VW Polo GTI - A dream come true!
A dream come true :)
If you have only two pennies left, buy a loaf of bread with one and buy a rose with the other. Bread will sustain your life, rose will give a meaning to it - old Chinese proverb. GTI is that rose!
A big thank you to Sukiwa and Yash for the beautiful photographs of the beautiful car. You guys really made my day!
What I like:
- Power, power and power (strong low end, strong mind range and strong top end)
- 3rd Generation EA888 1.8L TSI engine with a bunch of improvements over the 1st Gen in the Laura
- Comfortable Seats (awesome lumbar support and side bolstering)
- Brilliant Brakes (power is useless if you can't control it) GTI, just like the Laura – stops as impressively as it accelerates!
- 215/45R16 90V tyres provide super grip and traction
- Handling is very good
- Ride, though stiff, is better than the GT TSI and car does not touch any speed breakers.
- Suspension does not sag under load
- 6 Airbags
- LED headlights (both low and high beam) – this Polo can be actually driven at night
- The smooth shifting 7 speed DSG with S and M modes and paddle shifters
- Front locking differential (XDS+) controls torque steer and understeer – actually tested!
- 2 huge doors (the massive glass windows give the feeling on sitting in a Shatabdi/Rajdhani/Volvo bus)
- Decent fuel economy
- Phone paring with access to contacts, call log and SMS
- AM radio (yes, I love to listen to Akashwani)
- SD card/USB/Aux-In/Bluetooth audio
- No sunroof (yes, that's a positive - for me. GTI is all about driving)
- Oil temperature display! Nice!
- Lots of interesting settings on the MFD and central console
- Automatic Start/stop system with regenerative braking. It's a nice feeling to know that I am gaining something even while shading speed and momentum!
- Daily driver (the car has been doing the daily office commute, errands around town, hauling all sorts of luggage)
- A perfect sleeper car. Can park it casually anywhere and nobody takes notice
What I don't like:
- No Android Auto
- Space saver instead of full size spare
- Price (when launched)
- Cost and availability of spares can be a challenge
- DSG reliability and longevity is a suspect
- Ride is not as soft and forgiving as the Laura
It always starts with a dream!
It always starts with a dream, isn't it?
The day VW announced the launch of the GTI in late 2016, I wanted one. However, the price (26 ex-showroom) put me off. After the initial inquiry, as there were no discount or finance offers, I brushed the thought aside and forgot about it. However, every visit to the service center for the Polo GT TSI and periodic updates on team-bhp kept bringing back the urge. Then came the news of a price reduction to @26 lakh on-road in mid-2017, yet it seems too much. Toyed with the idea and dropped again. In November, GT TSI was completing 4 years and I was checking on insurance renewal quotes, again the thought came back and called the dealership to see if there would be any year-end discounts. I was abruptly told, there are no GTIs left anymore, all sold out. Felt good, money saved and I could now focus on work and other things in life. Went ahead and renewed the insurance and was living a normal life when AbhisheKulkarni posted on the forum that GTI price is reduced to 19.9 lakh! Normal life went for the toss :uncontrol
Made a call to the dealer and this time they told me it's true. Drove straight to the dealer and got all the details (most of the experience was posted on the GTI discount thread as things evolved) and started working out the finance part. Asked them for the exchange offer, they inspected my 4 year old GT TSI and after some negotiation, finalised the exchange for 4.4 lakh. Then I asked them about the insurance - after owning multiple cars over last 13 years, I knew I could get a better quote from the insurance companies directly. The dealer quote was 1.1L, I got quotes from 44K onwards from the insurance companies. The sales guy was insisting that I should get the insurance from him and brought the quote down to 92K, still it was too much. I insisted that I will do it from outside, thanks to google, I bumped into this lesser known (to me) company - Cholamandalam insurance. Filled their online form but could not fine GTI in the list. Got a call from them and their call center guy kept telling me it must be "GT TSI", he had never heard of the GTI, obviously. But he was very much interested in making an offer, and asked me to send him a link to the car details. Sent him the official link from VW India website https://www.volkswagen.co.in/en/models/gti.html (not sure how long this will remain active :-)). He called back in a few minutes and said he has passed it on to their Actuarian who will add the car into their system. I didn't take him seriously as I was not sure if this would really happen and was ready to go ahead with HDFC or Bajaj, and what a pleasant surprise, he really called back saying the GTI is now added to their database and he could generate the quote. After some negotiations, got a quote of 33K and went ahead with it.
