Golf GTI – for 36 years now, this vehicle designation has been the benchmark icon of all sporty compact models. Over 1.8 million Golf GTI cars have been sold to date. Launched initially as a young and wild car, Volkswagen's GTI has long graduated to become a highly respected classic. One aspect that has remained constant from its inception to the current generation GTI is a sporty yet economical engine and very dynamically designed running gear. However, what never existed before under the GTI label was an open-top version. But that will be changing very soon: Volkswagen will launch the first convertible in GTI history on 22 June 2012.
Engine – GTI dynamics
With an output of 155 kW / 210 PS (from 5,300 rpm to 6,200 rpm), the TSI engine which lies at the heart of the new Golf GTI Cabriolet has exactly the same power as the classic GTI with a steel and/or panoramic sunroof. Specifically, this is a GTI direct-injection petrol engine of the EA888 series. The turbocharged 16-valve four-cylinder engine develops a maximum torque of 280 Newton metres at a low 1,700 rpm. And this torque remains available at a constant level up to 5,200 rpm – an ideal plateau for a torque curve, which is actually not curved any longer.
The TSI engine accelerates the most powerful Golf Cabriolet ever from 0 to 100 km/h in just 7.3 seconds. A special strength of the engine is its great flexibility: the manually shifted Cabriolet can accelerate from 80 to 120 km/h in just 10.5 seconds – this value shows why the open-top four-seat convertible is an ideal cruiser. The Golf GTI Cabriolet attains a top speed of 237 km/h (DSG: 235 km/h). This contrasts with a combined fuel consumption of just 7.6 l/100 km and 177 g/km as the equivalent CO2 emissions (DSG: 7.7 l/100 km and 180 g/km CO2). Incidentally, the Golf GTI is the only convertible in the compact class up to 210 PS to be offered with a dual clutch gearbox!
The engine and exhaust system of the Golf GTI Cabriolet are making their appearance accompanied by a very unique yet typical sound. A sound that, on the one hand, sounds extremely sporty, yet is not at all irritating over long drives. The GTI exhaust system also regulates the noise level outside the vehicle. All that can be seen of the exhaust system are two chrome tailpipes that are integrated in the convertible's black diffuser, one on the right and one on the left. Inside, a complex exhaust line system propagates the typical GTI sound. In addition, a sound generator ensures that the sonorous engine tone also enters the closed interior perfectly ‘mixed'.
Running gear – GTI precision
Like all GTIs, the convertible is equipped with a sport chassis; it was lowered 22 mm at the front axle and 15 mm at the rear axle. In front, the familiar MacPherson type suspension operates with helical springs and telescopic dampers. At the rear, an innovative multi-link rear suspension ensures that the ESP seldom needs to be activated. Also extremely durable is the brake system. A distinctive visual feature: the red painted brake callipers.
As in the hard-top GTI, the open-top version also has the XDS electronic differential lock as a standard feature to improve traction and handling properties. Technically, XDS is a functional extension of the electronic differential lock (EDS) integrated into the car's ESP. As soon as the electronics detect that the driven front wheel at the inside of a bend is losing grip, the ESP hydraulics build up brake pressure at this wheel to restore optimal traction. In this way, the XDS acts as a transverse differential lock, compensating for the typical understeer of front-wheel drive cars when driving through bends at higher speeds. The result: thanks to XDS driving behaviour is significantly more precise and neutral.
In addition, DCC adaptive chassis control is available as an option for the new Golf GTI Cabriolet. It continually reacts to the roadway and driving situation and modifies the damper characteristics accordingly. The driver experiences this directly through significant improvements in comfort and dynamic performance. To let drivers modify system behaviour according to their preferences, DCC offers, in addition to the ‘Normal' program with a moderate base setting for damping, both ‘Sport' and ‘Comfort' modes. These are activated by a button above the gear shift gate. In ‘Sport' mode, the power steering is adjusted for more dynamic tuning.
Roof – the GTI soft top
Although Volkswagen employs a fabric roof for the Golf GTI Cabriolet, the sporty four-seater is one of the quietest convertibles available. Its soothing, quiet ride is attributable to the sophisticated design of the fabric roof as well as special window and door seals. The top itself consists of the linkage, a roofliner, insulating filler layer throughout and exterior cover. The joining longitudinal seams of the exterior cover fabric (centre panel and two side sections) were designed to serve in addition as a drip rail. Mounted between the longitudinal frames of the top linkage are a total of four roof cross bows and the so-called front roof bow (the first large transverse element behind the windscreen frame). In turn, the soft top is joined to the roof bows by screw-fastened fabric retention strips. Consequently, even at higher speeds – which can theoretically reach over 230 km/h in the Golf GTI Cabriolet – the fabric roof does not fill with air. And that has a positive effect on aerodynamics.
When the roof is stowed, the upper surface of the front roof bow covers the top surface of the roof storage box. This eliminates the need for a separate cover. The results: the standard fully-automatic electro-hydraulic top opens faster, because there is no additional box cover to be swung upward. The fully automatic electro-hydraulic cover opens in 9.0 seconds and closes in 11.0 seconds.
The top is operated from a switch on the centre console. Opening and closing are even possible while driving – at speeds up to 30 km/h. Two hydraulic pumps activated by a central switch generate the necessary pressure. Even in this area, special care was taken to ensure that the least possible noise is generated; for example, the hydraulic unit is enclosed by insulation. Unlatching and latching of the Golf GTI Cabriolet's soft top is handled by an electro-mechanical locking system. It operates fully automatically. This means that no additional manual unlatching or latching is necessary. To ensure a good view behind the car, the top's heated rear glass window was designed to be especially large for a cabriolet.
