Frisky Dingo

Frisky's Personal GTI Long Term Review

28 posts in this topic

So this has been a long time coming, especially since I never really did a review thread after buying it initially. Well, without further delay, here we are.

 

 

I'm just going to cut straight to the chase here and come out the gate with a lofty declaration- this is one of the greatest cars on the road today. Now, I'll tell you why in the next few paragraphs. There's countless reviews out there that no doubt sing this car's praises, but they're not as in-depth as what I will provide here. First the car itself. I bought a 2016 4DR GTI SE w/ DSG trans and Performance Pkg. The PP adds Golf R brakes, an E-LSD, and (supposedly) a 10hp power bump. I didn't care so much about that last bit, but $1,500 for upgraded brakes and limited slip is a no-brainer.

 

So let's start with the exterior. I find the car very visually attractive. It has a sharp design with nice creases and edges that lend it a modern and purposeful look. Sporty, but understated. Proportions are spot on. Upgraded brakes look the business. Exhaust tips are very nicely finished and perfectly spaced in their-pseudo rear diffuser. Driving lights are LED. The lower strip of paint has the texturized coating beneath the paint to help protect against chips and what not. A thoughtful touch.

 

The interior is very straight forward and simplistic in design. And I'm fine with that. I love a beautiful interior like that of an Aston or S Class, but more than that, I love a functional interior. And the GTI's is very much that. Materials are high grade, fit and finish is exemplary, and controls are easy to use and find. It's a great example of making an interior seem expensive, even when it's not. Compare it's interior to that of a Focus, 3, or Impreza, and you'd think the cars aren't even in the same league. The Fender audio system that comes standard on SE and above is just ridiculous. I'm not a major car audio guy, but it's worth the price jump over the S by itself. Highs are super crisp and sharp, and the subwoofer delivers good, clear levels of bass with very minimal distortion. I've been in some cars w/ upgraded B&O, Levinson, Harmon, etc setups that were thousands of dollar options that sound no better than what's in my car. Some I'd argue aren't even as good.

Android Auto is a great feature that I have come to love. It negates the issue of my car not having built-in GPS. And it makes Pandora listening much better by being able to control it through the in-dash touch screen.

 

So, how about the drive? Let's start with power. It feels quick for it's power level. It's no monster by any means, but with 258 ft-lbs paired with the quick shifting DSG, it makes fairly light work of surrounding cars. First and second gear are proper quick. It's really a point-and-shoot car. It has power everywhere in the rev range, with very minimal lag, and fat midrange, and still zesty top-end. The power band combined with the superb visibility, small size, and agile nature make it a total scalpel in city driving. It just murders traffic. I can quickly get up to speed and make gaps and passes that would be impossible even in cars with much greater power. It really makes urban driving fun, which is a very hard thing to do.

 

The DSG wasn't my first choice honestly, but I've come to appreciate it in day-to-day use. The programming of the trans in the auto modes make you want to use the paddles, which I find adds an extra little layer of interaction with the car. WOT upshifts are blazing quick and smooth, and accompanied by what I like to call a nice little turbo fart. Try thought I might, I can't escape the pull of ripping off 1-2 and 2-3 shifts just to hear those flatulent exhaust barks. It's fun, even if it is a bit immature. One feature I love is that I can upshift through the gears on my own, but when slowing to a stop, let the car downshift itself, even while in 'Manual' mode. Also, I can up- and downshift and the cruise will keep it's set speed. It sounds minor, but it's little details like that make you happy as a driver. If I had to do all over, would I have bought a manual? Idk, that's a tough one. Might come down to color and options. Like it did the first time, lol.

 

Right, so handling. In a word, it's superb. It's balanced. It's natural. It's tactile. It's communicative. It's the second-best handling FWD car I've ever been in. The FoST I believe has a little sharper turn-in and a tendency to rotate that's loads of fun, but it has other drawbacks. And second-best is still damned good. And this is the highest compliment I can pay it- it's the least FWD-feeling FWD car I've ever driven. There is NO torque steer. And there is no power-on understeer to speak of. Just turn into the apex, mat the throttle, and the E-LSD sorts it out. It just diverts more power the outside tire, and you're tugged into your desired line. Now, if just overcook an entry, it'll obviously understeer, physics can't be overcome. But damn if this thing doesn't try. 