There was some delay in registration due to usual mess in the RTO but eventually got the number in a week. Laura and GT TSI - both came with the nice RC smart card but had been hearing that they have gone back to paper RC due to some stupid issue with the smart card vendor and printer! Was feeling a little sad that such a special car will have to live with a paper RC, and I prepared my mind to accept this. But what a surprise, received an envelope from RTO after a month by registered post, when I opened it, I saw a smart card!
Paulo Coelho was correct when he said "When you really want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you achieve it" :)
Incidentally, a house cleaning drive was executed in April and all auto magazines that I have accumulated over last 20 years were brought down from the loft and were being thrown out without my consent. I pleaded for at least one round of review, which was allowed but with a condition that max 10 can be retained. I started looking through the dust and here is what I found:
A forgotten dream...really!
Flashback to 2001, It had been 4 years since I started working, yet I was unable to get the approval from my father to buy a bike. I kept pursuing through my mom and finally succeeded. I was on cloud 9 when I bought the 2001 TVS Suzuki Fiero – 150cc, 12BHP. This was the first automobile in our entire family and my uncle who was an Ayurvedic doctor, asked me “what is the horse power?”. I said 12, he didn't believe me. I showed the specs and he was shocked! “Why do you need 12 horses to pull you?” was his next question and with a clear disapproval. I had no good answer!
Fast forward to 2018, when I took the delivery of the GTI, I remembered this conversation. If someone asks me the same question this time - “Why do you need 189 horses?”, I have no good answer once again :)
Fortunately, my GT TSI was also red and hence 99% of the population did not notice the new car when they saw it. Surprising, but true. Nobody, I repeat, nobody, noticed the 2-door car! Not in the building, not in the office. The only person who noticed the new car is my 6 years old friend! And he didn't notice the 2-doors, he took me to the car and said "wow sports car!" I asked him how he found out it's a sports car and he pointed me to the double barrel exhaust and said the previous Polo did not have it! He then took me to the driver side window and pointed to the instrument cluster and said "fast car - 280" :D I am super proud of this 6 years old friend of mine! He has a future!
Reactions from the grown ups have been as usual boring (after all, what do you expect from the mature and sensible people!) As the news gradually broke that I got a new car, here are some of the questions/reactions I got from my colleagues, friends and family:
“But you already had a Polo!"
"You exchanged your red Polo for another red Polo?"
"Why didn't you buy an SUV?"
"Oh! this is automatic! But your previous Polo was also automatic!"
"Oh! Only 2 doors? Why? Is this for cost cutting?"
I haven't bothered to explain myself. When you are really content and happy from within, you don't look for validation from others!
For the initiated, here is the deal:
Having driven the 1.8 TSI in the Laura for 6 years and the DSG in the Polo GT for 3 years, I was already a big fan of the turbopetrol and the DSG. The 1.8 TSI in the Laura is quite peppy and the manual gearbox is smooth, however, the long clutch travel and the not so light clutch pedal sometimes wears me down. If 1.8 DSG was available in 2010, I would have gone for it, but they launched it only towards the end of the life cycle of the Laura. On the other hand, I love the Polo, it's one beautiful hatch-back ( I am sick of the curvy and weird looking hatch-backs that have flooded the market) and was happy when GT TSI was launched. However, the 1.2 TSI loses steam as the revs climb and the car suffered from poor brakes, poor headlights and poor seats. Also high-speed handling and high-way manners were not up to the mark. The surface irregularities and mid-corner bumps just throw the car off. When GTI came in the (extended) budget, I decided to lap up the opportunity to swap the wrong Polo with the right Polo!
