There’s something that’s just so right about the 1990-1992 GTis. The bigger bumpers gave a chunkier, more menacing look than the 85-89 cars had, and the swap to the 4-headlight grill worked so well. More power and bigger, better BBS wheels made these the best GTis in the eyes of many VW faithful. By 1990, the GTi 16V had gotten fairly expensive so Volkswagen reintroduced a more budget-conscious 1.8 8 valve version. It wasn’t a total poseur, though – Volkswagen made an attempt to differentiate the entry level GTi from the standard Golf. With 105 horsepower on tap (5 more than the standard Golf) and a 5-speed close-ratio gearbox, they channeled a bit of the original A1 GTi even if they didn’t sing up high like the 16Vs did. There were other subtle differences between the 16V and 8V; externally, they looked very similar except that the 16Vs wore appropriate 16V insignia front and rear and on the slimmed down side moldings. The 16Vs also got the larger and wider BBS RM multi-piece wheels with wider flares, while the 8V model wore the 14″ “Teardrop” alloys that had previously been the signature of the 16V. Both now wore roof mounted antenna and integrated, color coded rear spoiler with 3rd brake lights and color coded mirrors, along with the aforementioned 4-headlight grill, deeper rocker panels and integrated foglights. The 16V got beefier Recaro Trophy seats, while the 8V was equipped with the standard sport seats. Both wore the same sport suspension. And, both models now had the passive restraint “running mouse” belts. Today we’ve got one of each to look at, so let’s start with the big brother:
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While it’s nice to look at imports from Europe that we didn’t get here, when it comes to the Volkswagen front we got at least one of the most desirable 1990s VWs that wasn’t sold in Europe – perhaps, one of the most desirable all around Volkswagens ever made – in the 1990-1992 GTi 2.0 16V. It wasn’t really the best at much of anything compared to the competition; the engine was thirsty and noisy, the upright shape of the Mk.2 Golf was old and on the verge of being replaced, the expensive wheels bent at the mere sight of a pothole, the transmission self-machined occasionally and the electronics were the work of a high school tech class. If you wanted a fast, economical, awesome handling hatch that actually worked all of the time, you bought an Acura Integra GS-R. But all of these faults didn’t detract from what was for the the most desirable GTi package Volkswagen produced. You got the iconic chunky shape of the Golf with extra wide flares. It sat lower, and though they were soft those BBS RMs were gorgeous. Inside were the spectacular Recaro Trophy seats and little else – these were no-frills cars compared to the more luxurious GLi models. And to top it off, under the hood was the screaming 16V in 2.0 form. Good for 134 horsepower and vibrating the entire car (and your eardrums) at highway speed, this car moved beyond look and into entire sensation: