I took just 10 days to blast through the first 1000 miles. I had a goal to follow the break-in schedule as detailed in the owner’s manual, but to do it quickly. My first impressions were not performance-oriented due to the easy driving. Instead, they were about the ride and build quality. I really liked my Mk6 Jetta. It was light-years ahead of my Mk3 Jetta. Sure, my Mk3 was faster, more nimble, and more fuel-efficient; but the Mk6 had comfort and refinement like I had not had before. Everything I had read about the Mk7 GTI told me that it has even more refinement and far better performance. Notice that I didn’t write “comfort?” Comfort is very subjective. Still, it was the first impression the car gave me.
I didn’t take the car for a test drive before buying because I knew I was going to get it no matter what. The platform’s reputation is THAT solid! So I signed the paperwork, took the keys, and hit the road. The first few miles were easy-going as I got to know the controls, the new-clutch, and overall feel of the car. I took back roads all the way home so I could vary the engine load during my 100-mile drive. There were points where the car felt REALLY firm. The next morning, I drove over a speed bump that the Jetta could take without even slowing down. It was bone-jolting in the GTI, so I decided to inspect the front suspension. Sure enough, I found that the dealer had failed to remove the shipping pucks from the strut shafts, effectively locking-out the front suspension. Unfortunately, this is a common problem around the country. The ride improved dramatically once the front suspension was free to do its job. The dealer atoned for their “puck-up” by installing a set of OEM splash guards free of charge. My salesperson knew I was interested in them, so it was a nice surprise when he made the offer.
Back to the ride, the ride quality lies somewhere between my Mk6 Jetta and my Mk3 Jetta: It’s firm, without a doubt, but it’s not as harsh feeling as my old Mk3. The stout highway ride is only reminiscent of my Mk3 because it’s not as plush as my Mk6. What it lacks in absolute comfort, it makes up for in fighter jet-like precision handling. With a variable-ratio steering wheel that goes lock-to-lock in just 2.1 turns, this thing can cut corners with point-and-shoot accuracy, all with minimal input. I can certainly see why the GTI does so well on the autocross course!
As for refinement, the GTI is appointed very nicely, even the versions with cloth seats. The things I like most about driving my GTI could have been had in an “S.” Some of these features include the soft-touch dash interior (instead of hard plastic), extra carpet finishing throughout the car, advanced dash cluster, and the infotainment system. The GTI features all the “driver interface” items I wished were present in my Jettas. I don’t think I could be more pleased with the technology and refinement that’s stuffed into this car! By the way, I get that there are plenty of nicer cars in the world. My pleasure comes from the GTI being a great balance between amenities, performance, economy, and affordability.
Oddly enough, I don’t even use some of the tech that is becoming commonplace in today’s cars: Android Auto/Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth interface. I’m very content to just insert a 32GB SD card into the stereo and let the “infotainment system” do its thing while my smartphone does its thing. I don’t care for any car’s Bluetooth speakerphone function, nor do I like my music to be interrupted when the phone sounds a notification or receives a call. As a result, I mount my smartphone to the dash (article to follow later) so that I can use it as a navigator while keeping the infotainment system free to act only as a stereo and, in the case of the GTI, a vehicle information center. I also prefer the clarity given by my Plantronics earpiece, both during phone calls and when GoogleMaps is reading turn-by-turn directions; no VW Bluetooth for me!
Two of the features that I had marginalized when I wrote my “Why a Sport” entry have really surprised me: The lighting package and the brake upgrade. All I can say is “WOW!” The lights cast a lot of light in the right places; plus, they automatically level and re-aim each time the car is started. This is a huge bonus for me since I routinely transport loads or pull a trailer. I like that my lights will always be properly aimed. The cornering lights are an excellent touch, too. The brakes? I’ve had several close calls over the past 10 days. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how hard this car can stop when it needs to (or when I’m not even trying). If I’m involved in an accident, it’s highly likely that it’ll be a rear-ender after someone is unable to stop nearly as abruptly as my GTI (that, and people around here like to tailgate). These brakes are unbelievable!
By now, you’re wondering why I haven’t tackled the two elephants in the blog: Performance and Fuel Economy. I’ll address those in my next entry, especially since my first 1000 miles did not include much spirited driving and since three tanks barely establishes a fuel economy trend. More importantly, my goal is to keep my blog entries to 1000 words or less so that they are quickly digested by my visitors. My next entry will focus on performance and economy. I’ll work on that one tomorrow.
Lovin’ This Car!