It may surprise many people to learn that the G60 GTI is actually slower than the 16V to 60mph although it has a higher top speed. Unlike the aftermarket turbocharged cars, the factory-super-charged GTI does not greet your depressed right foot with an intoxicating rush of power; it is a far more progressive beast than that. For those who have revelled in the characteristics of a powerful turbocharged car, the rather laid-back G60 may well come as a disappointment. It is smooth and progressive and totally unobtrusive, although if you wind down the window you can share the odd-sounding whine with onlookers, for the G60-powered VWs sound like no other cars. Where the supercharger scores is in intermediate-gear acceleration and tractability.
With its lowered suspension and big wheels and tyres, the G60 has a higher level of grip on a smooth road than the 16-valve, and the latest power-steering set-up is a far cry from the over-light arrangement offered on the very early 16V cars. The smooth surge of power from the G60 engine is very satisfying as you blast from corner to corner on a twisty road, and there is the feel, as with all GTIs , that the basic chassis is capable of handling even more power.
An interesting technical innovation VW launched with the Golf G60 was their Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) which uses the ABS sensors to detect variations in wheel speed. Unlike the BMW and Mercedes-Benz ASD systems which reduce engine power to compensate for lack of traction, the VW system works by slow ing the wheels down. If you should encounter a puddle of water or loose gravel mid-bend, you will not get the dramatic loss of composure you might in a standard car. The system only works if there is a difference in speed between the driven wheels. So it is still possible to spin the wheels if both are on a surface of equal frictional coefficient. If you were to launch the car on a loose surface, you would thus spin the wheels, but the moment one wheel reached a grippv surface, the antics would be called to a halt.
The chassis of the GTI G60 is firm, make no mistake. This is not a soft-riding motorcar, and yet it never really jars your sensibilities. On a rough surface, you are left in no doubt that the car is firm, and the power steering provides plenty of feedback of information. The car’s handling and grip are simply phenomenal. Helped by the EDL, it puts every one of the 160bhp down convincingly. If anything, grip with EDL has changed the handling of the standard car from understeer and lift-off tuck-in to understeer and then neutral. Those used to deliberately using the lift-off tuck-in of the normal GTI as a driving technique will get a fright the first time they try to induce that effect on an EDL-equipped G60. The only way to bring the tail round is to take a stab at the brakes to alter the weight transfer more dramatically.
If the Golf G60 feels as though its chassis could handle more power, the Limited provides that power in the form of 210bhp from a supercharged 16V engine. Wisely, VW elected to pair it with their syncro 4WD system. While the standard G60 unit merely enhances the tractability of the eight-valve engine, the 16-valve version releases the full potential of the supercharger system. Acceleration is vivid, with 60mph coming up in 7.0 seconds. But what is impressive is that the power never seems to tail off until you hit the rev limiter just past 7,000rpm. Get to 100mph…smooth onward urge. 186lb/ft of torque at 5,000rpm is 3-litre pulling power and, with the drive going to all four wheels, once the fronts begin to slip under the strain of the torque, the handling balance of this car is beyond the capabilities of a normal front-wheel-drive GTI. Power-on in a tight corner and the Limited adopts a more neutral stance and full throttle can be applied early once the car is settled. In wet corners, power sliding out on opposite lock is possible, another fun element denied to the FWD Golf enthusiast. For all that, the Limited is a refined and mature vehicle that cossets its 120mph…and it is still pulling hard. Very low down, the engine still does not have the razor-edge response of a good naturally aspirated unit. Frustratingly – because it is so good past 2,500rpm – it does take a fraction of a second to ‘come to the boil’ and really get going. This is probably a function ofthe lower compression ratio (compared to a stock 16V) and/or insufficient gas speed at low rpm, a problem with many multi-valve engines.
Once it starts to build up, though, it is intoxicat-ing and you find yourself using the gears for the sheer exhilaration of feeling the strong and occupants in its leather upholstery and pampers them with luxuries like electric windows, central locking and a sunroof.
Only 70 Motorsport Golf Limited cars were made, lovingly constructed by VW Motorsport personnel during 1990, but this wolf in sheep’s clothing, looking just like any metallic black five-door Golf with a set of BBS wheels, is the ultimate hot-hatchback of its day just as surely as the original Golf GTI was. Advances in technology and in market conditions have created in this car a level of sophistication as telling today as that of the first GTI in 1975. Ironically, this Q-car shares one flaw with that original GTI: in its attempt to remain discreet in appearance, with just two headlamps, its night-driving capabilities are severely hampered.
Just as the Golf GTI spawned many imitators such as the Escort XR3i and the Peugeot 205 GTi , so the success of the Golf Cabriolet pushed rival manufacturers to make open versions of their hot hatches. While the Mk2 Golf has pursued refinement in its chassis and overall deportment, the Carbriolet retains the more raunchy and vibrant feel of the original GTI . Because of this, it remains a better open-air fun car than its direct rivals. The engine of the Cabriolet is smooth, sweet and torquey and, when you have the hood down, the powerful rasp of the exhaust note under hard acceleration adds to the sensation of open-air motoring.
With more weight in the rear, the Cabriolet has a different handling balance from the GTI . Its tuck-in is more pronounced if you lift off the throttle at high cornering speeds and the way to avoid an oversteering situation is to flick the steering wheel straight as you lift off. For an open car converted from a saloon, the VW Cabriolet has good structural rigidity. Scuttle shake is detectable but it is not worrying. Acceleration and top speed are down on the GTI because of the extra weight and the blunter shape, but open-air motoring is not about flat-out driving: it is about enjoying the sights and sounds around you in a car that is tactile, responsive and civilized. The Golf Cabriolet has these attributes in full measure.