicles. We will also receive the car in a five-door format, rather than the three-door model pictured here.

Ruddenklau says the price is still being negotiated, but says Kiwi fans should be reassured it’ll be tasty. “Put it this way, I’m really happy about where we are heading with that.” Presently the most expensive GTi is the $65,990 GTi Performance.

This new flagship GTi started life as a concept produced for the annual GTi enthusiast’s gig held in the German town of Worthersee every May and made its world debut in production form at the Frankfurt motor show in September. 

It thunders in with the same additional boost as the concept that pushes maximum power up from 169kW on the GTI Performance model to 195kW – and increasing to 213kW on overboost. 

The modified version of the EA888 2.0-litre direct-injection TSI turbo-four combines with either a six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission to send the front-wheel-drive Clubsport from 0-100kmh in just 5.9 seconds with the DSG, or 6.0s with the manual gearbox. Either way it’s the most powerful production GTI in history, though still sitting second to the Golf R, which musters 206kW and can hit 100kmh in five seconds flat with the DSG – or 5.2s with the manual. Top speed is electronically-shackled at 250kmh.

Volkswagen says this anniversary model is more than just about raw power, with extensive revisions in design, some aerodynamic tweaks and extra equipment onboard. 

The body takes a newly developed front bumper, side sills, rear diffuser and multi-part roof spoiler, plus exclusive 18-inch forged alloy wheels. Specially designed ‘Bresica’ 19-inch alloys are also available. 

Enthusiasts will note the side profile is based on the first-generation GTI – the black stripe is a nod to the 1976 original – while the black striping continues towards the front in the new air deflector element of the front bumper. 

The new roof edge spoiler is considerably larger than the one found on the regular GTI and, according to VW, is aerodynamically optimised to help improve the vehicle’s dynamic performance.

Among a variety of exclusive detail elements in the cabin, folding racing bucket seats are provided in lieu of regular sports seats. They are partially covered with Alcantara and feature a honeycomb pattern on the backrests and seat cushions. 

Golf R wagon

Performance wagons are usually an Audi thing, but VW has had one here before, in the form of the now discontinued Passat R.

Ruddenklau acknowledges a small performance wagon should conceivably become a niche offer, however he says take-up for the Golf R hatch has always been healthy. Thus the New Zealand consignment for the load-all alternate has been set at 40 units.

Delivery timing is still being established however the price has been ticked off: $79,990 sees this version sit $8000 above the DSG Golf R hatch, which in turn is $2500 above the entry six-speed manual.

Apart from its big boot the R Wagon is identical to its hatchback equivalent sibling. The body shell is just 74kg heavier than the hatch’s so any performance impact is marginal. The zero to 100kmh dash takes 5.2 seconds versus 5.0 seconds for the hatch.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and all-paw drivetrain is essentially the same as used by Audi for the S3. The Haldex 5 4Motion transmission sends 206kW and 380Nm of torque to all four corners via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Fuel consumption takes a small dent with the added weight – up to 7.2 litres per 100km from the 7.1L/100km of the hatch.

The R-style rear bumper lends the wagon a more purposeful look compared with the standard varieties, and gloss black diffuser, dual tailpipes, and tinted lights and window glass complete the sportier back end look.

Up front the sports treatment continues with a large-vented R bumper, gloss black grille and Bi-Xenon headlights with matching daytime running lights.

Like the Golf R hatch, the wagon's interior gets sporty touches such as aluminium pedals with matching highlights on the gear selector and three-spoke steering wheel.

Its 605-litre boot offers an extra 261 litres of luggage space over the hatchback, or a total of 1620 litres and space for 1831mm long items when the 60/40 split rear seats are folded.
Ambient blue interior lighting matches the unique blue gauge needles and the 6.5-inch information display flashes up an 'R' when the driver's door is opened.

Underpinned  by MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear suspension, the chassis sits 20mm lower than regular Mk7 Golf wagons, and features EDL differential locks that work with electronic stability control and XDS-Plus brake cornering systems to assist handling and roadholding.

While the ESC software has been modified with higher intervention thresholds than in normal Golfs, R owners have the ability to switch it off altogether. Additionally, the steering is sharper with a progressive steering gear ratio that cuts wheel revolutions from 2.75 turns to 2.1 turns lock to lock.

Another R exclusive is the DCC adaptive chassis control system with comfort, normal, sport, race and individual settings that modify the throttle, steering, transmission and dampers according to driver preference.

Golf GTE

The concept of a plug-in recharging range-extender electric-prioritised Golf might not grab the attention of all VW buyers, but the brand here is committed to GTE – the VW equivalent of Audi’s e-tron.

The addition of a plug-in model means the Golf becomes the first car range available with a full spectrum of vehicle propulsion, with the exception of hydrogen fuel-cell. The GTE joins regular petrol and diesel Golfs, as well as European-market CNG and fully-electric e-Golf models.

Unlike the earlier e-Golf – which is not on the cards for NZ - the GTE is a plug-in hybrid, meaning it pairs a turbo-petrol engine with a subsidiary electric motor that can be recharged from a wall plug. 

The difference with the GTE is that Volkswagen has designed with performance in mind as much as efficiency. The result is car that can dash from standstill to 100kmh in 7.6 seconds, but use 1.5 litres of petrol per 100km on the NEDC combined-cycle test. 

The drivetrain is the same provided in the A3 e-tron. It comprises a 110kW version of the 1.4-litre turbo from the regular Golf and a 75kW electric motor linked up to an 8.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a specially designed version of VW’s signature six-speed DSG double-clutch automatic transmission. 

Overall maximum output is 150kW and 350Nm, and it is this torque – available from zero rpm with the electric motor – that sets the GTE’s performance apart from other PHEVs.

All-electric range is 50km, and the car can be fully charged from a regular wall socket in as little as 3.5 hours. The overall maximum driving range – meaning until the petrol tank is depleted – is 934km. 

The battery weighs 120kg, while the overall vehicle mass is 1527kg. Volkswagen has tweaked the suspension settings to account for the extra mass over the GTI, promising sporty handling. 

The cabin is familiar hot Golf, though the GTI’s red accents have been switched to blue. There are numerous graphics on screens depicting energy use and charge levels, while a downloadable app can tweak vehicle setting remotely.