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2001 Volkswagen GTI VR6 Road Test

2001 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 - Corruptible Power, Decadent Details

I want this car. To put things into perspective, I've driven almost every car made by every manufacturer selling cars in Canada. I want this one. Why? One reason is I can afford it. The other, it's as good or better than cars costing three times as much.

Performance. That's what the GTI is all about. At first glance the massive 17" 5-spoke rims on low profile rubber tell you that this VW's not a garden variety Golf. Its handling is stunning. The rack and pinion, power assisted steering reacts immediately with minimal input. Just point it and go. At city speeds, 90-degree corners can be negotiated without slowing at all. Out on a winding highway the suspension truly shows its form, staying flat even when tossed from side to side. The suspension setup incorporates nothing new, just independent McPherson struts, coil springs, telescopic gas pressurized shocks and a big, fat 21mm stabilizer bar up front. In the rear a simple independent torsion beam axle, coil springs, the same shocks and an 18" stabilizer bar. The devil is in the details, and in this case Volkswagen's technicians have tuned it to near perfection.

Power. For its time, even the original 1979 Rabbit GTI was adequately powered. But it's not 1979 anymore. Now, the competition is fierce. The new VR6 GTI, however, is in a league of it's own. There are other cars in this category with more than 174 horsepower, but none with a smooth strong 181 lb-ft of torque in a well balance 6-cylinder. Power comes on right now! No waiting for a turbocharger to spool up, no need to reach high rpm to achieve enough grunt to spin the wheels. Press the traction control off, place the slick shifting 5-speed into first, press the accelerator, let out the clutch, and hold on - this little rocket's on the way to the moon. I'm not saying that the base GTI, with its 150 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque lacks fun. It's a blast, and might be even nimbler in the handling department. But displacement is still king, and the VR6's 2.8-L mill is definitely worth the extra charge on the monthly payment. And as if the current 174 hp isn't enough, for '02 VW is introducing a 24-valve VR6 with 200 hp. Whew! Expect a 6-speed manual as well.