 

The chassis of this car is just so competent and athletic. It soaks up bumps, heaves, pavement transitions, and grooves with aplomb. Body motions are kept well under control with no needless pogoing or sway. Body roll is very well checked for an upright hatchback, the overall feel is that of being planted. The car just inspires the confidence to push the car harder and harder. I sometimes find myself on a really good back road just getting after it and then stopping myself and saying, "Whoa. Did this car really just do that?" It will happily devour all manners of curvy and twisty roads quickly and with little effort. Also, the brakes are great. I've yet to make them fade, and they deliver strong performance with sublime pedal feel. Well worth the upgrade of the Perf Pkg.

 

The steering is very good. I've already mentioned the lack of torque steer, and you get pretty good feel coming through the helm, as well. Turn-in is quick, though not blisteringly so. It's also precise, and easily allows you to place the car where you want. You can adjust the steering weight through the 'Drive Modes', but in 'Sport', it's too heavy and feels unnatural. It's just right in 'Normal'. If there were a setting in between, that was a tap sharper of center, it'd really be perfect. The steering wheel itself is easily one of my favorites I've ever used. Other than an overall diameter that's a touch too large, it's about perfect. The rim is nicely finished in stitched leather and feels high quality. The flat-bottom and grip of it is spot-on. The spokes are sized and spaced properly, aesthetically pretty, and incorporate the controls seemlessly. VW could teach a LOT of other makers a lesson here.

 

So, with all of these things I love about the car are there any things I dislike? Of course. No car is perfect, after all. For starters, the standard headlights suck. They're not the most visually appealing, and their halogen output just isn't up to snuff. Alas, there were few cars available with the upgraded HID's of the Lighting Pkg when I bought mine. I plan to fit OEM HID's in the future to rectify this. The wheels I'm not a fing fan of. They seem of high quality, and the design fits that of the car, but it's the only wheel option, so everyone has them, and they are a major plain to clean. They're also always covered in brake dust. This car makes more brake dust than just any car I've ever seen. 2 days after a wash, I can already see a coating on the front wheels. Idk if it's on account of the pad material or what, but it's something else I will be looking to rectify when it's time for replacement. 

 

Back inside, there are other issues. For one, those seats that look and feel fabulous upon first sitting them quickly become uncomfortable after about an hour of driving due to poor lumbar support and adjustability. The Autobahn has full power seats with greater control, maybe I should have sprung for that. The rain sensing wipers I can't seem to figure out. Sometimes they work exactly as I'd expect, sometimes they just seem haptic. The large sunroof panel rises up and slides over the top of the roof behind it and looks pretty goofy from outside of the car. It's a minor complaint, but still. Lastly, I hate that I cannot lock the car with it running. My BMW had Comfort Access which would let you do that. VW's keyless entry and push-start system doesn't allow it. I loved being able to lock the car running with the A/C on full blast while I ran into a store real quick. Alas, VW says nein. I also detect more creaking and moaning than I'd like from the sunroof area when traversing a particularly rough road, or say, railroad crossings.

 

My last 2 complaints have to do with drivability and they are quite significant, imo. The first is that the tuning of the DSG in it's automatic settings is just awful. In 'Drive' it's lethargic, and dimwhitted. It upshifts as soon as possible, and is reluctant to kick down when calling for acceleration. It's simply maddening in urban traffic. Out away from stop-and-go it's acceptable. Barely. In 'Sport' mode, which is still auto, it goes to the complete opposite end of the spectrum. It's harsh, and far too aggressive, holding onto gears long past the point it should upshift. Driving in manual mode addresses this complain mostly, although on occasion, even it can be a little harsh on downshifts. And sometimes it will seem to get confused if it decides it needs to downshift at the same time you pull the paddle to do so yourself. But those are minor quibbles. The big one is the shuddering I get when coming to stop. Without almost perfect consistency, every time I break to stop, there is a noticeable vibration/shuddering around 1,000 rpm just before being stationary. It originates from the drivetrain, and it feels JUST like a manual car that is about to stall out. I've driven other cars that have it, and some that don't. I've read on forums where others have it, some in seemingly varying amounts. Worst of all, there seems to be no concrete fix for it, with VW, or at least dealers, saying it's normal. Some have had repeated dealers say it's nothing to worry about, some say they have had their transmission replaced. Hard to nail down an answer. It's not a deal breaker, and the car is so, so good in so many other areas that I can live with it. BUT, had I known about it, I would have spent extra time searching for a car that's not affected by this, or bought a manual car.

 

I plan on doing some minor mods in the near future, and among them is a DSG tune. It will sharpen up the shifting and behavior of the DSG trans, and I'm hoping may even address the shuddering I experience. If not, I guess I will continue to tolerate it. It doesn't seem to be worsening, so I expect it to more or less stay the same.

