Originally published November 14, 2014
The Reinheitsgebot of 1487 is sometimes known as the German Beer Purity Law, a strict set of rules laid out to ensure that beer brewed in what was once the Holy Roman Empire is made only of barley, water, and hops. Simple stuff really, but a half-millennium later, it’s still adhered to by many of Germany’s top breweries.
German brewing, although there is a huge amount of variety if you know where to look, seems to be focused on a relentless precision in the making of the perfect lager. British beer is brown and cloudy, with lumps in it. Belgian beer is funky and often extremely strong. German beer is crisp, clean, cold, and other adjectives normally used to describe an iceberg lettuce salad.
And what, you may ask, does this have to do with the GTI? I’m not suggesting the two should ever be mixed – far from it. However, just like their brew, the Germans have refined and refined the ideal of what constitutes a proper hot hatchback, which now arrives to us in its seventh generation. It is crisp. It is clean. It is very possibly a little cold.
From the exterior, this new GTI follows the same sort of recipe that’s made the last few iterations of the GTI so successful. It looks just like a standard Golf, but with a smidgen of lipstick across the front end, fancier lighting, big wheels, and some sporty side-strakes up front. Muted by the Carbon Steel Metallic grey paintwork, much of this hot-hatchery blends into the background. This is a car for grownups: if a stanced-out MKV GTI on bright green cartoon wheels is the equivalent of LMFAO’s animal-print pants out of control, the GTI wears an oxford collar button-down, neatly-pressed charcoal trousers, and brown wingtip brogues. It looks like it belongs in the office parking lot, not left overnight outside a frat post-raging kegger.
The inside is much the same thing: endless swathes of black, a shiny finish to the smoothly contoured centre-stack, an enormous sunroof, and plenty of room for four adults. It easily passes what I’ve referred to before as the potential-mother-in-law-test, eliciting not a wrinkle of disapproval on that formidable forehead. Driving back down from the top of Cypress, I picked up a couple of young hitchhikers who had camped overnight on the mountain and were now heading back into Vancouver proper. “This is a nice car,” one of them said, feeling the leather, “Really nice. What is it?”
Non-gearheads will miss cues like the simply gorgeous flat-bottomed steering wheel with metallic accents, gloss over the red stitching on the seats, and totally ignore the buttons around the shifter that indicate selectable driving modes. Instead, they will note the way their enormous backpacks slot right into the boot, thanks in part to a clever moving cargo floor that can either provide a flat loading surface, or a few extra inches of room.
2015 Volkswagen GTI, dashboard. Click image to enlarge