Our test drive of the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI confirmed the car is exactly what it looks like – a quick and nimble sports performance vehicle that delivers all kinds of bang for your buck.

But it doesn’t end there because you also get a sporty exterior and interior styling along with the fit and finish of a vehicle with a much greater price tag.  iDriveSoCal’s Professor, Clinton Quan, picked one up from Ontario Volkswagen for a recent test drive.

Press play below for his review.  And contact Randy Halcomb at Ontario Volkswagen to expedite any VW purchase RHalcomb [at] OntarioVW [dot] com | 909-772-1728.


Recorded September 5, 2018, in Los Angeles, CA

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Clinton Quan: You might be able to find another car with this level of performance in that price range, but you’re not going to find another car in the same price range with an interior that’s as nice as this car, that’s for sure.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. Tom Smith here with my good buddy, our good buddy, the Professor. Mr. Clinton Quan, say hello Clinton.

Clinton Quan: Hi Tom.

Tom Smith: Hello, my friend. Today’s podcast, we’re going to be talking about the good Professor’s test drive of a 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI. He picked that up from our good friends out at Ontario Volkswagen, in the Los Angeles suburb of Ontario, California. Professor, I drove one of these cars recently and I loved it. It was a fun car to drive. I was thinking, if I could just get this on a track, that’d be a fun day.

Your iDSC Contact @ Ontario VW
Randy Halcomb: 909-772-1728
RHalcomb [at] OntarioVW [dot] com

Clinton Quan: Oh yes, this is definitely a car you would want to take out to the track, especially on an autocross.

Tom Smith: And we were just talking off mic, there’s plenty of space in the car, but the performance and the drive makes it feel like it’s a little go-cart. I took it easy-

Clinton Quan: That’s a good way to describe it, yes.

VW Golf GTI – Exhilarating

Tom Smith: I took it easy, friends at Ontario Volkswagen, I took it easy as I’m sure the Professor did as well. Candidly, Professor always drives a little bit more aggressively than I, but I tell you what man, little bit of passing, little bit in and out of traffic, that is exhilarating.

Clinton Quan: Yes. It’s certainly exhilarating.

Tom Smith: So, tell us about the old Golf GTI … not the old, the new 2018 Golf GTI.

Clinton Quan: Yes. I test drove the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE, that is the mid-level trim. There are three trims in the Golf GTI family; the base trim is the S, which starts at about $26,000, then there’s the SE, the middle-level trim, the one I drove, which starts at about $30,000 and then you have the top of the line trim, the Autobahn, which starts at about $35,000.

Tom Smith: Now, that is a big swing between-

Clinton Quan: About $9,000.

Tom Smith: -the base to the Autobahn.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: But yet all of these vehicles, the S, the SE, and the Autobahn, they all share the same engine?

Clinton Quan: Yes, it is a 2.0-liter in line for turbo charge that produces 220 horsepower and 258-feet of torque. So it’s got plenty of torque and plenty of horsepower especially for a car that size. It’s essentially the size of really a subcompact.

Tom Smith: Therein lies the fun, right?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: So, all three trims have the same motor, all three trims have the same trans and suspension as well, correct?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Okay. So that big swing between the base and the Autobahn is going to be …

Clinton Quan: The standard equipment on Autobahn trim, for example, the one I drove, I notice it didn’t have a navigation system, and I know the Autobahn, it comes with a navigation system.

Tom Smith: And the Autobahn is a hot item because … And I saw it in their showroom, it was absolutely gorgeous. That was the one that you were supposed to drive, but it was sold just before you went to do your test drive.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: So, my assumption is that it’s a tough one even for dealers to get.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, I would imagine it’s pretty limited trim to get, and most dealers probably wouldn’t have that many on their lot. The majority of them would probably have the S and the SE, which are probably the top-selling trims. Because once you start getting around 35,000 and then if there’s anything else you can add on top of that, you add taxes and fees, you’re looking at a car that’s close to $40,000.

Tom Smith: But, well worth it because that’s one of the more fun cars I’ve driven in quite a while.