 

So I guess the million dollar question is would I buy the car over again? Yes. My only major complaint is limited to specific examples, and can be avoided with due diligence. If my car didn't have that issue and had I been able to get a car w/ Lighting Pkg, it would be a resounding yes, and I'd go so far as say the car was about as perfect as possible. At least for me. Everyone's tastes are different, and what I like, you may not like. But I'm pretty well-educated in today's market, and I feel I have a firm grasp on how people in general feel about and relate to cars. I will say that I fully believe the GTI is hands down the best choice in it's segment, and even really punches above it's weight class. I could have bought a Camaro SS or Mustang GT, but one of those cars wasn't as enjoyable to drive, and the other had too many compromises for me to justify it. It has an absolutely untouchable combination of practicality, refinement, driving dynamics, and value. It's cool and collected and equally happy whether you're cruising through town, or attacking your favorite b-road. It's a true do-it-all superstar that perfectly embodies the spirit of the hot hatch and lives up to it's legacy.

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Thanx for taking the time to post a review of your car Frisky.

 

It really is a great car.

Always was. (The Golf and whatever trim it has always been available in)

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Very good review, Frisky!

 

My buddy with his MK6 GTI has the SAME EXACT thoughts on the sluggish transmission in "normal" and then it holds gears too long if you put it in "sport". The way you described it couldn't have been any more similar to how my buddy has described his. 

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Shame on you, sir, for not providing pictures. Now we require a full battery of interior, exterior, engine bay, and wheel/brake shots. I expect them on my desk tomorrow morning.

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I'll get some pics together.

Hey Frisky, Like the review and details. I was curious about your so called shudder so did some research and it seems this is an issue that has gone on for years. Depending on the assembly, it might or might not show up but when it does, most forums seem to agree it has one of 3 options. Replace the mechtronic, replace the valve body or replace the entire transmission. There is a TB on this for the GTI's and you should talk to your dealership.

 

You can review all recalls here:

http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/owners/SearchSafetyIssues

 

I would since it is a 2016 and they have a TB on this take it back to the dealer to get it addressed.

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GTI's are a wild ride, but so is VW's reliability. Great for a two year fling, horrible for long-term companionship. 

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I sympathize with your transmission shifting woes. GM's first generation 6-speed automatic programming was particularly bad. There was an actual error that caused 6th gear to double-downshift to 4th gear on the highway that became so irritating that I would habitually drive in manual mode above 50 mph. Eventually I found myself driving in manual about 75% of the time altogether because it loved bogging down in high gears even in urban driving.

 

Properly tuning the shift points makes a WORLD of difference even before you get into power adders and torque management settings. I barely touch manual mode now because the car already does on its own what I would have done with the paddles.

 

Maybe when you get the shudder checked out, see if they have an updated powertrain program?

Edited by cp-the-nerd

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I'll get some pics together.

Hey Frisky, Like the review and details. I was curious about your so called shudder so did some research and it seems this is an issue that has gone on for years. Depending on the assembly, it might or might not show up but when it does, most forums seem to agree it has one of 3 options. Replace the mechtronic, replace the valve body or replace the entire transmission. There is a TB on this for the GTI's and you should talk to your dealership.

 

You can review all recalls here:

http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/owners/SearchSafetyIssues

 

I would since it is a 2016 and they have a TB on this take it back to the dealer to get it addressed.

 

 

 

Interesting. This is the first I've heard of this. I wonder if this is a recent development. (1-2 months). I'll have to look into this. 

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Very good review, Frisky!

 

My buddy with his MK6 GTI has the SAME EXACT thoughts on the sluggish transmission in "normal" and then it holds gears too long if you put it in "sport". The way you described it couldn't have been any more similar to how my buddy has described his. 

 

As another owner of a DSG-equipped GTI, I can also attest to the programming. At least in Sport mode, which I avoid specifically for those reasons. If I had to guess, I would say Sport is tuned more for ideal track duty than spirited driving on public roads. It works well if you're 100% on it, 100% of the time. When you're just 90%, 60% of the time as you likely would be around town or on a back road (those pesky speed limits, yo) it's just too aggressive. I also wouldn't say Drive is sluggish, per se, but its definitely tuned for fuel economy like most. As it is a hot hatch, perhaps its tuned a bit too far in that direction, but VW likely thought it was ideal to tune it that way for EPA ratings and give you two other options if you so choose. 

