Classic: VW Golf Review: These are the coolest Golf variants

Classic: VW Golf Review: These are the coolest Golf variants

Eight generations of golf: each a different type. In the 50 years of golf there have also been very special variants. We introduce them.

A model series that has sold over 37 million units to date. Unthinkable in the current automotive world full of start-ups and mobile flashes in the pan. But at the beginning there was a big question mark: How should you replace a long-running machine like the VW Beetle, which rolled off the assembly line more than 21.5 million times? The successor to the economic miracle car was supposed to usher in a new era, offer more space and a new, more comfortable driving experience. For reasons of space and economy, the decision was made to use a vehicle with a transversely installed engine and front-wheel drive. The timeless design comes from Giorgio Giugiaro. An icon was created, the principles of which still apply. “Nothing is more difficult than drawing a car that doesn’t age,” the VW designers say to this day. This is exactly what the specification is for every Golf model.

The following event shows how consistently this principle is adhered to. When the sixth generation of the Golf was due to arrive, the appearance was radically changed at the behest of the new VW boss Martin Winterkorn. The new designer Walter da Silva immediately got to work. “We had to rebuild almost the entire car within six months,” remembers an engineer. The success proves the VW managers right. With around 37 million units sold, the Golf has so far surpassed its predecessor that the compact class bears its name.

The first generation saw the light of day in the automotive world in 1974 and was manufactured until 1983. The success was overwhelming: including all derivatives such as the Jetta, 6.9 million people worldwide chose this VW. The hoped-for new era had begun. It was therefore clear that the second generation of the compact car would be an evolutionary stage in which improvements were made in crucial areas. The Golf II moved with the times and received a controlled catalytic converter and, for the first time, all-wheel drive. The concept of sticking to the tried and tested paid off. At the end of production in 1991, 6.3 million units had been sold. VW also stuck to the principle of continuous improvement with the Golf III, for which they chose a more rounded design language. The chubby design wasn’t for everyone and the quality wasn’t always the best either. Nevertheless, the VW dealers handed over 4.8 million car keys. The Golf III was more spacious, safer thanks to front airbags and had the first six-cylinder engine in the VR6.

Ferdinand Piëch took over the helm in Wolfsburg with the Golf IV. Costs down, quality up, was the maxim. Piëch kept a strict eye on the development of the compact VW and lived up to his nickname “Fugen-Ferdi”. The controversial purchasing director José Ignacio López (came from GM) pushed down suppliers’ prices. The offensive succeeded. Apparently it was also Piëch who insisted that the cockpit’s round instruments be illuminated blue, as this would reduce driver fatigue. The Golf IV is also the first of its kind to receive an FSI engine with direct fuel injection. The VW boss’s obsession with technology also radiates into the next generation. On the Golf V, a new four-link rear axle improves driving behavior, the new seven-speed DSG changes gears more smoothly and the bi-xenon headlights provide clarity. The world’s first twin charger with turbo and compressor charging was granted a short life. The quality has been significantly improved.

In addition to the aforementioned design treatment for the Golf VI, the technicians placed great emphasis on safety. To this day, this model series is visually a modern car, with air conditioning and seven airbags as standard equipment. This Golf wasn’t without its weaknesses either. You should keep a close eye on the timing chain on the 1.2, 1.4 and 2.0 liter TSI petrol engines. From 2012, the Golf 7 reversed the weight spiral and was up to 100 kilograms lighter than its predecessor. At the same time, consumption also fell by up to 23 percent. With 6.3 million units produced, this Golf is one of the most successful in the series. The eighth generation, which has now received a facelift, is all about electrification through mild hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

The history of the most successful VW model also includes very special models. In the Golf I, the convertible is now a sought-after classic. When the topless Golf was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 1979, it quickly lost the nickname “strawberry basket” due to its distinctive roll bar. The fan community is initially angry and condemns this Golf as old-fashioned. At the time, no one suspected that the Golf I convertible would be built until 1993 and, with 392,000 units, would become one of the most successful convertibles in the world. The topless Golf is available with two engine variants: as a GL with a 1.5-liter engine with 51 kW / 70 hp (also with automatic) and in the GLI version with the 1.6-liter known from the GTI -Motor with 81 kW / 110 HP. An insider tip is the special edition Golf Cabriolet “Etienne Aigner”.

VW Golf GTI. You don’t really need to write these three words anymore. For many, this abbreviation is the epitome of sportiness. The first generation GTI in particular with its 77 kW / 105 hp is a sought-after classic today. Tuning and flanging were frowned upon back then and anyone who owns a VW Golf GTI I today looks after it like a treasure. With the second generation, however, things no longer look so rosy; only the Golf GTI 16V comes close to cult status. Especially since VW subsequently misled the iconic three letters and let the GTI degenerate into an equipment line. The original Golf athlete only becomes really casual again in the sixth generation and later as the Golf VIII with at least 180 kW / 245 HP and the driving dynamics manager. Thanks to the networked chassis, you can really let this Golf fly. Similar to the first generation.

If the GTI isn’t enough for you, you’ll have to go for the R model. Even if the Golf IV will not go down in automotive history as a highlight of the iconic model series, the Golf R32 is a real hit. With its six-cylinder engine and 177 kW / 241 hp, this rocket with the stylized checkered flag on the rear is the first Über-Golf. The body is two centimeters lower than the production version and yet the intervertebral discs don’t dance the foxtrot when driving over bad roads. The front axle with McPherson struts and lower wishbones as well as the multi-link axle with forged double and wishbones still promise dynamic driving behavior today.

The Golf V5 is another sporty gem that should actually be the GTI of this series. The version with the 4Motion all-wheel drive and the manual six-speed gearbox is a lot of fun, especially in the version with 125 kW / 170 hp. The fantastic 2.3-liter five-cylinder engine contributes a large part of the fun factor. The acoustics of the high-revving engine with its smoky, robust sound are addictive. The all-wheel drive ensures traction and the ESP ensures safety. Testers confirm that this Golf drives “like it’s on rails”.

Golf Country is a completely different caliber. With its high stilts and Mercedes G-Class look, this Golf anticipated the crossover wave in 1990. The basis is a Golf CL Syncro, to which a ladder frame and other chassis are strapped underneath, which increases the ground clearance by 18 centimeters. The underbody protection, the massive pipes and the martial impact protection are impressive. The Golf Country is still not a real off-road vehicle, but the gear ratios and axle articulations are missing. The Golf Country is quickly branded a flop, but today it puts on a casual appearance that is comparable to that of a Lada Niva.

Source: Stern

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