Friday, June 24, 2011

Volkswagen GTI: A History in Pictures

Volkswagen GTI: A History in Pictures: "

Our first drive of the Euro-market GTI Edition 35 sent us rummaging through our archives for photos and info on the history of VW’s pocket rocket. We thought we’d share.

1976 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Conceived by a small group of engineers under the “Sport Golf” code name, the original Golf GTI is somewhat engineered from the corporate parts bin. VW uses components from the Audi 80/Fox GT, including its high-output 1.6-liter engine, now with fuel injection. The result: 110 hp at 6100 rpm to move only 1800 pounds or so, which translates into a 0-to-60-mph time of 9.0 seconds and a top speed of 110 mph. This approaches the territory of contemporary high-powered premium sedans, and in the speed- and power-crazy market, it turns the automotive hierarchy upside down.

1979 Volkswagen Golf GTI

The GTI leaves a mark. It is not cheap, and it becomes a preferred means of transportation for the urban elite in Paris, London, and Frankfurt. It’s gotta be black. The GTI sparks a flurry of competing models, but none of them matches the class-transcending image of this VW, which decidedly is not a “people’s car.” For the 1979 model year, it gets plastic bumpers and a fuel-consumption gauge—not to be confused with a plain old fuel gauge—instead of a water-temperature gauge. The first shadows of political correctness?

1982 Volkswagen Golf GTD

In 1982, VW launches its first turbo-diesel and aims to give the new technology a decisive image boost by naming it the GTD. With GTI colors, a similar interior, and wider fenders, the GTD is a legitimate sister model of the GTI—and a lot of fun to drive in its own way. The GTI’s red stripes are replaced with silver for the GTD.

1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI

For the 1983 model year, VW launches the Rabbit GTI, built alongside the regular Rabbit at its Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, production site, giving the U.S. market its first taste of the three magic letters. Its 1.8-liter engine makes 90 hp. We praise its “eager engine and polished manners.”

1983 Volkswagen Golf GTI Pirelli edition

The second-generation Golf is around the corner—at least in Europe. VW launches a final “Pirelli” edition on the Continent for 1983, a car which today enjoys a cult-like following. It’s set apart by its dual headlights, tinted glass, leather steering wheel, and, of course, the characteristic Pirelli wheels.

Volkswagen Jetta GLI

The Jetta, the “Golf with a backpack,” comes with the GTI engine as well—but without the GTI moniker, which is reserved for the Golf/Rabbit and the Scirocco. It’s instead called the Jetta GLI and debuts in 1979, showing up in the U.S. for 1984. Plans to expand the GTI to the Passat/Dasher line—a prototype is still tucked away somewhere in Wolfsburg—are axed as well.

2006 Volkswagen CitiGolf R

Trivia: A version of the MkI Golf, called CitiGolf, was built and sold in South Africa until 2009. In 2006, it spawned the most powerful MkI ever produced: the 122-hp CitiGolf R.

In 1984, the Golf II GTI arrives in Europe with the same 1.8-liter engine that powered the Golf I GTI. The new GTI and GLI appear in the U.S. for 1985.

1987 Volkswagen GTI

Two years after its launch, the GTI gets more powerful with an optional 16-valve engine. Without a catalytic converter, the GTI 16V makes an impressive 139 hp, reaches 129 mph, and is rather more harsh than its eight-valve sibling. For the U.S., the GTI 16V makes just 123 hp, and in 1987 we clock one at 118 mph. Our conclusion: “The 16V is eager enough, but its polish has dimmed.” Still, we call it “the original econohunk.”

1989 brings the all-wheel-drive GTI Rallye, which is powered by the flatulent and disappointing 158-hp, 1.8-liter G-Charger engine of Corrado and G60 infamy.

In 1990, a less expensive eight-valve version returns with 105 hp. The optional 16V engine grows to 2.0 liters, raising output to 134 hp. The MkII remains in the U.S. through 1992.

The MkIII is generally considered to be one of the softest GTIs. It launches in Europe in 1991; meanwhile, the Golf III comes to the States for 1993, with the GTI taking time off until a 1995 reintroduction. It returns powered by Volkswagen’s 2.8-liter narrow-angle V-6 (VR6), which produces 172 hp. Zero to 60 takes 6.7 seconds. We don’t much care for its cable-actuated shifter. (A Jetta with this engine is badged GLX.)

