Blimey. Was I embarrassed or was I embarrassed. Nipped into my friendly neighbourhood Volkswagen dealer last week, put two and two together and came up with far more than four. The salesmen were all smiles, jovial and ever-so-friendly. Well, with the world in the state that it is, I figured there was only one explanation for this frivolity - drugs. I debated how many real salesmen were trapped in the back office and just how to escape these impostors and inform the police. Suddenly one of them pounced and asked if he could help me and after looking gormlessly at him, I decided that in fact these guys were happy because they were just, well happy.
Me being the idiot that I am, it turns out Volkswagen dealers only deal one form of drug, the very real, the very legal adrenaline. And small wonder Volkswagen dealers' are smiling ear to ear, with their current line-up of vehicles, Volkswagen are strongly positioned to become the market leader across their range - most notably the dopamine deliverer, the Golf GTi.
Ever since the MK I burst onto the scene in 1976, engulfed in a cloud of tyre smoke and snarling engine, the GTi name has always been synonymous with Volkswagen's ‘hot hatch', in the same way that ‘Stuck in the middle with you' by Steelers Wheel is no longer heard as a catchy pop song, but as the soundtrack to a policeman having un-consenting surgery in Reservoir Dogs - so mighty was its impact things would never be the same again. However as was the case with Elvis, as the king of the road began to gain more and more accolades and success, the waste-line began to expand and its performance became slower and more laboured.
Heritage however counts for a lot and whenever a Golf was bestowed the fabled ‘GTi' badge, buyers clamoured to have one on their driveways. Besides, an overweight Golf GTi was still streets ahead of its rivals, as was the case with the Mk III and sales continued apace. However when the Mk IV was launched to lukewarm reviews in 1999, it seemed the Golf had eaten its last burger. In fact the Mk IV was only badged ‘GTi' in Britain and was called the ‘Trendline' (oh dear) elsewhere. Elvis Impersonator anyone?
To make things far worse, there was a new cat in town which simply blew the Golf away - the Honda Civic Type R. The Civic was cheaper than the Golf, faster than the Golf, had bullet-proof reliability and styling that screamed "speed!" The Type R devoured every performance car award going and continued onwards to head-butting the horizon.
However Volkswagen regrouped, put the Golf on a strict diet and training regime, gave it a new wardrobe and launched the Mk V GTi in 2005. To put the Elvis analogies to bed, the Mk V is the comeback special. Developing 200bhp from its 2.0 litre turbocharged engine, the GTi develops twice the torque of its great, great granddad the MK I, despite using no more fuel. A six speed gearbox is offered as is a sequential one to get your gear change time down to milliseconds. Plump for the sequential one however and not only can you achieve 0-60 in 6.9 seconds, but you'll feel like a Formula One driver with the flappy paddles behind the steering wheel. Pull up on the right to change up, up on the left to change down, lo and behold you're Lewis Hamilton. Even the steering wheel itself gets in on the act, with its flat bottom as useable as it is looking good.
Better still is the exterior styling Autel MaxiCOM MK808. Whereas the Mk III and IV were a Golf with a different badge and no other discernable features, the latest offering again harks back to the golden years. A gaping black grill greets you at the front, whilst huge exhausts hang proudly out at the rear. Five spoke alloy wheels that converge into five half circles finish the aggressive look. Hot hatches are back in vogue and Volkswagen want to shout about it.
Bit of trivia for you, the word "Golf" doesn't appear anywhere on the car Autel Diaglink. It's a GTi and nothing else. "Yes, we had a little bit decaffeinated the GTI," were the words of Jörn Hinrichs, Volkswagen's marketing head upon the launch of this masterpiece. Having seen the enthusiasm of Volkswagen dealers now they have such a special car on their forecourts, it appears they've been re-caffeinated too.Tim Bristol is an experienced motor journalist currently working to promote Heritage Volkswagen a VW dealer located between Bristol and Southampton.