Words – Leow Ju-Len
Pics – Andy Hum
Just how sensitive is your butt dyno? I ask because there’s a 20Nm gain in torque between the Golf GTI Edition 35 and its standard sibling, and it’s only if you’re sitting on the most sensitive of instruments that you’ll be able to tell.
Still, even if you can’t feel a 20Nm increase in peak torque during the drive to work, there’s a 25bhp hike in horsepower to 235bhp and, boy, that makes itself felt.
Put the hammer down in the Edition 35, and here’s the usual lunge towards the horizon that you get from a Golf GTI, but in this car the engine just keeps pulling and pulling without the top-end drop-off, the acceleration staying good and strong all through the six-speed transmission’s rapidfire shifts. It sounds a little wilder, too, with a slightly gruffer soundtrack from the engine, and if you can’t excited by the experience, it’s probably time to consult a mortician.
In theory this is a car that could get you from the border to Kuala Lumpur in 90 minutes, which till recently was bona fide supercar stuff, and though it’s tempting to think of the Edition 35 as a Golf GTI with a steroid jab, it’s actually more closely related to the Golf R. Okay, it doesn’t have that car’s all wheel-drive system, but it shares the Golf R’s engine (albeit with the turbo boost turned down to 0.9bar form 1.2bar – make of that what you will).
Cosmetically, it does get bits from the Golf R as well, like its smoked, LED-illuminated tail-lamps, but it’s also identified by glossy black wing mirrors, smoked rear windows, LED rear licence plate illumination and a unique front bumper. Those slats in the air-scoops aren’t just for show, either, but apparently improve aerodynamic airflow.
In case you’ve forgotten what you’ve bought, the anniversary model is covered in the number 35. It wears ‘35’ emblems on its front wings and door sill plates, and the number is on the upholstery, too. Red stitching adorns everything from the steering wheel to the seatbelts to the handbrake lever, and just about everywhere in between, and then there’s the gear shift grip in the Edition 35, shaped like a golf ball to allude to the classic gear lever of the original Golf GTI. It’ll look chintzy if you’ve no sense of history, but otherwise it provides a literal touchpoint to remind you how this GTI stuff all began.
I thought the interior would be overkill, but I ended up liking the sense of occasion it imparted to driving the car, but whatever you think of the styling touches, there’s real substance to the Edition 35. It’s frisky, like a regular GTI, and even when it does run out of grip if you pile into a corner just that little bit too quickly, it’s pretty progressive about the way it breaches the limit of adhesion.
There’s an electronic differential (called ‘XDS’ on the equipment list) that brakes the front wheels individually, to keep the engine’s torque from vapourising any unloaded tyre as you exit corners, but even with that, 235bhp is probably the limit as to how much the chassis can take before the front end devolves into a screeching, torque-steering, slidey mess. The main tradeoff for the car’s easy, confidence-building agility is a seriously jiggly ride, even in the adjustable dampers’ softest setting.
Interestingly, it’s possible to switch off the ESP stability control system completely in this car, which you can’t do in a normal Golf GTI. When do you, it’s possible to have the tail out if you try hard enough, too. So philosophically, at least, the Edition 35 is the GTI for adults – you can turn the electronic nanny off, and if you end up in the scenery it’s your responsibility. I’ll take that as a compliment, actually.
How to choose between this and a regular GTI? You can’t, actually, for the Edition 35 replaces its slower sibling. Fret not, however, because it’s priced at $186,800 with COE for the three-door version (you can have have two more doors at $1,500 apiece), which is actually $3,500 cheaper than what an equivalent boggo GTI used to cost. So you get all the extra power, the cosmetic enhancements and the celebratory interior, for essentially less money. If you were keen on a GTI to begin with, getting the Edition 35 is the sort of decision that it doesn’t take brains to make. Or even a sensitive butt dyno.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,984cc, 16V, turbo, in-line 4
Power 235bhp at 5,500rpm
Torque 300Nm at 2,200rpm
Gearbox 6-speed twin-clutch transmission
Top Speed 246km/h
0-100kmh 6.6 seconds
Fuel efficiency 12.5km/L
Price $189,800 with COE
Review courtesy of CarBuyer