PDI and Delivery
Some photos from the PDI:
This is how she looked when we met first time:
The factory sticker with lots of interesting info (I wanted to ensure that I don't get a demo/test drive car. Was mentally prepared to get a 2016 car, but another pleasant surprise to see a 2017 car):
The beautiful engine bay:
Beautiful brake calipers in red:
Front brake caliper:
Rear brake caliper:
No soot in the exhaust (carbon soot deposition started showing up in the exhaust of the Attachment 1779952Laura TSI, let's see how it goes with the 3rd gen EA888 in the GTI):
Apart from the exhaust, I checked the oil dip-stick - color was orange/brown and level was OK. So another confirmation that it's a brand new car.
Here is how she looked the night before the delivery (photo courtesy: the sales guy):
Details here: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/indian...ml#post4336732
Exterior - from the eyes of Sukiwa, the in house photography expert!
It was so nice of Sukiwa and Yash to plan an outing to the Kasarsai dam for a photoshoot on a early Sunday morning in February. I will let the pictures do the talking:
Enroute to Kasarsai, a shot taken by @sukiva from the pilot car - a GT TSI that was leading the way.
At the dam, first DSLR capture of the beautiful honeycomb grill
The Sun and the GTI:
Another closeup of the honeycomb front, just can't have enough of it:
A classy shot of the 2-door beauty. I am in love, so much so that 4-door Polos seem pointless to me now :-)
The GTI badge, honestly, they could have done a more beautiful job with the badge. The chrome strip looks so non-German
The rear, again the red tail-lamps look smashing on a white Polo, they get "submerged" on a RED one
The front alloys, with front mounted calipers:
The rear alloys,with rear mounted calipers. The discs at rear are so assuring:
A word on the calipers: Painted in red, and mounted in exact vertical position, really tasteful. This hit me when I was taking a closer look at the Jaguar XE at the Mumbai airport. Another smashing looking car, but the calipers were mounted at a random angle as if nobody cared!
BTW, on some cars the front caliper is mounted at the front while on others, they are mounted at the rear. Is there any engineering consideration in this or just aesthetics (or the lack of it like in case of the XE)?
A closer look at the discs:
Another brilliant angle by @sukiwa:
The GTI badge on the front is elegant, unlike the one on the side:
Work of art:
A closer look at the beautiful optics!
The classy red accent running across the headlamp housing all the way through the front grill. Looks even better on a white Polo. I would buy a white GTI just for this!
Beautiful LED headlamps!
A closer look at the LED bulb. Once again, note the red accent. Lovely photography by @sukiwa!
The foglamp is normal halogen and that's good, yellow light works more effectively in fog I think
Beautiful cabin, beautifully captured by @sukiwa:
The all black theme, chequered seat fabric, red stitching...
The huge doors, nice and heavy, shut with a thud:
Airbag inside the front seats:
Lift the handle to slide the front seat forward:
Note: If the front seat is slidden forward too much, then the headrest can brush against the sunvisor while folding the backrest
Rear seats, once you get in, they are quite comfortable. Just as spacious as in the regular Polo:
The GTI door sill:
The massive door leads to massive opening to the cabin:
Blacked out B pillar:
Steering, Instrument cluster and Infotainment System
@Sukiwa has captured things so beautifully...
Beautiful GTI steering with red stitching. It's a joy to steer this car!
Phone and Multi Function Display controls on the right. Also the next/previous tracks/radio stations:
Cruise control buttons on the left along with volume up/down:
Paddle shifters behind the steering wheel are extremely high quality and yield lightening fast shifts. Left one for downshifting, right one for upshifting:
Beautiful instrument cluster. Nice and clean dials with white over black which is my favorite theme. Lovely fonts. Everything is so tastefully designed. No flashy colors/backlights:
Chrome finished A and B pedals. Missing C pedal is a relief :D:
Fuse box below the steering:
Infotainment screen brings up a nice GTI logo during bootup:
Car Menu has some interesting stuff:
Boot Space, spare tyre and Battery
Spare tyre (space saver) neatly stored below:
Spare is 125/60R18 (may fit my 2001 Suzuki Fiero!):
Battery below the spare tyre:
Stock and spare side-by-side:
Another view of the spare tyre:
Factory sticker with specs:
Smooth and easy access to the spare:
BTW, I weighed the spare wheel at home. It's @12kg.
