The DSG transmission is especially noteworthy, as it's essentially an automated manual transmission. It utilizes a dual clutch system that eliminates the need for an actual clutch pedal, pulling off shifts in a fraction of a second without the interruption of power that would accompany those in an ordinary manual transmission. The GTI's transmission comes with a full automatic mode or it can be manually commanded using steering-wheel paddles. With the DSG unit, the GTI can accelerate to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds and has EPA fuel economy ratings of 24 mpg city, 32 mpg highway.
The GTI gets a number of performance additions versus the standard Golf. A special launch control feature on DSG-equipped GTIs helps the driver obtain the fastest launch possible, enabling just the right amount of wheelspin. Meanwhile, the GTI's fully independent suspension (struts in front, four links in back) is tuned for crisp response and a firm but settled ride; electro-mechanical power rack-and-pinion steering provides solid on-center feel with some feedback from the road in low-speed corners. An electronic limited-slip system called XDS replaces a mechanical limited-slip differential and helps make sure the front wheels get the most traction from left to right. Strong anti-lock 4-wheel disc brakes round out the performance package by endowing the GTI with solid stopping power.
Safety is also strongly represented in the new GTI. There's a total of six standard airbags, including side-curtain bags that rear front and rear outboard occupants and 3-point belts for all seating positions. Rear side airbags, a feature that's not widely offered in this size of vehicle, are optional.
The GTI is only as a 2- or 4-door hatchback, both with the same basic dimensions and interior space. Two-door models get a so-called Easy Entry system that makes access to the back seat a little easier. Front seats are well bolstered and patterned in double-stitched "sport fabric," and back seats fold forward for expanded cargo space. The instrument panel is one of the more attractive, elegant ones among small cars, with brushed metal accents and other chrome and metallic highlights, plus soft-touch materials throughout.
Several option packages are available, starting with the GTI Base, which includes a single-disc CD stereo with satellite radio and a leather steering wheel. GTI with Convenience and Sunroof adds a power tilt/slide sunroof, leather-trimmed steering wheel, and the Premiun VIII touchscreen stereo with in-dash CD changer. The GTI with Sunroof and Navigation adds a navigation system as well as bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights. Finally, the top-level GTI Autobahn takes all of that and adds leather sport seats with special leatherette door inserts, special aluminum interior trim, a unique golf-ball shift knob on DSG-equipped models, a Dynaudio stereo and Smart Key keyless entry with push start/stop ignition, and special 18-inch alloy Serron wheels.