P A R T O N E :
The question has been asked repeatedly- what’s the better value, a GTI, or its “lesser” counterpart, the Golf ? While the argument definitely varies with the generation we feel that with the MK7 in particular it’s as tough a question to answer as ever.
With the entire range of the Golf family receiving high praise from the motoring press, we knew it would be hard to go wrong with whatever choice we made, but with most of the focus being given to the GTI, and with the knowledge that many of the parts would be interchangeable, we decided to see just how much value we could squeeze out of the less expensive Golf.
A few shots of how we got it- fresh off the dealer lot (sans APR decals)
Initially, the plan was to purchase a Launch Edition. This would give us the largest theoretical margin with which to add our desired upgrades to match the purchase price of a fully loaded GTI. A few factors steered us (literally) in the direction of the “S” model,however.
One, the steering wheel which is essentially the same as a GTI model, and in our opinion is more aesthetically pleasing than the GTI, was nicer as well as having steering wheel controls. While this could be upgraded after the fact, it was something that made sense to sacrifice up front cost. With that steering wheel, you also get cruise control, something that is not an option with the Launch Edition trim.
In addition to the steering wheel and cruise control, the “S” model is equipped with the V-tex leatherette. The leatherette is a nice neutral black and we actually prefer it over the plaid cloth which is standard on the GTI. Black vinyl is apparently an option for the GTI, however those cars are very hard to come by we’re told, and to get the similar look in real leather you’re looking at a very high sticker / optioned out GTI.
Another notable interior difference that was in our opinion a bonus with the Golf over the GTI was the silver trim instead of the glossy black faux carbon fiber look. It was evident that the GTI trim would be higher maintenance and in our opinion was not as attractive as the brushed aluminum in the Golf.
While the ambient and threshold lighting are fancy touches, that was something that was not too hard to sacrifice. Clearly the seats are not as heavily bolstered as the GTI either, yet they are still supportive during spirited driving, while being comfortable. Ultimately we plan to remove these, as we would with any GTI as well in favor of something a little more special. (more on that later)
In most all other areas besides the interior the Golf loses out to the GTI in stock trim. The Golf is equipped with a 5 speed vs. the GTI’s slick 6 speed manual, and there is no potential for any E-diff with the Golf. The brakes are larger, the sway bars are larger, and the suspension is better out of the box with the GTI, but of course those are all obvious candidates for upgrade. Cosmetically the Golf is very unassuming, especially at stock ride height. The halogen headlights scream out “replace me!”, but with very few of the GTI cars being equipped with the lighting package, you run into the same issue there.
S P R I N G S
But for us, first thing’s first. Like many of you, it’s hard to bear looking a stock ride height vehicle for us, so we decided to make a conservative modification, and upgrade the springs with the MK7 Golf 1.8T VWR “R-Line” Sport Lowering Springs.
These springs work well with your OEM shocks and give a noticeably sportier ride while at the same time dropping the car appx 1.5″. The spring rate is designed to keep things comfortable while preventing unnecessary body roll. Installation is the same as with any spring replacement and the quality is as good as any factory part. These springs offer the best compromise for those who are looking to add a little more performance to a daily driver, and improve the looks of their car while not sacrificing a great deal if any of the real world functionality.
These springs will however leave you wanting more if you’re expecting to have the same feel as even a factory equipped GTI, due in large part to the fact that these springs cannot compensate for the smaller swaybars that the Golf receives in comparison to the GTI. Fortunately VWR does have plans to offer an upgraded swaybar, that likely will be larger than both the GTI, and Golf versions. While we enjoyed the VWR springs on the car for testing purposes, we will be looking to add a production ready coilover kit soon.
Here’s a look at the car after the spring install: