The front-wheel-drive GTI is powered by a 2.0L, 16-valve turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, making 200 horsepower. Because it produces its peak 207 pound-feet of torque beginning at a low 1,700 rpm, the engine feels more like a V6 in many respects, while returning EPA ratings of up to 24 mpg city, 33 highway. It works especially well with the available DSG automatic transmission--actually two small manual gearboxes, controlled by electronics, to deliver confident shifts in less time than you could shift yourself. A 6-speed manual gearbox is also offered. DSG includes steering-wheel paddle-shifters, and to get the most out of DSG, it includes a Launch Control feature so that you can launch especially quickly from a standing start.
A fully-independent suspension, with front damper-struts and a stiff tubular roll bar, plus a 4-link layout in back help give the GTI a performance tuning that's responsive enough, but not too jarring or coarse for passengers. An electromechanical steering system also loads up nicely and can compensate for crosswinds or road surfaces. Brakes in the GTI are a step up from those in the Golf, with 12.3-inch ventilated discs in front and 10.7-inch discs in back and there's an XDS cross-differential system and electronic differential that functions as a limited-slip differential and helps send power safely to the wheels that can best use it. Exclusive to the GTI are polished exhaust tips with a 'sound generator' that brings more sporty engine sounds into the cabin during spirited driving.
The GTI inherits the Volkswagen Golf's building blocks and same basic layout inside. What that means is that it offers a lot more space-efficiency and versatility inside than most dedicated high-performance models. There's a 15-cubic-foot cargo space, and the rear seatback is split 60/40 and folds down to expand the space for larger items.
Across the model line, the GTI includes include air conditioning, cruise control, fog lamps, Bluetooth connectivity and an 8-speaker sound system with Sirius XM satellite radio and iPod capability--as well as an auxiliary input. With the Convenience and Sunroof package, the GTI gets a new retro-styled golf-ball shift knob plus a sunroof, leather trimmed steering wheel, upgraded 'Laguna' alloy wheels, and an upgraded sound system. The Sunroof and Navigation package adds the sunroof plus bi-xenon headlamps, LED running lamps, and a navigation system with five-inch touch screen. At the top of the lineup, the Autobahn trim gets an especially sporty look with 18-inch 'Serron' alloy wheels, keyless entry, push-button start, a power sunroof, Titan black leather seating and a 300-watt Dynaudio system.