1996 Volkswagen GTI

For 1996, Volkswagen renames the Golf Sport the GTI. It’s sold alongside the GTI VR6 and marks the return of the four-cylinder GTI, this time with a 115-hp 2.0-liter.

An Edition 20 model celebrates the GTI’s (European) anniversary in 1996. And for the first time, a GTI is powered by a diesel engine—a 110-hp, 1.9-liter TDI is optional on the special edition. Europe-only, of course.

With the MkIV generation, European GTIs are reduced to a mere trim level. The only visible difference outside is a set of BBS wheels, and the new approach is reflected in the range of available engines worldwide, including variations of the 1.9-liter TDI; two power levels of the 1.8-liter, 20-valve turbo four; and a 2.3-liter VR5 (which has nothing to do with the inline-five built in Mexico and used in various U.S.-market VWs today).

2000 Volkswagen GTI GLX

The MkIV arrives in the U.S. for 1999, with a new intake manifold bumping up the VR6-powered GTI GLX’s output to 174 hp. The 2000 model year replaces the GTI GLS’s 115-hp 2.0-liter with a 150-hp, 1.8-liter turbo four. In 2002, both engines are improved: the 1.8T now makes 180 hp, and, mid-year, the VR6 gets twice the valves (24 total) good for 26 more horses (200).

2002 Volkswagen GTI 337

VW finally recognizes the dangerous dilution of the GTI brand and launches a decidedly sporty “25 Jahre GTI” anniversary edition in 2001. This provides the basis for 1500 copies of the U.S.-market 2002 GTI 337, which is powered by the 1.8T paired with a six-speed manual, carrying over the body kit, lowered suspension, bigger brakes, Recaro seats, 18-inch wheels, and darkened and red styling elements that bring back the spirit of the original. For 2003, VW celebrates the GTI’s two decades in the States with the 20th Anniversary Edition. Content closely matches that of the GTI 337, and 4000 are built.

2006 Volkswagen GTI

The Golf V arrives in Europe for 2004 (it shows up in the U.S. in mid-2006) and includes a strong revival of the GTI. The sporty model is distinguished from lesser Golfs with an entirely new front fascia. The GTI showcases the new styling language which chief designer Murat Günak has envisioned for the brand: “A friendly face and open eyes.” On the GTI, this face is dark and perhaps not so friendly. The only available engine at launch: a 200-hp, 2.0-liter turbo. We love it. The 10Best awards start in 2007 and never stop.

Available with three or five doors, the GTI is a global success. We get the Jetta-based GLI, a model not sold in Europe. In 2007, Europe gets the GTI Edition 30 with 230 hp. One year later, the (Europe-only) Pirelli GTI gets the same engine.

Volkswagen GTI W12-650

Sadly, the 2007 W12-650 concept was never intended for series production. The centrally mounted 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12 makes 650 hp; 0–62 mph takes a claimed 3.7 seconds, top speed is an impressive (if theoretical) 202 mph. The styling language is somewhat indicative of future models after Günak’s departure from VW.

The Golf VI is not much more than an extensive face lift of the Golf V, but the effect is wildly successful. Powered by a 200-hp, 2.0-liter TSI—the Euro-market car gets a 210-hp version—it is one of the most dynamic and refined compact cars on the market. The interior is slightly improved over the Golf V’s. The dual exhaust pipes left and right were an expensive afterthought; VW boss Martin Winterkorn insisted.

Volkswagen Golf GTD

As it did with the Golf I, VW launches a GTD, this time with a 170-hp TDI and a surprisingly sporty exhaust sound. The U.S. market gets the next best thing: the Golf TDI, with GTI suspension and a 140-hp version of the 2.0-liter TDI.

VW’s latest addition to the GTI lineup: A 235-hp version, named Edition 35, with a detuned version of the Golf R’s 270-hp powerhouse. The Edition 35 won’t come here.


1 comment:

car loans said...

The designs have evolved throughout the years.

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