Safety – GTI protective systems
A roll-over protection system is included in the Golf GTI Cabriolet as a standard safety feature. The roll-over protection element implemented in the Golf shoots up behind the rear headrests within 0.25 seconds of the vehicle exceeding a predefined transverse acceleration or tilt angle. The system's two roll-over modules consist of one fixed aluminium profile and one moveable aluminium profile within it that is pretensioned. The inner profile is held in its rest position by a magnetic switch. When triggered by the airbag controller in reaction to an impending rollover, the solenoid opens a holding detent and releases the inner profile. While it shoots upward, a support detent overruns a toothed track mounted to the inner profile and prevents the inner profile from dropping downwards. Despite the roll-over protection system, Volkswagen was able to implement a cargo pass-through with a width of 526 mm and a height of 381 mm in the Golf GTI Cabriolet including a folding rear seatback.
The Golf GTI Cabriolet offers maximum all-round safety thanks to its roll-over protection system, a reinforced windscreen frame and numerous other structural modifications (underbody, side panels, cross members, doors). Due to its numerous reinforcements, the open-top GTI also exhibits extreme torsional rigidity. Some of these reinforcements are visible when the cabriolet is viewed from below, such as when the Cabrio and a ‘normal' Golf stand side by side on a raised platform. In a visual comparison, the observer can see significant differences in the underbodies. In front, the cabriolet has an engine enclosure made of aluminium; together with its mounting brackets, this increases rigidity. In addition, the engine mount, acting as a vibration damper, adds refinement at the front end. Two lateral reinforcements in the sill area and diagonal braces, two at the front and two at the rear, as well as the reinforced rear subframe joint lead to further gains in rigidity and a significant reduction in resonant body vibrations.
What is referred to as the coefficient of static torsional rigidity reaches a value of over 13,500 Newton metres per degree; the first resonant torsional frequency lies above 17.5 Hz – first-class for a cabriolet. And this rigidity, which is also a crucial factor for optimum driving stability and comfort, is quite noticeable. Meanwhile the galvanised body protects the car from rusting.
The protective systems in the Golf GTI Cabriolet are completed by reinforcements in the doors and standard front and side head-thorax airbags. The latter are specially designed for a convertible, since of course it is impossible to mount side head airbags in the roof area. The head-thorax airbags integrated in the lateral sections of the seatbacks therefore deploy next to the driver and front passenger over the entire interior height of the Golf GTI Cabriolet. A standard knee airbag has also been incorporated on the driver's side. In conjunction with the safety belt, this airbag absorbs energy from the pelvic area and the legs, which leads to reduced occupant loading. Taking it further: thanks to the knee airbag, the driver is integrated in the vehicle's deceleration mode sooner via the thighs and pelvis. This initiates upper body rotation precisely, so that the driver's airbag can make contact with and support the upper body at an optimised angle. The knee airbag's mode of operation illustrates the true complexity of the networking of safety systems.
Exterior features – GTI insignia
Like the classic Golf GTI with a fixed steel roof, the new convertible also exhibits visual trademarks of the GTI. They are the typical GTI insignia that have made their way into the collective memory of all car drivers over the past 36 years. At the front, they are the red framing of the radiator grille with its honeycomb structure and GTI signature, the honeycomb structure of the lower air inlets, the front GTI bumper and the GTI-specific fog lights with chrome surrounds. At the rear, the Golf GTI Cabriolet is distinguished by a new diffuser design, the typical chrome tailpipes (one on the left and one on the right) and smoked LED rear lights. The licence plate at the rear is also illuminated by LEDs. From the sides, the side sill extensions and 17-inch ‘Denver' alloy wheels (on 225/45 tyres) make the convertible a GTI. Of course, here too 18-inch ‘Detroit' GTI wheels with 225/40 tyres are available as an option.
The visual highlight of the Golf GTI Cabriolet is the fact that it has an even more dynamic look than the Golf GTI with a permanent steel roof, which is already a car that is considered to have very sporty styling. And there is a reason for this: especially when viewed from the front, the convertible gains in dynamic appearance thanks to a more raked windscreen. The convertible with the optional bi-xenon headlights makes a particularly dominant impression; the dual headlamps also incorporate daytime running lights formed by 15 LEDs.
Interior features – GTI feeling
Inside, the GTI Cabriolet has sport seats upholstered in the classic tartan fabric ‘Jacky'. The GTI badge is worked into the upper area of the backrests. Leather seats are available as an option (‘Vienna' cool leather). Integrated in the seats is a lumbar support, which is activated by a lever on the side of the seat and is a standard feature. Just as in the GIT with a steel roof, the GTI Cabriolet naturally has pedals with brushed stainless steel caps, a unique GTI gear shift lever in aluminium look and a leather-trimmed steering wheel with grip recesses and a GTI emblem. Naturally, the steering wheel, gear shift cover and leather trim of the parking brake lever have decorative red seams; and the interior lining of the soft top is black as are the trim covers of the roof pillars. The decorative inlays in the doors and instrument panels in ‘Black Stripe' design are GTI-specific as well: black, high-gloss accents with a metallic look. Also standard: the automatic climate control system and RCD 210 audio system. As standard, the Golf GTI Cabriolet also has a practical Easy Entry function for the front seats, making it easier for rear passengers to enter and exit the vehicle.
In the side walls of the 250 litre boot there are practical bag hooks; right next to the hooks are the remote unlatching switches for folding the 50:50 split rear bench seat. When the backrest is folded, the very large pass-through opening provides additional cargo space.
TDI, TSI, DSG and Twincharger are registered trademarks of Volkswagen AG or other companies of the Volkswagen Group in Germany and other countries.
All features, data and prices apply to models offered in Germany. They may differ in other countries.