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Like good wine, the Golf GTI just gets better and better with age.

29 Dec 2011


The Golf GTI, the granddaddy of hot hatchbacks, celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. What started out as a project from a group of Volkswagen engineers back in 1976 has now evolved into something of a cult today. There's even a huge annual gala in Worthersee, Austria, just to toast this small little hatchback.

But of course, the Golf GTI is no ordinary hatchback. It has become so much of an icon that Volkswagen releases a special edition of the car every five years, to reward the rabid fans of the iconic three letters that petrolheads know so well.

Singapore seldom receives such special edition models (we didn't get the Edition 30, based on the Mk V Golf GTI, for example), but for this year, Volkswagen appears to have made an exception, and now we have the Edition 35 here with us. This version promises to be even better than the already-brilliant 'normal' GTI, which, on paper, appears to be a tough ask.

Exterior

Already, at first glance, the E35 looks slightly different than the standard GTI. The 18-inch 'Watkins Glen' alloy wheels is probably the standout feature, with the design drawing nothing but praises from admirers everywhere.

There is also a mild body kit around the car, with a slightly different-looking front spoiler and side skirts. There are also black door mirrors and special '35' badges to mark the car out from its standard sibling.

All in all, while the changes are relatively mild, they do enough to make the Golf GTI E35 stand out and announce that this is no ordinary GTI.
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Interior

While the exterior enhancements are minor, the interior features a bit more stuff to differentiate itself from the normal version.

The lovely bucket seats gets a unique honeycomb pattern upholstery design that mimics the GTI's front grille, while the '35' logo embroidered on the seat backs reminds you of the significance of this model.

Red stitching also adorns the interior, in places such as the seats (again), leather-rimmed steering wheel, gear lever gaiter, seat belts, handbrake, and so on. It certainly sets the mood for what the car is capable of.
Other extras include the side scuff plates with the '35' logo once again, and probably the coolest feature of all, which is the dimpled golf ball gear knob. This is a throwback (literally) to the original Golf GTI, which also had such a novelty design, and provides for a cheeky reminder as to the GTI's heritage.

For all its fancy trimmings, the GTI's interior still remains classically Volkswagen. Space is decent for a family of four and their baggage, everything is well-built, buttons are intuitively placed, and there's no question about comfort in daily driving, which is what makes the hot hatchback recipe so desirable. There's no denying the appeal of a car that can function as both a family mobile and a performance steed, at the same time if desired.
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The Drive

The main difference between the E35 and the standard GTI lies under the bonnet. As a birthday present to itself, Volkswagen has swapped the GTI's powerplant with the unit from the cracking Golf R for the E35.

This engine, which also saw service in the Mk V Golf GTI, is apparently more susceptible to tuning. And so, Volkswagen has worked its magic to adjust the unit's output to an appropriate 235bhp. It's not a coincidence surely, and it puts the E35's performance right smack in between the GTI and the R.

It is the way the car pulls that truly takes your breath away though. There is so much of the 300Nm of torque available all through the rev band, that the car simply disregards the redline when the accelerator is mashed. Slower traffic is simply smacked past, leaving them in the E35's dust.

It makes a fantastic sound too, with a lovely burble that evolves into a growl as you depress the right pedal. Dump the DSG gearbox into Sport mode, and the car blips the throttle on the downshift, which is simply delightful.

The Golf GTI is one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars out there, and true to form, the E35 retains that sweet driving characteristic, with its direct and communicative steering helping the car tackle the curves with aplomb. The E35 corners with precision, with the XDS limited slip differential providing for plenty of traction, long after the driver's bravery has run out. The ESP can also be completely switched off, which makes the car a hell of a lot more fun, if you dare that is.
Despite its performance potential, the Golf GTI E35 still remains a reasonably comfortable car when one is not in the mood for hard driving. Ride quality is a bit firm, but acceptable for daily driving, while the brakes are somewhat sharp and overly-sensitive, although that is something one will quickly get used to.

Conclusion

I've always loved the idea of hot hatchbacks, and the Golf GTI in particular. The combination of performance, poise and practicality gives the car an appeal that few can match.

It's a shame I've never driven any previous GTI before my encounter with the Edition 35, because based on this form, Volkswagen's birthday gift to commemorate its icon is not only a fitting way to celebrate, but it has also set the bar very high for future GTIs indeed.

If only all birthday presents were this wonderful…

What do you think? Jot down your opinions at the comment box below.

Car Information

This model is no longer being sold by local distributors

Price

: -

Engine Type

:

4-cylinders in-line 16-valves DOHC Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1984cc

Horsepower

:

175kW (235 bhp) / 6300 rpm

Torque

:

300 Nm / 5500 rpm

Transmission

:

6-speed (A) DSG

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

6.6sec

Top Speed

:

246km/h

Fuel consumption

:

12.5 km/L

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