Volkswagen has been advertising their new GTI (available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers only) with a quirky series of commercials featuring a menacing creature named “The Fast,” which looks like a cross between Darth Vader and a rabbit. The demanding gargoyle totem, who rides around in the hatchback (without a seatbelt) on television, encourages the car’s owner to take unpopular actions to increase his enjoyment. These include driving with the windows down, telling a girlfriend to stop talking (all the better to listen to the engine), and spurning food delivery (which is “for the weak”) over driving to the restaurant yourself (redefining “Fast food”). As part of the marketing tie-in, each VW dealer received a Fast doll for the launch of the GTI; these iconic critters are now gathering as much as $600 on eBay.
Our test GTI seems to be set up to appease Lord Fast’s need for speed: the speedometer is dramatically out of calibration. Many of us came back into the office after first driving the enjoyable car, reeling at how difficult it was to keep it at the speed limit and amazed at how quiet and refined it was “at speed.” But something was amiss: we were still getting passed by clapped-out Suburbans on the highway.
A quick run out on the test track with our Datron optical fifth-wheel instrumentation told the tale (see chart). At an indicated 70 mph, our GTI is only going 65. Climb to an indicated 80 mph and reality trails at only 73. Seems that while our GTI is fast, it isn’t that fast….