A few years before TDI-gate broke, Volkswagen did something that seemed to me to be quite strange. The MQB-based Jetta had launched in 2011 and carried over the then-popular turbodiesel. With a boatload of torque, the TDI was reasonably sporty to drive, returned around 40 mpg on the highway, would clip to 60 in about 8 seconds, and had a base price of about $24,000 in 2013. But the same year, Volkswagen introduced a new hybrid version of the Jetta. This had a turbocharged and intercooled 1.4-liter inline-four mated with an electric motor and a 1.1-kWh battery for a combined output of 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. While the TDI could be had in six-speed manual form, the hybrid only came in DSG 7-speed guise, and it was rated* at 48 mpg on the highway, would do 0-60 in 7.9 seconds, and had a base price $2k higher than the TDI.
So at first glance, the hybrid seemed to offer a reasonable return on investment; for only a small up front price, you got 20% better mileage right? Not so fast. In the real world, the TDI would return better mileage than the numbers suggested, while the hybrid returned worse….a lot worse. Real world testing suggested that on the highway, the more slippery Jetta only got about 38 mpg. Considering the technology thrown at it, that was pretty horrible. After all, my twin-turbocharged inline-six 135i, which was not designed with fuel economy in mind at all, will return over 30 mpg on the highway at 70 plus mph. On top of that, the hybrid didn’t sound as sexy as the TDI did (strangely) to a lot of people, and, in hindsight and considering the buy-back credits, the TDI was a much better purchase. How about today?
Back in 2007, Volkswagen launched two special editions with the same name but different specification; the Fahrenheit Editions of the GTI and GLI. Effectively these were limited-edition appearance packages; 1200 each of the GTI finished in Magma Orange and the GLI finished in Imola Yellow. Both got 18″ Charleston wheels, a numbered steering wheel with contrasting stitching, upgraded audio, the Premium Package, dual-zone climate control, a sunroof, and leather interior with heated front seats – otherwise, these were stock 2.0Ts with your choice of the DSG gearbox or the six-speed manual. They weren’t exactly cheap when new – you’d have to plunk down nearly $30,000 to get into one, at which point you were about $3,000 shy of a BMW 328i. Still, with only 2,400 imported, they’re somewhat rare to see, and this one has been owned by the seller since it was just 10,000 miles old. The thing is, that doesn’t mean it’s a keeper.
Okay, I know. A Bentley? Assembled in Crewe, England, this should not be appearing on these pages, no? Well, the truth is that you almost certainly already knew that under that slab of English exterior lies a mostly German heart. It was based on Volkswagen’s D platform, which gave us the outrageous Phaeton and was in part also based upon Audi’s D3 architecture. The engine was, of course, the twin-turbocharged version of the W12 motor, which saw its evolution from humble roots in the Passat W8. Beyond that, the resultant Bentleys – the Continental GT and its derivatives and the Continental Flying Spur sedan – employ Audi’s all-wheel drive system and share many components with the other two brands as well.
As you’d expect with the rundown of those models, plus the Bentley name, the price when new was expensive. But repair costs mean depreciation is pretty amazing on these, and you can now get one for a song. Let’s take a look at this particular GT, which is just the most awesome combination of colors!
I suppose I’m not a very fair consumer, if I’m honest. For years, I decried Volkswagen for depriving Americans of the very best offerings it had. Golf Rallye and Country? Nope, and not the Limited either. Passat G60 Syncro? Nope, we didn’t get that either. There’s a string of great TDis that didn’t come here (and still don’t), along with one of the ones that really bugged me – the 4-door GTi. It just never made sense to me how you could argue the GTi was a super practical car when they made a more practical version that just wasn’t brought here. Of course, that ended with the Mk.V, so then my annoyance turned back to the Golf Limited. Sure, we had the R32 – by all rights, a great car, that was not available in 4-door version in the first generation and then not available in either a 4-door or manual in the second generation. To me, in an effort to be gimmicky Volkswagen had really lost the bit. Apparently I wasn’t alone in that thought, because Volkswagen finally made my GTi wishes come true in 2012 with the U.S. introduction of the spiritual successor to the Golf Limited – the Mk. 6 Golf R. Gone was the VR6, replaced by the more potent and tunable 2.0T which could now be specified with a manual and all-wheel drive, and importantly in 4-door guise. Did I buy one? Nope, because this German wonder priced in at a shocking $36,000 with options. For a Golf, mind you.