 

As far as shuddering, I'll get it every now and then. I've had the mechatronics unit replaced in mine due to a detected failure of the unit by the dealership. Did it change anything? No, not really. Do I care? No, not really. Do I regret settling for a DSG? No, not really. It is certainly a transmission of many quirks. Once you understand its logic versus a torque-converter automatic or your own logic with a manual, it's quite an enjoyable transmission. The only thing I would want to change is the tuning, along with a cpu tune because you can never go wrong with a bit more aggression. 

 

I can also report that after a 14 months and 20k miles, I'm still very much happy with my GTI. No regrets whatsoever, and if you know me, that's a major change from my previous vehicles. 

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Very good review, Frisky!

 

My buddy with his MK6 GTI has the SAME EXACT thoughts on the sluggish transmission in "normal" and then it holds gears too long if you put it in "sport". The way you described it couldn't have been any more similar to how my buddy has described his. 

 

As another owner of a DSG-equipped GTI, I can also attest to the programming. At least in Sport mode, which I avoid specifically for those reasons. If I had to guess, I would say Sport is tuned more for ideal track duty than spirited driving on public roads. It works well if you're 100% on it, 100% of the time. When you're just 90%, 60% of the time as you likely would be around town or on a back road (those pesky speed limits, yo) it's just too aggressive. I also wouldn't say Drive is sluggish, per se, but its definitely tuned for fuel economy like most. As it is a hot hatch, perhaps its tuned a bit too far in that direction, but VW likely thought it was ideal to tune it that way for EPA ratings and give you two other options if you so choose. 

 

As far as shuddering, I'll get it every now and then. I've had the mechatronics unit replaced in mine due to a detected failure of the unit by the dealership. Did it change anything? No, not really. Do I care? No, not really. Do I regret settling for a DSG? No, not really. It is certainly a transmission of many quirks. Once you understand its logic versus a torque-converter automatic or your own logic with a manual, it's quite an enjoyable transmission. The only thing I would want to change is the tuning, along with a cpu tune because you can never go wrong with a bit more aggression. 

 

I can also report that after a 14 months and 20k miles, I'm still very much happy with my GTI. No regrets whatsoever, and if you know me, that's a major change from my previous vehicles. 

 

 

How many miles are on your car?

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Very good review, Frisky!

 

My buddy with his MK6 GTI has the SAME EXACT thoughts on the sluggish transmission in "normal" and then it holds gears too long if you put it in "sport". The way you described it couldn't have been any more similar to how my buddy has described his. 

 

As another owner of a DSG-equipped GTI, I can also attest to the programming. At least in Sport mode, which I avoid specifically for those reasons. If I had to guess, I would say Sport is tuned more for ideal track duty than spirited driving on public roads. It works well if you're 100% on it, 100% of the time. When you're just 90%, 60% of the time as you likely would be around town or on a back road (those pesky speed limits, yo) it's just too aggressive. I also wouldn't say Drive is sluggish, per se, but its definitely tuned for fuel economy like most. As it is a hot hatch, perhaps its tuned a bit too far in that direction, but VW likely thought it was ideal to tune it that way for EPA ratings and give you two other options if you so choose. 

 

As far as shuddering, I'll get it every now and then. I've had the mechatronics unit replaced in mine due to a detected failure of the unit by the dealership. Did it change anything? No, not really. Do I care? No, not really. Do I regret settling for a DSG? No, not really. It is certainly a transmission of many quirks. Once you understand its logic versus a torque-converter automatic or your own logic with a manual, it's quite an enjoyable transmission. The only thing I would want to change is the tuning, along with a cpu tune because you can never go wrong with a bit more aggression. 

 

I can also report that after a 14 months and 20k miles, I'm still very much happy with my GTI. No regrets whatsoever, and if you know me, that's a major change from my previous vehicles. 

 

 

How many miles are on your car?

 

 

I just crossed over 42k. 

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50 minutes ago, Frisky Dingo said:

I'd rock a TDI Sportwagen as a daily for sure.

So would I.  Sadly, there are 3 designs for the common rail diesels.  The 2015's have the EA288 system, which really got it right in terms of fuel economy and reliability.  However, they will not re introduce diesels, and my car, were I to keep it, would be something of a Unicorn or orphan.  Will be very sad in many ways to sell it back, but feel it is the right thing for me to do for my family.

