2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years review

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years review

The Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years is a limited edition version of the Golf GTI celebrating 40 years since the arrival of the genre-defining 1976 Golf GTI. 

Similar to the Golf GTI Performance, the 40 Years edition has more power and torque, unique interior and exterior styling and additions, and will be offered as a six-speed manual as well as a dual-clutch auto.

The 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years is the ultimate, 500-only limited edition version of the evergreen GTI hot hatch.

With 195kW and 350Nm, and an overboost function that gives it 213kW and 380Nm for short periods, it is the most powerful Golf GTI ever, with a superior power-to-weight ratio to the current Golf R.

The GTI 40 Years brings high-performance features from the Golf R and GTI Performance, such as bigger brakes and an electronically controlled LSD, as well as exterior and interior elements not found on its siblings, including a unique front bumper that incorporates brake cooling ducts, 19-inch ‘Ruby’ alloy wheels and a two-piece rear roof spoiler.

Volkswagen Golf Gti 40 years rearIn six-speed dual-clutch auto form it costs $48,990, which is $2500 more than the GTI Performance. The six-speed manual costs $46,990 but only 100 units will be offered from September 2016.

Wheels was given a drive of the 2016 Golf GTI 40 Years edition in the Brisbane hinterland and on the track at Lakeside Park as the model went on sale to the public.

Renault Megane RS, Ford Focus RS

The 2016 Golf GTI 40 Years – as a six-speed manual – might just be the pick of the MkVII line-up.

Volkswagen Golf Gti 40 years interiorPLUS: Extra torque, speed and character; styling additions; tasty Alcantara wheel; manual gearbox availability
MINUS: Limited run of 100 manuals; greater steering connection and a more playful chassis would make it perfect

SINCE it hit its straps in 2004 with the arrival of the MkV, the Volkswagen Golf GTI hasn’t looked back – going on to become to the past decade, what the Subaru WRX was to the ’90s.

And if this leaves the value-packed, quick, fun, comfortable, practical GTI with the same problem the Subie once had – that it’s too common for the individualistic enthusiast – the GTI 40 Years edition might just provide the answer.

The fact alone that 100 manual gearbox versions, due in September, will come as part of the 500-only limited edition run might make it the pick over the $2500-cheaper GTI Performance, though you’ll have to be quick. Like, if your order isn’t already in, you might’ve missed out.

Volkswagen Golf Gti 40 years frontWheels already prefers the poise and nuanced dynamics of the (DSG-only) GTI Performance to the Golf R’s heavy-footed point-’n-shoot personality, and as well as a DIY gearbox, the 40 Years adds a catalogue of hot bits from both these versions – and some new ones – to create a uniquely appealing package.

The GTI’s EA888 twin-cam turbo 2.0-litre four cylinder is treated to a larger ’charger, still with an electronic wastegate that lets the ECU manipulate the boost curve for hard-hitting low-rev response and a sweetly linear top end.

With a boost increase, tuning changes, and an overboost that sees peak power and torque crest 213kW (and 380Nm) for 10sec when flat-footed in third through sixth gears, it out-does a Golf R in the power-to-weight stakes, though without AWD, it isn’t officially as quick, at 6.3sec 0-100km/h.

The rest of the time the 40 Years has 195kW, 350Nm and a more urgent fruitier delivery than any other GTI – even the upchange farts, delivered via bigger twin tailpipes, are fuller.

Volkswagen Golf Gti 40 years badgeNo sticker pack, then, but it does have some to signify its special 40 Years status, along its lower flanks. With unique ‘Ruby’ 19-inch alloys; a specific front bar with brake cooling gills; Golf R taillights; a new rear bar with a diffuser; and a more pronounced two-piece rear spoiler, it’s a more visually arousing machine than the discreet standard GTI.

But for those fond of quiet country roads or track-days, the best bits include big brakes; a mechanically variable steering rack which quickens with lock to let you handle switchbacks with your hands fixed on the wheel’s thumb-grips; the electronically controlled multi-plate LSD which keeps torque steer and wheel-spin to a minimum, while bringing a delicious nose pointing vectoring of torque; and adaptive dampers that provide an adept balance of ride, wheel and body control and a choice of modes.

Volkswagen Golf Gti 40 years grillWith its tactile Alcantara-clad wheel, extra urge, exhaust grumble, big, fade-resistant brakes, trick diff and a dose of urgency, the GTI 40 Years feels special; a concerted stride closer to a Megane RS ­–if, ultimately, a step short of the benchmark Renault’s connection, control and involvement … and liveability compromises.

Model: Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years
Engine: 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v turbo
Max power: 195kW @ 5350-6600rpm (213kW overboost)
Max torque: 350Nm @ 1700-5600rpm (380Nm overboost)
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch
Weight: 1357kg
0-100km/h: 6.3sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 7.1L/100km
Price: $48,990

Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.

Want free access to 5 years of Wheels archive content? Sign up now!