Today, though, the first generation of Golf Rs has become in some cases cheaper than the car it replaced, the Mk.5 R32 , which as I just explained only came in two-door DSG. This Golf R, though, has four doors and 1.5 manual gears per a door:
The 5th edition of the Golf brought a new level of refinement and better build quality over the Mk.4, but performance was relatively unchanged due relatively unchanged power and weight. One thing that did change was that the U.S. bound R32s only came with the DSG automatic gearbox. In a straight drag race and around a track, the DSG was quicker, but is more expensive to run and lost some of the feel of the manual “chuck-ability” of the Mk.4. The real shame with the Mk 5. is that there was a 5-door version and manual option in Europe but VAG opted to not import them. It’s too bad because they might have been a clear challenger to not only hatches but the WRX/Evo crowd. However, one thing is for sure – they’re now cheaper than equivalent 4th generation cars. Today’s 2008 model is represented in Deep Blue Pearl, the signature color for the R32:
Okay, so although the New Beetle definitely isn’t the most exciting car we’ve written up on these pages, there were some bright points. Since the architecture was essentially just a Golf underneath, you had some pretty fun performance options, like the Turbo S:
2002 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo S
Then, of course, to kick it up a few notches there was the Volkswagen Motorsport Beetle RSi – a 3.2-liter powered, all-wheel drive monster. It was basically an R32, but it was somehow way, way better – but only 250 were made, and we’re unfortunately not here to look at one. There were plenty of other special editions of the New Beetle produced, but this isn’t one of them, either. No, this is a fairly basic 2000 GLS – replete with a 2.0-liter inline-4 rated at 115 horsepower and a 4-speed auto. So why are we here? Well, it’s 2021, and things are about to get interesting!
A few weeks ago I took a look at a low-profile GTI; it looked pretty nice, mostly original, and wasn’t too unreasonably priced overall. It’s no surprise, then, that it didn’t last that long:
1983 Volkswagen GTI
Today’s car is also a 1983 GTI, but it’s there that the similarities end. This one was worked over by Mike and Ant of Wheeler Dealers. It’s less original, but also catches attention with its clean presentation. Is it the right price to make it a deal, though?
After its unceremonious and unexplained exit from the U.S. market with the introduction of the third generation Golf in 1993, the GTI came roaring back in a big way for the 1995 model year. Sure, it was bigger, bulkier and well…roundier, but it came with a bunch more gusto thanks to the addition of the VR6 motor as seen in the Corrado and Passat models. While the single-overhead cam, twelve-valve head lacked the race-bred feel of the Mk.II 16V, the new motor more than made up for it with the addition of two more cylinders. Good for 172 horsepower and 173 lb.ft of torque, it swept the hot hatch from 0-60 in 7.1 seconds and produced a 15.5 second quarter mile at over 90 mph. But much like the original, the GTI was more than the sum of its numbers, with drivers enjoying the great 6-cylinder soundtrack which accompanied the waves of usable torque.
Of course, like all VWs from the period, it was expensive. Really quite expensive. A base GTI VR6 rolled out the door in 1995 at $18,875, and with a few options it wasn’t difficult to breech $20 grand. Correct for inflation and that’s around $34,000, or around the same money as a lightly used Golf R will set you back today. Yet that was still only a little more than half the money that it would take you to grab a same-year M3, which offered only a bit more motivation and cornering prowess. Catch the pesky BMW driver off-guard, and they’d be unlikely to easily out-drag you. So you could either look at this model as a really expensive Golf or a really cheap BMW. That was what the legendary GTI had always been about, and this was a resounding return to form and continuation of the brilliance that was the GTI 16V, even if they felt (and, looked) completely different:
I’ll start out by saying that the Brasilia is not the most beautiful Volkswagen product. It is not the most beautiful air-cooled product, either. In fact, we can go a few steps further and argue that it’s not even the most beautiful product from Volkswagen do Brazil, but a factor of at least two – since the SP2 and Karmann Ghia TC have that market pretty firmly cornered. But all three of these Brazilian creations share one thing in common, besides being air-cooled and produced in South America – they’re über rare in the states. Today a clean Brasilia has popped up on eBay in Florida, and it was worth a look:
While the US-market GTI was somewhat watered-down and had chunkier styling than the truly Spartan European 1976 design, it was still a revelation in performance and universally heralded as the benchmark by which all other sporty economy cars would be based moving forward. At a time when there were few do-it-all type cars, the GTI managed to be nearly all things to all people; it got good fuel economy thanks to a relatively miserly 1.8 liter inline-4 with efficient fuel injection. It looked neat, thanks to 14″ alloy wheels, wide fender flared and blacked-out detail work with red accent stripes. It was functional and flexible, with fold-down seats and a (for its size) spacious hatch area to transport goods. It was usable year-round, with front-wheel drive allowing for decent snow traction. And the sport suspension, heavily bolstered seats and close-ratio transmission made the whole package an athletic alternative to the norm, allowing practical-minded men and women to fling their family car through corners with aplomb. Near universal was its appeal, and infectious were the ad campaigns, which in the Volkswagen tradition used short phrases to capture attention like “They’re going fast” and “Serious Fun” – even the oft-used “It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing”.
So what do Germans do for fun? They love to drive. Preferably in a Volkswagen GTI. Because the GTI is designed to be fun. Not fun in the sense of a dashboard cluttered with all sorts of doodads. But fun in the sense of a precision machine that respects and answers its driver’s every wish.
Hyperbole? Certain, this is advertising after all. But it pointed towards the beautiful simplicity of the design, the functionality of the package, the elegance of the execution. The GTI didn’t pretend to be a Corvette like the Opel GT, or a luxury car like the Passat. It wasn’t competing with Mercedes-Benz, or even really Porsche, on any level. And that allowed the characteristically unfun Germans to let their hair down and have a bit of a ball: