Back in September 2009 we tested Volkswagen’s latest generation Golf GTI. The Golf 6 GTI impressed us with its all-round abilities, despite being the least powerful of the major hot-hatches (Focus ST, Astra OPC, Renault Megane RS) in South Africa. We couldn’t really fault the latest GTI but we did have this to say about the DSG gearbox…
We couldn’t help feel that the efficiency of the DSG took some of the fun out of the drive. It can’t provide the connection to the engine and wheels like a manual gearbox can and in a hot-hatch that is part of the fun. Being responsible for the co-ordination of steering, brakes, throttle and gears is what a driver’s car is all about. It’s a rewarding feeling when you get it right and the reason why driving is so exciting for most. What we’re saying then, is that the DSG is excellent 90 percent of the time – in traffic it’s a joy – but for the remaining 10 percent, when you really want to have fun, the manual may coerce a bigger grin.
We decided to put our own theory to the test and spend some time with the 3-pedal version of the GTI. Before we deliver our findings though, let’s present the facts of where the two models differ.
|Golf 6 GTI DSG||Golf 6 GTI Manual|
|Base Price||R331 800||R317 300|
|0 – 100 km/h||6.9 seconds||6.9 seconds|
|Top Speed||238 km/h||240 km/h|
|Fuel Consumption||7.4 l/100km||7.3 l/100km|
|CO2 Emissions||173 g/km||170 g/k|
Surprisingly, VW claim there is no weight difference, with both derivatives tipping the scales at 1 393 kg’s. Perhaps even more surprising are the identical 0 – 100 km/h sprint times of 6.9 seconds. In reality though, the driver of the manual GTI won’t be able to keep up with the DSG equipped car – as this video of quick shifter Tsuchiya Keiichi shows.
But the roads aren’t filled with drifting champions and racing drivers – although 80% of us males will claim otherwise – and any 10th’s of a second difference on paper quickly become 1 or more seconds with mere mortals behind the wheel. It’s really the driving experience then that becomes a more relevant measure and an important factor in the ‘relationship’ between you and your car.
So, manual or DSG? It’s a debate that will continue for a long time to come. Purists will scoff at the idea of an automatic gearbox in a performance car, sighting laziness, old age or maybe having had a lobotomy as reasons for such a buying decision. However, Ferrari has just introduced the 458 Italia, which is only available with a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox – you can’t really argue with Ferrari. And although we fear the day that Porsche install their PDK into their GT3 or GT3 RS models, as hard as we try to hold on to our purist ideals, we can’t deny the benefits of dual-clutch technology.
But back to the Golf GTI. The DSG is smooth, efficient, fast and even auto-blips the throttle when gearing down – it’s very, very good.
The manual offers fluid gear changes and a featherlight hydraulic clutch that dispels any arguments for an aching left leg in rush-hour traffic. The manual offers accurate changes and we never once missed a gear. If we had to nitpick, we’d say the Golf GTI offers a feeling of solidity in all tactile elements but the gear lever, which could be chunkier and stiffer in its feel and shift action.
Manual GTI’s are equipped with a gear change indicator that displays the recommended gear you should be using for the speed you’re traveling. This is a nice-to-have feature, with the idea that fuel consumption could be tempered by adhering to the recommendations. To be honest though, fuel economy is not top of mind in a hot hatch and running the car up and down through the gears always seems to be worth the few extra pennies at the pump. The foot pedals are well positioned, making the old heel-toe technique easy enough and when you’ve reached cruising speed there’s a comfy footrest to satisfy your left leg.
Our hypothesis was that 10 percent of the time, when you really want to have fun with your GTI such as at a trackday, the manual could produce a bigger smile. Well, through the corners there is no doubt that the DSG gearbox makes for a smoother and safer ride – with both hands firmly on the wheel at all times and smoother shifts that don’t unsettle the car like a manual change might. Manually blipping the throttle to match the engine speed while on the brakes for a corner is a satisfying element of performance driving, as is engaging the next gear with all the speed and accuracy of your favourite motorsport hero.
We have to make a decision though, and so if it was our money on the table we’d opt for the DSG. We battled to admit this to ourselves but we have quelled our fears of our reasons being due to old age, laziness or anything else. The thing is, the GTI is not a stripped out road racer like a Lotus Exige Scura – it’s a family hatch with sporting credentials. In our opinion, the dual-clutch DSG compliments the GTI’s all round ability, whether commuting to and from work, or upping your heart rate at the odd trackday.
Is the extra R14 500 commanded by the DSG worth it? Without a doubt, although this is not the only premium you’ll pay because the service and maintenance plans are a bit more expensive too. Reliability shouldn’t be an issue though, as the Golf 5 GTI was never known for problems with its auto box and, as an added vote of confidence, VW’s Scirocco GT24 race cars also use the DSG box in the 24-Hour GT series.