Each year, the automotive journalism team at Yahoo publishes its choices for an array of cars considered best in class, with one winning the overall Car of the Year. This go-round, that top distinction goes to the 2015 Golf GTI.
Following the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray last year and Tesla Model S in 2013, this year’s winner had big some big shoes to fill. Over the past months judges narrowed the field to 17 vehicles, then ran them through a battery of tests that involved hundreds of miles of driving loops and hours upon hours on Yahoo’s autocross course.
“We set loose at speed, opened and closed everything with a hinge and debated questions from the nature of transportation in the 21st century to seat-fabric stitching to whether 707 hp was too much or just enough,” the judges wrote.
The array of vehicles vying for top recognition in various categories and overall included the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, Chevy Camaro Z28, Fort Mustang Ecoboost, and everything from the budget-minded Honda Fit to the quirky BMW i3 electric car to the extravagant Maserati Ghibli. With the final poll,not a single one of the judges (Yahoo Autos editors) chose the same top three models for the overall award. But, just one car scored a place on nearly every list and topped a majority, scoring it the highest endorsement of the judges – the 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI.
If at first glance, you’re shaking your head wondering how this soccer mom-esque ride managed such a feat, you’re not the only one. The judges themselves were a bit surprised, with one writer likening it to a “dachshund winning Best in Show.” But consider the test results, which measured each contender’s offerings in terms of performance, efficiency, value, design and engineering.
First, the new Golf GTI has grown longer, lower and lighter adding more legroom and cargo space while shedding some 80 pounds and managing “Audi-level refinement, said contributing editor Steve Siler. Outside, it sports sharper-than-ever bodywork making it arguably the most attractive VW model sold in the US. Power-wise, it boasts 210 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed, dual-clutch automatic with launch control.
The new Golf GTI also offers the Performance pack, a set up upgrades that adds 10 hp, better brakes and new style of limited-slip differential known as VAQ. This VAQ system essentially is a set of electric clutches and software controls on the front driveshaft that anticipates which wheel needs more power at any given time. In just the right moment, the VAQ can deploy the engine’s entire grunt to one wheel, and add power when coming out of a turn to nearly eliminate understeer.
No other front-wheel-drive car in the world has this technology, and it came into play on the test tracks, where the Golf GTI managed a 44.9-second lap time – running bumper-to-bumper with the Ford Mustang and rear-wheel-drive BMWM235i. It also beat the 707-hp Challenger Hellcat on Yahoo’s autocross by a respectable margin.
And yet the GTI is as comfortable and functional on the suburban streets for the soccer mom headed to Costco as it was on the test tracks for racer Alex Lloyd.
The Golf GTI starts around $24,000 for a two-door stick and the performance pack will list for $1,495 when it becomes available in December. The fully loaded model that Yahoo tested ran $31,040 and was rated at 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway.
The GTI “constantly delivers more than you expect,” said Lloyd. “It’s a lovely cruiser, nippy and fun during city driving, and downright magnificent for a front-wheel drive machine on the autocross.”
Winners in other categories included:
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