Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Counter Intuitive

The GTI is a counter-intuitive choice. It's essentially a Golf, a somewhat sensible economy car that retails for around $18k. However, the GTI is much more than that, and with a much more than that price tag starting around $25k. As my father pointed out on Father's Day, you could have a Camry for $16k, so...?

Yeah, about that. For that $7k price difference, roughly $125/month in 5-year financing terms, what you're buying is far more up market. The engine in the GTI is the 2 liter turbo from the Audi line that can burn rubber in first and second gear while providing 25 MPG overall. The interior, although it doesn't come standard with leather, is far superior to anything under $30,000 (you can have leather for about $30,000 with the every option Autobahn package).

It's comfortable, it's quiet, and it puts a grin on your face when you drive it. It's made in Germany, not in Mexico, if that's a plus for you. At the same time, it's not a BMW or Audi, if that's a plus for you. However, you've got to be willing to pay that $7k, that $125/month, for a premium Golf, which is a very European concept. The average GTI owner is male and 40, which means this 40 year old guy is turning his back on more mainstream cars his peers are driving: Passat, Camry, Accord or even the new Regal. Feeling sleepy yet? Well, you could be getting a slightly used BMW or Audi, so clearly it's not all image. There's something that's just compelling about this understated "hot hatch."

Then there's reliability. Volkswagen has had a bad reputation, "had" in the past tense. There are many stories about poor reliability from the 80's and 90's and even now JD Powers puts Volkswagen towards the bottom of the pack in initial quality. I'm not concerned about initial 90 day quality though. I will assume that the car will go back at least once to fix some small issue or another, like a dribbling rear windshield washer. What I care about is long term reliability, and VW seems to be much better at that.

The car is a Consumer Reports top pick for 2010. This is a company that doesn't recommend a lot of BMWs and high end cars because of reliability concerns. The enthusiasts love it as well.  Check out all these awards:

It's no wonder then that the residual value is high, and you would be hard pressed to find a GTI used car bargain.

This is all in spite of the GTI not being great at any one thing. It's simply above average at everything. You get the impression that it could have greatness if it just exceeded it's price range; another 20 horsepower, better brakes, different stock wheels and tires. It does all this with evolutionary styling and class that the likes of BMW and other top marques have simply given up on (as has VW but with a few exceptions). A MKVI looks much like a MKV and will likely look much like a MKVII when it's released next year. It had it's period of being lost in the woods, but Volkswagen has learned not to mess with a good formula.

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