Some unique things about the MFD and Car Menu!
Oil temperature! This is different from coolant temperature that we are used to seeing!
Three trip meters! Even BMW does not have these!
Since start (this one resets 2 hours after engine switch off):
Long term (this one resets after 99 hours of running):
Since refueling (self explanatory):
ESC options (I am still trying to understand what exactly this does. Does it changes the behavior of the front locking differential?):
Left-hand traffic and Right-hand traffic (I have set it to L-Hand traffic as we drive on the left). This setting really changes the LED headlamp throw to avoid blinding the oncoming traffic. I have a video, which I will post in a subsequent post:
Winter tyres and corresponding speed warning (will not be used in India ever I think):
Driving Data, Think Blue Trainer and Vehicle Status Menu:
Think Blue Trainer - gives you a score based on how efficiently you are driving:
Vehicle Status (this shows any errors/warnings/upcoming service notices):
Heart of the matter - 3rd gen EA888 1.8L TSI engine
The Polo GTI has got the 3rd gen EA888 1.8L TSI engine. TSI engines employ "direct injection" like the CRDi diesels - fuel is injected at high pressure directly into the combustion chamber.
Here is a good overview of Gasoline Direct Injection:
One of the disadvantages of the GDI is high level of particulate emission (soot) very similar to diesel engines! I have seen this in my 2010 Laura 1.8 TSI which had the 1st gen EA888 engine. The inside of the tail pipe was covered in black soot.
The GTI engine is 3rd gen EA888 and has numerous improvements over the 1st gen, some of which are:
- Direct Injection as well as port injection:
This engine has 8 injectors (4 directly into the cylinder, 4 in the port). The direct injectors are fed by a high pressure fuel pump. The port injectors are fed by a low pressure fuel rail. From what I have read, this optimizes combustion in part load conditions and also helps cleans the valves and reduce the soot. Now I have been driving the GTI for last 1 year and I don't see much soot in the tail pipe.
- Cooled exhaust manifold integrated into the cylinder head:
This reduces the temperature upstream of the turbocharger, also helps rapid warming of the coolant. I can see this working - on a cold start, GTI engine reaches the optimum temperature within 1km of driving away. Compared to this, the Laura, which uses 1st gen 1.8 TSI, takes a little over 2km of driving after a cold start to reach optimum temperature!
- Audi Valvelift System and variable timing cam on the exhaust side:
This helps optimize the exhaust gas re-circulation. 1st gen EA888 in the Laura only had variable timing on the inlet cam
Here is a photo of the EA888 gen 3 in the GTI:
A closer look at the high pressure fuel pump and the high (direct) and low (MPI) pressure lines:
In contrast, here is a photo of the 1st gen EA888 in the Laura (No low pressure MPI line, no variable valve timing on exhaust cam):
Here is the schematic of the dual injection setup in the 3rd gen:
Here self-service guide for the 1.8L 3rd gen EA888 TSI engine:
Also, here are some photos from other EA888 gen 3 cars of fellow members:
Performance, ride, handling
Engine and Gearbox:
The car is fast. There is absolutely no turbo lag. Laura 1.8 TSI had a slight lag, which this 3rd gen engine and DSG combo seems to have completely eliminated. In fact, the 330i that I have recently started driving has a distinct turbo lag and has made me appreciate the GTI engine even more. With entire 250NM torque produced at @1400 RPM, the car has strong low end and the entire torque is available all the way upto @4000 RPM, so the mid range is also punchy and with full 189BHP power generated around the same RPM, the top end is also very strong. It's a silky smooth and free revving engine and sounds lovely as it nears the red line.
Slot into D and drive off and car starts to pull instantly, no dead zones. D is very conservatively tuned and upshifts early. This is good for regular driving and cruising but even for slightly spirited driving, it's often in one gear higher than you need for that overtaking maneuver and upon a jab on the A pedal, it doesn't downshift instantly, it takes half a second or so. And, as soon as you go slightly easy on the A pedal, say because you have attained the needed speed for overtaking, it upshifts again rather than holding the gear. This can result in losing momentum before the overtaking maneuver is complete! So whenever I need to drive a little spiritedly, I just tap the lever backwards to shift to S or just slot the lever to left to switch to M and take things in my control.