Clinton Quan: It’s definitely a really fun car and there’s not a lot of other cars in that class with that type of performance.

Tom Smith: Right, for that kind of money.

Clinton Quan: For that type of money. There’s probably less than a handful of other cars.

Tom Smith: And that brings me back to me personally, I’m all about value, just all about value. I mean, talk to me when I … or if I’d have a gazillion dollars, then the badge, the curb appeal, but there’s a lot of curb appeal for this vehicle. I mean, it’s a good looking ride too.

Clinton Quan: It’s a good-looking ride and what I like most about the car is the interior. It really reminds me of an Audi as well, it’s part of the Audi family. I used to have an Audi TT with that same engine 2-liter, in line for a Turbo, and that car was so much fun. And as soon as I got into this vehicle, it really reminded me of the Audi TT, just a really, really fun car to drive. And this car actually has quite a bit more torque than the TT I had, the TT had 207 I believe, on torque and 200 horsepower, but this one is rated 220 and 250 on torque.

Tom Smith: Big difference.

Clinton Quan: Yes, big difference. Really well-designed interior, it’s got that flat-bottom steering wheel that I really like, the large circular gauges, the tachometer, the speedometer, and then that angled center console stamp with the audio and the climate controls, and it’s touchscreen as well. And it’s a big screen.

Tom Smith: Very driver-focused, very driver-friendly.

Clinton Quan: Very driver-focused, excellent ergonomics, the buttons and controls that are right at your fingertips, right where you want them to be.

Tom Smith: It’s a little thing, but I love the sportier cars when they put the little … I think it’s stainless steel accents on the pedals.

Clinton Quan: Oh yeah.

Tom Smith: That’s just like … I don’t know.

Clinton Quan: That’s a nice little … Yeah.

Tom Smith: It’s a nice touch.

Clinton Quan: It’s a really nice touch, yes. And there’s still a good amount of leg room in the back. Well, at least for me.

Tom Smith: No, no, there was for me too without a doubt, and I’m a little taller than you. I’m not huge but I’m 5’10”, all closed up with just shoes on, 5’11”, almost six feet, but plenty of room. So we usually go around the outside, then come to the inside, then talk about the drive, we’ve bounced all over the place on this one.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Let’s try to bring some uniformity to this podcast just a little bit. Let’s go around the outside of the vehicle, we know it looks beautiful, but let’s talk specifically a little bit.

Clinton Quan: Well, it’s got that traditional Volkswagen design. It’s got really, really clean lines, a modern look to it, and Volkswagen calls it their hot hatch. It’s a Hatchback, a photo Hatchback and it’s really, really sporty design and especially with those nice looking wheels on that GTI SE.

Tom Smith: Yeah. The screaming Hatchback.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: You could call it the screaming Hatchback. So that’s the outside, now, let’s take it inside, which we’ve already done as well, but talk specifics.

Clinton Quan: It’s got really nice supportive seats. The SE I drove, it’s got the cloth seats, but what I really liked really is the design of the dashboard and the gauges, large circular gauges, easy to read, flat-bottom steering wheel, again, I mentioned the center stack with the audio and climate controls, it’s angled towards the driver, so it makes it really easy to read and operate.

Tom Smith: And then the drive itself, the specifics, where did you go?

Clinton Quan: I took the GTI SE up to Lake Arrowhead. I took it on … let’s see, the 210, then I drove up highway 18, and then down highway 330.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: So, a number of winding roads where I got to really test the acceleration and braking as well-

Tom Smith: And suspension on the winding roads-

Clinton Quan: Suspension on the winding roads-

Tom Smith: Carefully…

Clinton Quan: -it’s a really fun car to drive on the winding roads.

Tom Smith: It should be a theme in this podcast, it’s a really fun car drive.

Clinton Quan: Yes. I mapped out the route, I wanted to take a route where I could really test out the suspension and the handling of the vehicle. And it did not disappoint.

Tom Smith: It did not disappoint and mission accomplished the way that you mapped it out, it worked out just fine for you.

Clinton Quan: It worked out just fine.