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49 minutes ago, A Horse With No Name said:

So would I.  Sadly, there are 3 designs for the common rail diesels.  The 2015's have the EA288 system, which really got it right in terms of fuel economy and reliability.  However, they will not re introduce diesels, and my car, were I to keep it, would be something of a Unicorn or orphan.  Will be very sad in many ways to sell it back, but feel it is the right thing for me to do for my family.

Oh, yeah. The buy back deals are way too good to pass up!! What do you have in mind as a replacement?
 

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1 hour ago, Frisky Dingo said:

Oh, yeah. The buy back deals are way too good to pass up!! What do you have in mind as a replacement?
 

I have no idea what in creation to replace it with.  My teenage daughter sideswiped a telephone pole, minor damage, but I am turning it back into VW as is....saving myself a bunch of money in  premiums....put almost 50K on it in less than two years, getting back what I paid for the thing...

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56 minutes ago, A Horse With No Name said:

I have no idea what in creation to replace it with.  My teenage daughter sideswiped a telephone pole, minor damage, but I am turning it back into VW as is....saving myself a bunch of money in  premiums....put almost 50K on it in less than two years, getting back what I paid for the thing...

Nice!! The new Golf Alltrak looks like a pretty solid little package.

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14 hours ago, Frisky Dingo said:

Nice!! The new Golf Alltrak looks like a pretty solid little package.

It does indeed...sadly my sports car and muscle car desires are coming back...I think I am going to physically cry when I see how much more I am spending on fuel for the next car....now if I( could only convince my wife we need a Shelby Mustang for a daily driver, we would be all set....

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Quick update-

 

Car just rolled over 8,000 miles the other day. Due for an oil change, especially seeing as in how it's going on a collection of small trips in the coming month and half or so that will rack up some miles.

I have two cruises/drives planned with local car groups I'm in that will probably see ~600 miles added between them. Then a trip down to the Ozarks for a weekend that will see another ~750 miles. That trip should be right in peak foliage changing, so I'm really looking forward to it.

As for the car itself, still doing great. Everything I love about it, and the few things I don't still hold true. I've learned to minimize the shudder of the DSG when coming to a stop by slowing very gradually when traffic/timing permits. My commute has switched to a little more open roads and some highway mix, so that has helped. While that longer commute has tacked some travel time on, I find myself able to enjoy the car more on a daily basis, so I am actually kinda happy for the change.

My Android Auto connection seems to be considerably more buggy lately, but I'm unable to tell if it's the car or my phone. I'm leaning with the latter, as it's suffered from loss of performance greatly over the last year. I still LOVE the Fender audio system, and it continues to impress new passengers. I discovered a cubby that I didn't know I had.

I also have mods planned. I've already deleted the chrome arrows on the fenders and replaced the chrome VW logos on the grille and hatch with black ones outlined in red. I think next I will debadge the hatch of the 'GTI' badge which is chrome with red inserts. Trying to do away with all the chrome if you couldn't tell. Also, payday is tomorrow and I'm ordering VWR drop springs, spacers, and a wheel stud conversion kit for it. That will probably have to do for a while, until I put back enough for a tune.

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Nice, good to hear. I too am about the de-chroming.

The buddy I have with the mk6 GTI put a tune on his a few months back and love it. He said from a roll he was side by side with a 370Z up till about 100mph. I don't know much about the Z's but I would have to believe stock for stock they're fairly different.

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1 hour ago, ccap41 said:

Nice, good to hear. I too am about the de-chroming.

The buddy I have with the mk6 GTI put a tune on his a few months back and love it. He said from a roll he was side by side with a 370Z up till about 100mph. I don't know much about the Z's but I would have to believe stock for stock they're fairly different.

They have a very nice, linear power delivery.  Tuned GTI's can make amazing amounts of power.

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4 hours ago, ccap41 said:

Nice, good to hear. I too am about the de-chroming.

The buddy I have with the mk6 GTI put a tune on his a few months back and love it. He said from a roll he was side by side with a 370Z up till about 100mph. I don't know much about the Z's but I would have to believe stock for stock they're fairly different.

 

Sounds about right, being an Mk6. A tuned one should be all a 370 could handle. A 93-tuned Mk7 should pull one.

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17 hours ago, Frisky Dingo said:

 

Sounds about right, being an Mk6. A tuned one should be all a 370 could handle. A 93-tuned Mk7 should pull one.

Tunes on turbo cars are pretty damn impressive.

He thinks by the way the 370 was shifting and sounding it was a manual too, which is pretty neat and one reason he thought he was holding his own to it.

You should throw up some pics of the dechroming and new badges. I'm interested to see how they look.

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