‘JESUS CHRIST… WHAT THE BLOODY HELL ARE YOU DOING?’ yelled the missus as we gleefully fled the gloriously under-briefed baby sitter the other evening… Mea culpa; the last time I drove the VW Golf GTI 35 was in hot pursuit of Ben P on our performance hatch group test in northern Welsh Wales and, momentarily undeterred by the olfactory tsunami of Issey Miyake A Scent wafting in from the passenger seat, I instinctively carried on where I had left off… Schoolboy error.
Sorry, can’t help myself in the Golf GTI 35; it really is more fun than a clown on fire. And that, given that they say you should never go back (although I suspect whoever coined the phrase had women and fireworks more specifically in mind), is something of a surprise, because, at least as far as the engine bay is concerned, this is precisely what VW has done with the GTI 35…
Volkswagen Golf GTI: a history lesson
When the company introduced us to the MK6 GTI at a launch in St Tropez, they provided us with a small but perfectly formed shoal of Mk1 cars to sample.
Initial glee at first glimpse of a taut, pugnacious form that hasn’t been bettered in any subsequent iteration rapidly turned to horror after just 30 seconds behind the wheel.
The tartan seat upholstery-sponsored experience was, frankly, ghastly. An absence of power steering meant that the simple act of leaving the car park required arms like condoms stuffed full of walnuts; the GTI proved nothing like as fast as memory served; and the stopping power of the brakes was right up there with rubbing a small block of well varnished mahogany against the carriage sides of a passing express train.
And the Golf GTI 35 bit?
All of which explains why I greeted the news that VW has gone back a generation and pilfered the powerplant from the previous generation GTi to power this anniversary edition with all the suspicion of a pet rescued from Battersea Dog’s Home by a Korean chef.
I needn’t have worried. Especially if you look upon this marvellous powerplant not so much as an uprated oldster, but more a downrated iteration of the 266bhp unit from the Golf R; the 232bhp on offer providing more than enough excitement allied to a sufficiently relaxed state of tune that you just know the thing’ll never burst.
The upshot is a car which will potter through the daily grind with all the ironclad insouciance we’ve come to expect from a Golf, yet, on demand, lash to 62mph in 6.6 seconds and on to 153mph displaying a poise, balance and hunger for the next hairpin that makes it a constant pleasure to scare the missus witless with.
Better yet, unlike many hotter hatches equipped with relatively small cubic capacities, the mysteries of a ‘sound generator’ in front of the cabin bulkhead ensure that, all windows in the engine room open under stout throttle, the VW Golf GTI 35 makes a terrific noise.
Best of all, and also unlike many hotter hatches, it is possible to live with this car on a daily basis and enjoy it for its simple practicality without feeling the need to go everywhere at maximum attack (when anyone’s watching).
Park one of these in front of your house and you’ll quickly come to realise you’ll never really need another car.