► Brawniest diesel estate 2017 Golf tested
► 181bhp, 280lb ft – and 60.1mpg, 124g/km
► Sharper looks, tech, same slightly damp thrills
Volkswagen UK predicts that the exact bestselling version of the new Mk7.5 Golf – aka the Mk7 facelift or whatever else you might want to call the 2017 update – will be the GTD hatchback with the standard six-speed manual transmission.
Interesting. Though that still only represents a predicted 7% of total sales, it’s apparent that a Golf with (some of) the sass of the GTI combined with the parsimony of a diesel really strikes a chord with UK buyers. Dieselgate who? Not quite, as VW is also predicting an increase in petrol and GTE hybrid sales this time around.
Regardless, we thought we’d better remind ourselves what GTD punters are getting themselves into. But since everyone knows that load-luggers are cooler than regular hatchbacks, it’s the GTD Estate we’ve been spending the most time with.
What’s new for the 2017 Golf GTD then?
In model specific sense, not a helluvalot. It’s still powered by a 2.0-litre TDI with 181bhp and 280lb ft of torque, and as before it gets few garnishing baubles to visually place it above lesser Golfs, plus bespoke sports suspension.
Opt for the DSG version, however, and you’ll now get an extra ratio. VW has replaced the old six-speed unit with a new seven-cog twin-clutch auto that improves fuel efficiency as it continues to sap enjoyment out of the car. More on this in a moment. The six-speed manual remains as before.
In a general sense, the 2017 Golf is beakier, thanks to a new set of bumpers, and far, far cleverer. All the launch cars were fitted with the new top-of-the-range 9.2-inch Discover Pro infotainment system, which not only looks flash in the dash but also introduces gesture control to the family compact segment for the first time.
Mind you, the gesture control system is pretty feeble, in our view; all it allows is a swiping gesture at the bottom of the screen that doesn’t work consistently and is generally more hassle than it’s worth. Very much v1.0, we’d say…
A Volkswagen techfest
Elsewhere the Golf adopts an (optional) all-digital instrument cluster, while the app count now promises you the ability to answer the door at home from your car via a trinket called DoorBird. In other first date thrillers, you can – if you wish – wirelessly charge your smartphone, and get an in-car internet connection. Big car tech in a family package.
The chip count climbs higher still with Traffic Jam Assist, which will (in theory) deal with all stop-start driving up to 37mph, and the addition of pedestrian detection to the Front Assist autonomous braking system. Volkswagen has cunningly incorporated all the necessary radar sensors into the VW badge now, so there’s no longer a miniature Jodrell Bank upsetting the honeycombed lines of the GTD’s lower grille.
Furthermore, LED taillights are now standard across the range, with the GTD amongst the Golfs also upgraded to all-LED headlights.
DSG or manual?
The thing about the GTD is that it comes with monochrome tartan seats.
There’s none of the racy red highlighting you get in the GTI proper – and in a slightly inevitable way, those seats are representative of the entire car: they look good, they do the job, but they aren’t quite as exciting as they could be…
Obviously there’s a good reason for this – not everyone wants the frenetic, goading performance of a GTI on a day-to-day basis. Yet drive the GTD hard and it’s like it’s keeping you at arm’s length, carving through corners without transmitting any real joy at the experience, snatching at the stability control during camber changes exiting roundabouts.
Some of this impression of distance can perhaps be put down to the estate bodywork. Surprisingly it adds a whole 0.4sec to the hatchback’s 7.5sec 0-62mph time. You don’t drive along thinking, oh what a shame I’ve got all that boot capacity behind me, but you never completely forget about it either.
Adding the DSG to this mix just makes it worse. This is a car that will do everything for you – including shave 0.1sec off the 0-62mph time – with such practised ease that you find yourself slowing down because why bother? At least when you row your own, knocking the gearlever around adds some additional involvement to the experience.
But it would still be lovely to live with, yes?
Oh cripes, yes. For although this is making the GTD sound awfully boring – which it’s not really – it’s very strength lies in this fantastic capability.
Add the optional adaptive chassis, and you’ve got a car that varies quite distinctly between its comfort and sport settings, and the laid-back wafty rapidness of the former in combination with DSG is going to be heaven on the commute.
Just as the additional sharpness and enhanced vocal skills of the latter promises to a lay a little extra sparkle on that jam-avoiding, cross-country alternative route.
Is the interior as good as it looks?
All joking about the grey tartan aside, Golf Mk7.5 has got a stonking interior.
That big display brings a brilliant touch of modernity to the centre console while carefully not interrupting the way any of the fundamentals – such as the air-conditioning – work. The quality will make anyone stuck in a Ford Focus break down and weep, while the cohesiveness of the overall design is like a slap to the chops of the Audi A3.
It’s a lovely place to be – although the Ford probably does still have the edge when it comes to control weight consistency; the Golf’s manual ’box tends a tad towards the rubbery, for example, and the steering feedback isn’t quite as adept.
Opt for the estate and you’ve got 605 litres of bootspace to play with, too. Only you know if that’s worth the acceleration penalty.
Carry on. If you already wanted one of these then you definitely still do – the mid-life upgrades only bring extra joy, though as ever you’ll need to delve into the options list to get an interior that looks the Golf’s very best.
And if you didn’t already want one, who are you kidding? The Golf remains the most perfectly formed all-rounder in the family hatch/estate segment, and the GTD’s blend of pace and pragmatism makes it one of the model’s most alluring crowning jewels.
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