Originally published June 19, 2015
First we tasted the forbidden fruit. Then we spent some time in the sure thing. Now we look at the long shot. But really, don’t hold your breath. The Volkswagen GTD is enough of a long shot that it might as well be forbidden fruit. I’ll believe it when I see it roaming the wilds of Mississauga.
Nonetheless, this here is an interesting beast, and bears further examination.
A child of two worlds, if you will, the hotted-up hatchback meets the efficient diesel wagon, a best-of-both-worlds for Volkswagen GTI and TDI Wagon fans that just can’t make up their minds between frugal practicality and spicing up the daily commute or weekend excursion with the fam.
A standard Golf TDI already has a healthy 236 lb-ft of torque from VW’s 2.0L trubodiesel power plant, but its 150 hp, peaking at 3,500–4,000 rpm. Torque tapers off after 3,500 rpm. We’re no strangers to the TDI, and for its commuter mission it has great pull, but with a DSG tuned for efficiency, it lacks somewhat in responsiveness and playfulness that we idolize in the GTI.
The GTD cures this with a punchy 182 hp tune of the same 2.0L TDI, the torque cranked up to 280 lb-ft, outpulling even the standard GTI with its 258 lb-ft. Of course, where this pull is best felt is at speeds you can only experience legally in Germany.
When traffic dawdling at 140 kph in the left lane on the autobahn finally pulls over, a quick prod of the accelerator offers up a lower gear and leap forward to upwards of 180 km/h. Unfortunately, traffic meant we rarely had the opportunity to open it up to discover its full potential, but at the speeds we reached, what impressed was its stability and ease, a planted and reassuring poise that was as relaxing as kicking back on a patio and sipping on a margarita.
In the few corners we tackled on this leg of our journey, the GTD Variant showed the same dexterity we’ve come to expect from GTIs, the chassis lowered by 15 mm over the standard Variant and a firmer suspension paired with variable rate steering that firms up as you increase steering angle. This went mostly unnoticed except in that we enjoyed it as much as any other performance Volkswagen’s light but direct steering, completely natural, except perhaps when the lane keeping assist triggered a brief tug of the steering wheel to keep us between our lines.
It should be noted that with the greater engine weight typical of diesels, the GTD will likely display even greater tendency to understeer when pushed hard into corners, so the effect of an AWD drivetrain would be all the more welcome.
While VW states that the GTD Variant can reach 100 km/h in 7.9 seconds, it feels faster because of the way that torque feels so authoritative, and yet still delivers 4.4 L/100 km according to the European cycle. The GTI is about a second quicker, but rates a 5.3 L/100 km on the Euro cycle, so the GTD is about 20 percent more efficient.