This issue we get two vehicles from the Volkswagen folks, starting with the GTI. This is a performance version of the Golf, with a peppy 2.0-liter turbo engine cranking 228 horsepower.
A slick seven-speed automatic gearbox is offered, but this car had a six-speed manual. It takes more effort to drive but is far more fun. Fuel economy is listed at 24/32 mpg. The trip computer shows an average of 26 in 2,000 miles of driving, and I got 30 during freeway cruising.
The GTI falls into the sport sedan category, which means it’s a blast to drive. A mode control offers Eco, Normal, Sport and Custom operation. Brisk acceleration, tight cornering ability, strong brakes and quick steering are all here. Yet this is a comfortable vehicle for daily commuting.
I find the price to be reasonable starting at $29,000. This includes everything we need. However, there are some upgraded versions of the GTI that give us things we don’t need and cost more. Examples include sunroof, upgraded stereo, leather trim, power seats, navigation, larger info screen and racing suspension. All of that will jack the tab close to $40,000. Take your pick.
Those seeking a more practical ride might be interested in the new VW Atlas SUV. It comes as a three-row-seat model or sporty two-row for those who have fewer friends to haul around. The base price starts about $31,000. This gets you a 2.0 turbo listed at 235 horsepower and eight-speed automatic. Fuel economy is claimed to be 21/24 mpg. We observed 22 on highway trips. A big 3.6 V6 engine is available with a healthy 276 horsepower, but finding an Atlas with that motor can bring the price sticker near the $50,000 mark!
The Atlas is pleasant to drive in city commuting. This would be a good choice for long trips. With high ground clearance and optional all-wheel drive, it can be taken in the dirt and we did. There was plenty of room in the cabin for our camping gear.
Many people think of VW as a German brand. In this case, the engine is from Germany, the transmission from Japan and the entire vehicle is assembled in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by American workers.
Chad Haire, of Phoenix, test-drives vehicles for this feature.