Weekends with the Intern: College Cars part 3, The Volkswagen [Op/Ed]


Once again, it is the weekend, and I still have an internship. Welcome to the third installment of Weekends with the Intern.

The current series is called “College Cars.” Over the past two weeks, I have done a comprehensive review of the cars that my roommates own. The first was a 2014 Subaru WRX, with a laundry list of performance modifications. Next, was the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, which was bought used and has remained almost entirely stock. Now, we can finally move onto my car, a 2015 Volkswagen GTI.


The GTI has been around for a long time, with the first one coming out in 1976. Almost immediately, the GTI took the automotive world by storm, praised for its fantastic performance and practicality. Now, 40 years later, that car remains to many people the car that brought the hot hatch segment into the spotlight. The GTI holds a special place in many people’s hearts, and while I’m sure there are many stories more compelling than mine, this car has been a dream of mine for a long, long time.

Thanks to my grades in college, and the fact that my Volvo 240 wasn’t exactly good in the snow, I convinced my parents to buy me my dream car, a white GTI with the plaid interior and a 6-speed manual gearbox. Because of my parents unbelievable generosity, I decided to forego any options. The total for my car ended up at $25,000 out the door. If you were paying attention the last two weeks, you’ll notice that this is pretty much right in the middle of my roommates two cars.


The MK7 GTI has a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine which makes 210 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, sending power to the front wheels. I opted for a four door model, just for the added practicality. So far, I have not done any modifications. I may do a chip tune after my warranty runs out, but to be honest, I don’t think the car needs a thing.

Thanks to that powerful little engine, 0-60 takes roughly 6 seconds. This does make my car the slowest in a straight line (not that Jack or I could really hope to keep up with the modified Subaru). However, the GTI is by no means slow. Especially when taken on the right mountain road. According to multiple sources, this generation GTI will do about .95 Gs on a skid pad. For reference, the Mazda and the Subaru both manage about .9 g in stock setup, although we can assume Spencer’s car does a bit better than that, given his suspension mods. What this means is that the GTI has no problem keeping up with either car on a curvy road, despite its relative lack of power.


This car is really excellent to drive. The turbo engine is full of torque, but also loves to rev. The shift knob is light, quick, and accurate. The pedal feel on the clutch leaves something to be desired, but it is super light and easy to use. The gas and brakes are sharp and responsive, and the steering feel is one of the best electric units I have had the pleasure to drive. This car is ready for whatever you can throw at it. Whether it is a technical, twisty road or a trip to the grocery store, the GTI can handle it all.

This brings me to the major difference between my car and my roommates’ cars. That difference is refinement. Where the Mazda and Subaru have put most of their money into making the cars go fast, VW have put that money into making the GTI a nice place to be. I presume because of how long VW have had to develop the GTI, they have had the performance dialed in for some time, allowing for more and more refinement in the interior.


Where the Mazda and Subaru easily reveal their economy car roots, in the fabrics and interior plastics, the GTI makes you feel like you are driving a car worth double what you paid for it. Every button is where it should be and the flat-bottom steering wheel is covered in leather and convenience features. The seats are super comfy, with great support and plenty of bolstering. The back seat is spacious, with by far the most passenger room of our three cars. I think all three roommates agree that my car is the nicest to be in, for both the driver and the passengers. Again, I am not saying that their cars have bad interiors, nor am I saying my car’s interior is as nice as a Bentley, I am just saying that of the three, mine is a much better place to spend lots of time.

This whole series has focused on three different philosophies for achieving the same goal of automotive excellence, within a car practical enough for college life. Spencer gave up on luxury in favor of speed and a noise that can’t be missed. Jack was similarly interested in speed, but wanted to do so on a budget, once again necessitating a compromise in luxury. Finally we come to my method. I made the concession that 95% of the time, I would not be driving my car at the limit. So, rather than buy the fastest car I could find, I went for a car that could go fast when I wanted it to, but that remained a pleasant place to be even when running to the store and back. So far I think my strategy has paid off quite well. After doing the 1,300 mile drive from my parent’s home in Seattle, to school in Boulder twice (with a return trip in there as well), I can say that this car just eats miles on the highway, all while getting 35 MPG. Meanwhile, whenever the three of us go for a spirited drive, I have zero problems keeping up with my roommates more powerful cars. It may not be as raw, or as fun to drive as the other two, but that doesn’t keep a smile off of my face. Mission accomplished.


I hope you have enjoyed this College Cars series, and I thank you all for drudging through my relentless babbling. I feel quite lucky to look out my window and see these three cars sitting in my driveway every day and I know my roommates feel the same. I also feel quite lucky to work for a company that allows me to write about my passion every week. While I don’t know exactly what is in store for next weekend, I hope you come back and hear what I have to say!

While you wait, and while I come up with a new story, why not see just how far the GTI has come since its last generation. We took a MK7 GTI and compared it to the last generation in both stock and tuned form to see just how much better the new chassis is. The results are certainly interesting. Watch the video below: