MotorTrend Rediscovers GTI’s Practicality

May 20th, 2024 by

Special Edition 2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI

An editor from MotorTrend embarked on a family road trip from Los Angeles to Houston and back, choosing the 2023 Golf GTI as his steed. While this GTI’s reputation for fun on the streets of LA was well-known, this journey served as a testament to its practicality, reassuringly demonstrating its versatility for both daily use and road trips. Bud Brown Volkswagen takes you along for the ride.

Volkswagen Golf GTI 40th Anniversary Edition

A New Concept 40 Years Ago

In 1983, when what was then called the Rabbit GTI first came to our shores, it introduced the concept of the “hot hatch. Before that point, there were performance cars and hatchbacks. The hatchbacks could be fun in a scrappy way, but none were really considered to have high performance.

By today’s standards, that first GTI’s specs don’t send the heartbeat racing. Its 1.6-liter engine was the first in a Golf with fuel injection, producing a maximum of 110 horsepower. But it also weighed less than 1,800 pounds and had a sported-tuned suspension that provided a BMW 2002-like nimble experience that was continually enjoyable to drive. Like any other Rabbit, the 2-door hatchback’s cabin was a box that could put adults in the front and back seats and carry a modicum of things with the seat up and a surprising amount of things with the seat down. 

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI Special Edition Dash View

That was Then, This is Now

Flash-forward 40 years, and the now settled-upon name of Golf GTI is in its eighth generation. The engine has grown to 1.8 liters but is now turbocharged, has 16 valves, a far more sophisticated fuel injection system, and a host of other advancements. It now produces 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Its weight has climbed as well to 3112 pounds, but the power easily offsets it, as a sprint to 60 now takes 5.8 seconds rather than just under 10 seconds for the original. Although its size has grown, it remains a compact hatchback and now sports doors for rear passengers. 

The original Rabbit functioned in a world where the term SUV had yet to be coined. Today’s model exists in a world teaming with SUVs and crossovers, all flaunting their practicality. In this environment, it can be easy to overlook the usefulness of the GTI, but it is all right there, as the MotorTrend editor was reminded of during his trip.

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI Rear Cargo Capacity

Capable Cargo Hauler

Not everyone drove to the family gathering, so while there, the editor was tasked with a trip to the airport carrying four large suitcases, one carry-on, a large picture frame, two backpacks, as well as the driver and two passengers. The 60/40 folding rear seatbacks came in handy, allowing a seating space for his sister while the “60” portion was folded for cargo duty. To the surprise of everyone, everything fit. The editor also raided his parent’s house for things to bring back to California, and the car swallowed everything. 

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI Special Edition Overhead View

The Golf is designed from the ground up to be a fun driving car, and for almost five decades, it has been just that. It can also be quite the cargo hauler when called upon to the point of making many small SUVs seem pointless or at least far more dull. If you like to have fun behind the wheel but need practicality as well, the GTI is right up your alley. You can check it out, as well as its all-wheel-drive Golf R sibling, at Bud Brown Volkswagen, home of the Bud Brown Advantage Lifetime Limited Warranty and the latest example of the original hot hatch.