In 2007, the funniest ads on TV were Volkswagen's GTI "Unpimp Mein Auto" spots, which featured a series of commercials with white-clad, nihilist German fashionistas spouting urban rap jargon and destroying Japanese tuner cars, while their hapless owners looked on.
With Swedish actor Peter Stormare ( The Big Lebowski, Fargo) as a demented German engineer, it was supported by extensive web advertising and a "Project Fast" program aimed directly at youthful buyers who liked to drive with enthusiasm and appreciated anything with attitude. Screamingly funny, cool, and right on target.
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With 200 horsepower at its disposal, this made-in-Wolfsburg generation of the GTI also lived up to its reputation as the original pocket rocket. It was a fast car, posting 0-100 km/h times of about seven seconds, with an electronically governed top speed of 209 km/h. It featured handling and braking to match.
Power was provided by a turbocharged and intercooled 1,984-cc four-cylinder, featuring twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. It developed 207 lb-ft of torque at 1,800-to-5,000 rpm, and delivered neck-snapping acceleration. Two transmissions were offered: a six-speed manual and a six-speed Tiptronic with direct shift feature.
This was definitely a corner-carver, and VW did not attempt to hide its performance attributes; quite the opposite, in fact. The TV spots may have been bitingly sarcastic, but this was an entertaining, capable and nimble performance car, with precise handling, abundant braking prowess and a responsive powerplant.
Kind of pricey, though. The base model started at just less than $30,000. If you added a few extras like alloy wheels, the DSG transmission, leather interior, and a power sunroof, you'd be well into the mid-30-grand neighbourhood.
But the base model did come well-equipped, with power windows and door locks, air conditioning, cruise control, full instrumentation (slightly different from that of the Golf), remote central locking, six-disc CD player, 60/40-folding rear seat, adjustable steering and tartan seat upholstery strongly reminiscent of the original Mk. 1 model.
Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS were likewise standard and American buyers could avail themselves of a DVD-based navigation system, though that wasn't available north of the 49th parallel in 2007. So, the GTI was clearly a pocket rocket, but not at the expense of creature comforts. It was also offered in both two- and four-door hatchback configurations.
Only one safety recall to report, and it's a fairly minor headlight irregularity found by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Apparently, it might cause some vehicles to have headlamps that can't be aimed properly due to a manufacturing defect. This, in turn, could lead to concerns about improper illumination.
NHTSA also has some 27 technical service bulletins on file for this generation of the GTI. They range from ignition coils that may not give optimum engine performance, to faulty speedometer readings, to heated front seats that malfunction, to various engine cooling issues.
Consumer Reports, meanwhile, gives it an overall failing grade, citing the fuel system and climate control and audio systems as problem areas. It also has issues with various body squeaks and rattles, and the short version is that the 2007 GTI gets the magazine's lowest used-car prediction rating.
Turbo lag issues seem to be a common problem encountered by owners and some comments include: "poor reliability, turbo lag, and weak a/c system," "brakes a bit touchy," and "fuel pump issues." Interestingly, the 2008 version of this car fares much better and receives a higher rating from C.R.
As far as market research firm J.D. Power is concerned, the '07 GTi has issues and it gets a "below-average" rating in many areas. While this organization seems to love the GTI's performance and power, it doesn't like much else, and it gets a failing grade for vehicle dependability and initial quality. On the other hand, J.D. Power did give the 2007 GTI its "Most Appealing Compact Sporty Car" award for this year. Go figure.
In the three years since this version of the GTI was introduced, it's held on to its value reasonably well. Prices seem to vary from the high-teens to the low-$20,000 range, with the four-door version fetching a couple of hundred more than its two-door counterpart.
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2007 Volkswagen GTI
Original Base Price: $29,375; Black Book Value: $19,625-$20,100; Red Book Value: $18,050-$18,150
Engine: Turbocharged/intercooled, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 200 hp/207 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual/automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 9.4 city/6.9 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: Acura RSX, Audi A3, Mini Cooper John Cooper Special, Mitsubishi Eclipse
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