That's how I describe the GTI. It checks all the boxes. It's fun to drive, has decent handling, and enough power to have fun. The ride is "sporty" but it's cush enough not to bother the average consumer. It's the sports car for non-sports car people. And yet, I own one. So here's my take on what it takes to bring this consumer car to track status.
The mk7 GTI is built on VW's new modular platform - the MQB platform. A drive in one of these will quickly teach you it's more than a chassis code, it's a damn stiff platform. Not only that, it comes with the new EA888.3 engine, equipped with variable valve timing, an integrated exhaust manifold, direct injection -- and perhaps the biggest feature -- it ditches the old K03 turbo.
So what does this mean? Well, if you're reading this blog you probably know the infamous "downpipe and tune" or "Stage 2 mk7" phases. Yes, a few bolt-ons can net you upwards of 300whp, a respectable number especially paired with a DSG. However, what if... what if you want to do more than roll race? What if you want a canyon carving, track-focused, sports car. Could the GTI be that?
In the most budget sense possible, I tried it out. Like *most* any FWD car, the GTI (particularly the non Performance Pack cars like mine) is plagued with understeer. A noble trait for the everyday driver, but for someone trying to throw down lap times... not so much. Bumping up the stock 20mm rear sway bar to a 25mm bar substantially helped that. Pair that with some lowering springs (H&R for me) and you've got yourself a pretty neutral, low-body roll hatch. Add on some decent tires (Michelin PSS for me) and some front performance brake pads and you've got the ultimate budget track day GTI.
I took the car to a NASA HPDE weekend with nothing more than that and threw down some seriously respectable times (1:55 on UMC East Track for those that care). It's definitely not a time attack winning number, but it was enough to pass just about everyone in the intermediate group. And, my favorite quote of the day: "So... what have you done to that GTI? Because that's my 2015 Mustang with a Saleen Supercharger and I'm trying to figure out why I can't catch a GTI with a roof rack." Motivating words my friend, motivating words.
It made me realize, what would this GTI be like if I really went for it? You know, fixed the open diff issue? Added proper brakes? Stiffened up the suspension and dialed the camber? Maybe threw on some slicks? Well, funny you should ask...