S is very very aggressively tuned which is fantastic for the highway but can be a bit too much in the city, especially if you have to slow down momentarily (due to congestion or speed breaker) because it downshifts aggressively with rev matching. Rev matching is a fantastic thing specially while climbing the ghats. During climbing and taking corners, if you have to slow down due to slow moving traffic like trucks, etc. S downshifts quickly and bumps up the revs so that the clutch and flywheel don't get strained, this also helps pick up speed again once you are out of the congestion, without losing any momentum! I will try an record a video but honestly, it has to be experienced from the driver's seat!
M is my favorite mode for regular fast driving. It does not upshift on it's own before the redline and it does downshift whenever required to avoid engine knocking. And the shifts are instant (the paddles are telepathic. Just pull the left one and it downshifts, pull the right one and it upshifts. No lag at all). And whenever I want to taste the traditional stick-shift feel, I use the lever instead of paddles - just pull to downshift, push to upshift. This is also useful to shift mid-corner when paddles aren't at their usual position (they turn with the steering).
M offers the traditional advantage of a regular Manual Transmission (i.e. complete control on gear changes, shift when you want) with some extra benefits:
- No strain on the left leg due to clutching
- No loss of momentum during gear shitfs - revs don't drop like they do in the regular manual transmission when the clutch is pressed
- No stalling/ knocking (DSG will downshift if driver forgets to)
- Lightening fast shifts. No MT can shift as fast as the DSG. Forget MT, no AT can match the shift speed of the DSG (except for the ZF8).
I have driven quite a few other cars with different AT boxes (various rentals in the US back in the last decade- all with a big engine paired with a Torque Converter. In India, I have driven a friend's 2004 Accord 2.4 AT - again a typical US spec car. None of these had any sort of manual or sport mode. These cars are powered by big engines which generally mask the shortcomings of the torque converter boxes they are paired with, however in urgent situations, these boxes take a moment to downshift after pressing the A pedal firmly and that certainly takes away some of the driving pleasure. The other ATs I have driven in India include DZire Diesel AMT, Duster AMT, XUV 5OO AT, Nexon AMT, Hexa AT, Creta AT, 320D, 330i, Jaguar XE diesel. These offer the M and S modes, but none of these come anywhere near the DSG in terms of smoothness and speed, except for the ZF8 in the Jag and 3 series. However, the diesel engine in the Jag is pathetic - severe turbo lag and agricultural sounding so there was absolutely no charm in driving that car. 320D engine is also rough and noisy thereby overshadowing the smoothness of the gearbox. The ZF8's got an engine it really deserves in the 330i and having driven that car for 2700km now, I can say that this box is a worthy competitor to the DSG.
Note: DSG shows a slight hesitation or indecisiveness at very low speeds after a cold start. The box is programmed to remain in D2 as much as possible - it shifts to D1 very rarely if car loses momentum completely and shifts up to D2 again as soon as it gets going. Upon a cold start, at very low speeds, at times it remains in D1 for a few seconds - and this largely depends on the ambient temperature and how slowly I pull away from idle. I am yet to clearly understand what precisely governs this but there can be some jerky behavior during the initial few hundred meters after a cold start. And to set things in the perspective, this is where ZF8 scores over the DSG. It's silky smooth even at extremely low revs a the cold start. In the 330i it sometimes mis-shifts in Sport mode which is quite odd but that is another topic - for another ownership thread when I get to write one about the 330i.
Steering and Handling:
The GTI steering is nice - accurate and well weighed - light at lower speeds and weighs up perfectly with speed. It's super stable at high speeds and there is no slack or numbness anywhere. And once again, my respect for the GTI steering has increased after getting the 330i which has a little lousy steering (numb at the center and sometimes weighs erratically specially in Sport mode). No such irritants in the GTI - steering remains true and predictable throughout.
