A Walk Down Memory Lane

Story & Pictures by Jarvis Seo
1 Dec 2008

It has been a year since we awarded Volkswagen's Golf GTI as 2007 car of the year. With many newer and stronger competition contending for the throne (including the upcoming Mark VI Golf GTI), let's take one last glance at the Mark V Golf GTI before it rides on to join it's forefathers as one of the best cars produced in history.

May 1974 saw Volkswagen presenting to the world the first-generation Golf – a modern front wheel drive, and a replacement of the ever-lovable Beetle. And with the Golf set into production, Wolfsburg engineers saw the opportunity to create something exciting, something feisty and something fast – The Mark I Golf GTI.

In order to make the GTI special, the engineers needed something bigger for the engine. And Volkswagen did that by sourcing from Audi a 1471cc engine unit straight from the Audi 80 GT. However, the 1471cc engine was bored out from 76.5mm to 79.5mm, resulting in an increase of capacity to 1588cc. With that, larger diameter inlet valves, revised inlet and exhaust manifolds came together on this new engine to produce 110bhp, delivered through a larger clutch in a standard Golf gearbox. Specially rated shock absorbers, backed by anti-roll bars both front and back and a lower ride height by 20mm gave the GTI the edge over the normal Golfs. Even the brake servos are upgraded to give better stopping power.

Running on 175/70HR tires wrapped around 5.5in wheel rims, The Mark I GTI had a 0-100km/h timing of 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 180kph all achieved though a manual 5-speed gear stick.

Five generations down, the Golf GTI has metamorphosis itself from a boxy car with big engine to a sleek mean machine with an even bigger engine, cramped with engineering marvels that engineers working on the first GTI could not even have possibly dreamt of. Technologies with acronyms such as FSI Turbo (Fuel Stratified Injection) and DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) make our Car of the Year winner a very very special car indeed.

With a 200bhp, 280Nm turbocharged in-line 4 engine, 0-100km/h timing of 6.9
seconds and a top speed of 233km/h, this Golf GTI is no couch potato. On the bends, the GTI has been highly commended worldwide for being so maneuverable for a front-engined, front-wheel drive car, despite understeering tendencies. Not only that, this GTI is also a long distance cruiser – one complete with cruise control, leather seats, automatic air-condition and a nice sunroof to recycle stale cabin air with style.

With handsome looks, capable handling and mind-blowing acceleration yet still usable for your day to day punt, the Mark V Golf GTI is really the best all-rounder in that year 2007 and definitely deserve our award for 2007 Car of the Year.

Even as we begin preparations for 2008 Car of the Year with a new generation of contestants and new contest regulations (this year’s COTY will have a theme – Down to earth awards for the people’s car to suit the current economic climate), we at Oneshift will never forget the times of joy and driving ecstasy that the GTI had brought to us, and indeed, to the entire motoring world.

Click here to read more on our car of the year awards 2008 and vote for your favorite car today.

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