We're something of a broken record on Volkswagen's TDI family of diesels – torquey and efficient, they're really well-suited to the way North Americans drive. We put that sentiment to a year-long test with a Jetta TDI Cup Street Edition not long ago, and enjoyed our time in what was basically an oil-burning GTI with a trunk. That is, until an unsolved catastrophic engine failure saw VW yank it away after just eight months. They subsequently replaced our Cup Street with a bog-standard Jetta TDI (in the new A6 generation), but the thrill was gone.
Judging by our brief time with this Kermit Metallic, not-for-North-America Golf GTD – essentially a diesel GTI – we think we could learn to love again. And given that Volkswagen is freely handing this hatchback out to journalists in North America, we can say that there's some truth to the rumours that executives want to bring the next-gen model to Canada and the U.S. in 2014. We're ready when you are, VW...
Our old Jetta Cup Street had all of the sporty fixins' of the GLI, from its aero kit and firmed-up suspension to its more supportive plaid seats – but it still relied on the standard 140-horsepower, 236 pound-foot 2.0-litre diesel found in every other Jetta TDI. Not the GTD. Tweaks to the ECU programming take advantage of a different intake, new injectors, exhaust and a modified turbocharger to net 170 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. That puts it down an even 30 horses on a comparable GTI, but up 51 lb-ft.
As a result, the GTD is plenty quick, but it's plainly a bit more reluctant with throttle response than the naturally aspirated gas GTI, with a 0-60 mph (96 km/h) time of about eight seconds. Despite this, it's good fun, with great passing power.
VW seems to have done a better job disguising the GTD's diesel clatter than what I remember of our long-term Jetta TDIs.
The DSG dual-clutch gearbox probably matches the diesel's narrow rev-band better than a manual. Still, we're dying to find out if the clutch feel of the stick shift is better than on our recently departed Jetta TDI which was, to be polite, dreadful.
Though there's no EPA guidance on this car since it isn't sold here, the 2013 Golf TDI with DSG nets 7.8L/100km (30 mpg) city and 5.6L/100km (42 mpg) highway. Our brief drive time suggests that the GTD wouldn't be far afield from those numbers. The 2013 GTI rings up 9.8L/100km (24 mpg) city and 7.1L/100km (33 mpg) highway, so there's a huge difference. It's worth noting that we've observed similar-to-EPA numbers in other TDIs even while working them fairly hard, something we can't say for their gas equivalents. Range is huge, too.
It's hard for us to compare handling to the standard GTI, because our test car was fitted with the non-North American spec adaptive damping option. It delivered a good balance of immediacy and ride comfort, but so does the standard GTI – we'd just assume do without the added cost and complexity.
Pictures just don't adequately express how shockingly green this paint is. It's not for everyone, but we got compliments and absolutely love it. Let's hope VW brings it over, even on the standard GTI.
How can we tell this isn't a North American model just by sitting inside? The cupholder features a removable bottle opener. You know, for mineralvasser.
A 2013 VW GTI starts at $29,375, so we're guessing you'd want to add a couple grand to the base price for a GTD.