Tom Smith: So, at the end of this test drive, the professor brings the vehicle back with a big grin ear to ear.

Clinton Quan:    Yes.

Tom Smith: Okay. So anything else before we get to the top three?

Clinton Quan: I think we’ve covered most of it. Well, I also wanted to mention, I was reading about some of the safety technology on the vehicle. They have this … I think it’s called the Intelligent Crash System, where the doors will unlock, the hazard light goes on-

Tom Smith: So, on impact, it automatically does all those things for you?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, which is kind of cool.

Tom Smith: That’s is smart, that’s some great tech.

Clinton Quan: So that’s why they call it the Intelligent Crash System.

Tom Smith: You got to hand it to Volkswagen. I was doing a podcast with Jimmy Willhide, who is Ontario of Volkswagen’s, one of their service advisers and he actually owns eight Volkswagens. We were talking about just the detail of the vehicle, he mentioned when you shut a Volkswagen’s door, it’s a solid door.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: You can you can hear it shut.

Clinton Quan: You can feel the quality of Volkswagens, and not only do you feel it, but you see it. And the other thing I wanted to mention is, you might be able to find another car with this level of performance in that price range, but you’re not going to find another car in the same price range with an interior that’s as nice as this car, that’s for sure.

Tom Smith: And what Jimmy was … and I brought it up and Jimmy concurred, I used the phrase, “Fit and finish” which you hear a lot in vehicle circles, right?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: But what does that really mean? It’s like to me, it means attention to detail and some of that … Jimmy Willhide and I were talking, we were talking fit and finish, and what does that really mean? To me, it means attention to detail, and what Jimmy was mentioning was, hey, you can … He didn’t say that the tool micrometer, but what you could look at the lines between the quarter panels and the doors, or the lines between any of the panels of the vehicle and they all measure out, they’re all just specific and tight. And you get that typically with German vehicles overall.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: But this isn’t a Benz, this isn’t a BMW, this isn’t an Audi, this is a Volkswagen, which is well within … Volkswagen has something within pretty much any car buyer’s price range.

Clinton Quan: Yes. And I think that’s what’s impressive about Golf and the GTI is the high-level fit and finish and attention to detail that you’re getting on basically an entry-level vehicle. The Golf is the smallest vehicle in the Volkswagen family.

Tom Smith: But it’s an entry-level vehicle with that fit and finish, and it’s a little race car.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Which is fun.

Clinton Quan: Yes, that’s what’s so impressive about it.

Tom Smith: Right. Now that we’ve sung the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI praises, I hate to say it to you, but you’re going to have to narrow down to your top three things.

Top 3-Things

  • Engine: 220hp & 258 lb-ft of torque

  • Interior: Quality, detail & ergononomics

  • Price: Great value @ Ontario Volkswagen

Clinton Quan: Top three, wow. I’ll definitely have to go with the engine, that’s got a lot of power and it’s just such a fun car to drive. So with 220 horsepower as I mentioned earlier, 258 pound-feet to torque, this thing really moves. You step on it and you feel it right away, so that’s my number one pick. My number two pick, I got to go with that interior.

Tom Smith: I would have guessed that.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, and the high-quality interior, excellent design, great ergonomics, really good attention to detail, so that would be my number two pick.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: And then number three, probably I would have to go with the price for the SE, that’s probably the best being for your buck right there at around $30,000 for that level of performance.

Tom Smith: Okay. No surprises there for the professor’s top three, but as always, thank you for another vehicle review. Big thanks to our friends out at Ontario Volkswagen, right off the 15 in the Los Angeles suburb of Ontario, California, a great friend of the show. If you are looking Volkswagen, you have to go to Ontario Volkswagen, go on out there, the general manager is Earl Reid, a good friend, Randy Halcombe, a good friend. Shant Bashin is actually a new good friend as well, the new sales manager, we just did a piece on him and he’s a Volkswagen hardcore guy too, just like Jimmy Will Hide. But at any right, thank you guys out in Ontario Volkswagen, and thank you for listening. For iDriveSoCal, I’m Tom Smith. We’ll talk to you soon.