Handling is also sharp. Fast lane changes, flowing bends, hair-pin turns in the ghats are all handled with precision. The car goes where you point her and simply sticks to the line. Absolutely no corrective inputs required. It's got an Electronically Locking Front Differential and I feel the car corners better than the Laura which had open front differential. On a sharp fast turn, the inner front wheel used to lose grip in the Laura, which happens much less in the GTI. The front locking diff has 2 modes (normal and sports) and I have tried both but have not been able to specifically identify the amount of difference between the two. I am looking for some decisive test, any inputs are welcome.
Just one word "Stiff". This was expected to a certain extent given the purpose built powerful hot hatch that this car is. And may be such stiffness is required to achieve the sharp handling that the car is capable of. However, this coupled with the small footprint (short wheelbase, primarily) has resulted in low tolerance towards any undulations in the road surface like patch-work that they do to fill the potholes, speed breakers, expansion joints, the wavy undulating tar surface that's found on many of our highways and flyovers. The car doesn't absorb these much and gets tossed up and and down. So I have to slow down considerably when I approach the speed breakers or expansion joints. Also, any mid-corner undulations can throw the car out of it's line.
Again - to put things in perspective - the Laura used to take most of such undulations in her stride and even though she was slightly slower and heavier than the GTI, I could carry much higher average speeds much more comfortably in the Laura on most of our roads. What GTI gains with her frantic acceleration and sharp handling, she loses most of it when she approaches bad patches and those are so frequent in India - it almost feels like starting off when a signal turns green, leaving everyone behind and then hitting a red signal immediately where everyone catches up. I have been finding comfort in thinking that all fast cars which are built for performance must be like this (based on all the reviews that I have come across - vRS, 3 series, Z4, etc.) until I got the 330i. The 330i rides just like the Laura (and handles much better, needless to say) in spite of the fact that she runs on 18" wheels with 45 and 40 profile RFTs. It must be due to more advanced suspension, but I think it's also due to the bigger footprint (long wheelbase, wider track).
And this makes me a little sad. GTI is a really fast small car and a fantastic cornering tool - she deserves better surfaces. However, good part is that she does not bottom out or scrap on any of the deadliest of speed breakers even with full load. Laura used to scrape some of these.
Fuel Efficiency deserves a special mention:
Here are some fuel efficiency figures from one of my many Pune Mumbai Pune trips. Keep in mind that Pune to Mumbai is net downhill and Mumbai to Pune is net uphill across the Sahyadri range.
Pune to Mumbai on a Saturday afternoon (I took 3 snapshots along the route - Washi, Powai and Goregaon):
At Gorgaon (at the end of the journey):
On the way back from Goregaon to Pune on Monday morning:
We were 3 adults and 1 kid with our weekend luggage.
Remember this is a 189BHP turbopetrol automatic, tuned for performance :D
Batttery type, location and charging
Battery is EFB+ (Enhanced Flooded Battery) manufactured by Moll Batterien.
it's located below the spare tyre in the boot:
It's a 70Ah 420A battery.
Enhanced Flooded Batteries are supposed to be an improved version of the standard wet flooded batteries. improved charge acceptance and greater cyclic durability when operating in a reduced state of charge (typical of Stop Start applications). As an approximation, EFB batteries will provide 85,000 engine starts, compared to 30,000 starts from standard flooded version.
Even though the battery is in the boot, the positive and negative terminals are provided in the engine bay for charging, jump-starting.
Positive terminal is behind the left headlight (marked in red):
During the six-month checkup, they charged the battery:
The negative terminal is on the right:
It took @10 min to charge, note how the charging current dropped gradually and the capacity (Ah) went up:
At the start, 9.19A:
After @3min, 5.34A:
After @6min, 2.99A:
After @9 min, 1.93A:
Here is the report from the battery tester in the end:
For some reason, they connected the battery tester directly to the terminals on the battery and not to the points in the engine bay (I asked the reason but did not get an answer):
Just Another Polo!
GTI, true to the badge, is being used for just about everything - daily commutes, hauling luggage, konkan trips. I take her everywhere, park her anywhere. Perfect sleeper car - Just another Polo with 2 missing doors that nobody notices!
On a trip to our village in Konkan, we carried a commode and a table fan along with usual luggage:
Away from the tar roads, there is a steep S curve to climb down to reach the house :)
GTI was also used to carry some bathroom and bedroom tiles:
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