2018 Volkswagen GTI Autobahn new car reviews

The Volkswagen GTI might not be all-new for 2018, but it does get some updates this year, including a 10-percent bump in power. Output is now 220 horsepower.

We sampled the top-of-the-line Autobahn model. While it doesn’t get any more power, it does receive the Golf R’s brakes and what Volkswagen calls “an electronically controlled, torque sensing, limited-slip VAQ differential.”

Here’s more from the release:

“This electronically-controlled differential works in concert with the existing stability systems (including the related brake-based XDS+ electronic differential lock) to help improve traction and performance. Tests at the Nürburgring Nordschleife track have shown lap-time improvements of more than eight seconds compared to Golf models without the differential.

“The VAQ acts as a traditional limited-slip differential—which reacts by transferring a set amount of torque to non-slipping wheels when others lose traction—but adds to its effectiveness by monitoring the data from each wheel sensor at all times. Since this data includes both vehicle and wheel speed, as well as yaw and lateral g- force, the system can make precise adjustments to help maintain an optimum torque balance between the left and right front wheels. Up to a full 100 percent of torque can be transferred to either side, as opposed to the fixed “best guess” percentage seen in traditional limited-slip differentials. The result of this proactive (rather than reactive) system is the reduction of the understeer and torque steer that can afflict sporty front-wheel- drive cars.”

The Autobahn model also receives standard navigation, premium auto, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise, 12-way power driver seat. Where the Golf GTI line starts at $26,415, the Autobahn starts at $35,070. Add another $1100 for the DSG, as our car was equipped.

Other staff views

J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

The current iteration of VW’s iconic GTI is perhaps the best $29,000 hot hatch available today… that just happens to cost $38,000. Yes, if there’s any glaring faults in the GTI’s otherwise stellar package, it’s a price that’s more in line with an upscale sports sedan or luxury tourer.

Ignore the price, though, and there’s a lot to like. Driving dynamics that equal or better anything else in the class, a seating position that’s as close to perfect for a wide range of body types as you’re likely to encounter, and a go/stop/turn envelope that only a few yers ago would have been unthinkable on something with four doors and a hatch.

Admittedly, for that price you get a lot of content—our GTI loaner was loaded to the gills with technology and features usually found in those aforementioned luxe tourers—but $38,000 is still a used Miata away from where this car probably really needs to be price wise.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Yeah, that’s a lot of bread for what, at the end of the day, is a fancy Golf. I know, I know, we’re all about hot hatches. There’s a reason: They offer(ed) tremendous performance on a budget. They were true giant killers for the rest of us.

But the prices have constantly trickled upward. On one hand, yeah, it’s nice to see premium small cars. On the other, nearly $40,000 for a hot hatch seems at odds with the mission statement.

Like J.G. said, though, the latest Golf GTI does a lot well. The interior might not be bathed in premium materials, but the drivetrain is spot-on while the DSG transmission is a delight.

For a daily that you could track and autocross some, the GTI nails it. Personally, though, I’d probably be happier with the “regular” GTI or a new MX-5 or BRZ–while pocketing about $10k in the process.

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bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
7/25/18 5:34 a.m.

I was this > < close to taking home a leftover Autobahn, DSG, Performance Pack, '16 GTI in the Spring of '17.  I test drove it, and a '17 SE.  Absolutely loved both.  I still think of "what might have been."

In the couple of weeks I was haggling on the '16, and a few days before the dealer had talked me into coming back and talking it over again, VW was allowed to sell their '15 TDI Dieselgate leftovers.  I showed up to talk GTI one last time, and left with a '15, TDI, DSG, SE Golf. laugh 

When I start pondering about what might have been, I just remind myself of all the money and fuel I've saved. 

CobraSpdRH Reader
7/25/18 8:19 a.m.

I see lots of leftover 2018 inventory of S's and SE's for decent prices, and they now offer the 6 year/72k mile warranty on new VW's, which makes them very tempting. Sounds like the Autobahn has some nice stuff, but to me not worth the extra $$$.

AnthonyGS GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/25/18 8:22 a.m.

That’s used Focus RS money.

aw614 New Reader
7/25/18 8:28 a.m.

I still can't get over the huge price increase for the autobahn edition, that is getting into Golf R money. 

pointofdeparture GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/25/18 11:51 a.m.

I bought a CPO '16 GTI SE 6-speed with the Lighting Package on Saturday for just under $21k. I've been a pretty serious VW nay-sayer for a long time but it is truly everything I wanted in a car. Quick, very comfortable, economical, fun to drive, with a big hatch to put stuff in.

All that said I also threw down on an additional extended warranty until 120k, so at least I'm covered if the car confirms my worst VAG fears...

I do agree that the Autobahn is some serious money to put down on a GTI. The SE has 90% of the features at quite a big discount.


bmxr New Reader
7/25/18 1:22 p.m.

When you can get an 2018 SE for $25k, the full MSRP Autobahn really gets ridiculous-sounding in comparison. Never mind that a Golf R can be had at $38k.   Great cars though, if you like a front-driver. 

foshjowler New Reader
7/25/18 2:28 p.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS :

Shoot. You could find a new Focus RS for that money in many parts of the country.

Turboeric Reader
7/25/18 6:11 p.m.

Or a new WRX for more power and a pile of cash left in your pocket.

nutherjrfan SuperDork
7/26/18 2:36 a.m.

Not to knock the car but at that money I'd buy a left over Nismo Juke.  Sure I'd be the object of more scorn than envy but I'm okay with that.  smiley  I'm sure the Golf would kick the Nissans butt also but again I'd be okay with that.  Would the Golf get me more respect and possibly quim yes most likely but.....devil

AnthonyGS GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/26/18 6:04 a.m.

In reply to nutherjrfan :

Imagine what a Focus RS gets you......

TR7 Reader
7/26/18 10:13 a.m.

I was able to buy a leftover autobahn at an S price, with 0% financing. Something I couldnt do with the Focus RS (or Golf R). 

pinchvalve GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/26/18 12:36 p.m.

And let's not forget that the GTI is offered by a bunch of liars and cheats who tried to ruin the environment for our children, and then got away with it by and large.  

TR7 Reader
7/26/18 1:21 p.m.

In reply to pinchvalve :

I keep forgetting that VW cheated the system and got away with it. No other company has ever done anything like that in recent history of environmental regulations in the US. Wait...





Tom_Spangler GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/26/18 1:48 p.m.
pinchvalve said:

And let's not forget that the GTI is offered by a bunch of liars and cheats who tried to ruin the environment for our children, and then got away with it by and large.  

There are a few folks in jail who would probably dispute your assertion that they got away with it.

Greg Voth
Greg Voth Dork
7/26/18 3:03 p.m.

.....and BMW and Mercedes with their diesels. 


Not that what VW did was right but they certainly weren't the only ones. They did double down and try to cheat again after being caught. 

noddaz GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
7/29/18 4:41 a.m.

De-railed thread:

The ruling now brings to around $30 billion the costs VW will incur after being caught rigging two of its diesel engines to pass U.S. emissions tests — NBC news

30 billion (in the US) and jobs lost for some of those in charge is hardly "getting away with it".  Yes, VAG can afford it.  No, there was nothing "right" about rigging the cars. Back to the thread subject, the high priced GTi.


irish44j UltimaDork
7/29/18 2:54 p.m.
pinchvalve said:

And let's not forget that the GTI is offered by a bunch of liars and cheats who tried to ruin the environment for our children, and then got away with it by and large.  

yeah, most of the major manufacturers just hire lobbyists and pump a ton of cash into politicians' pockets in exchange for legislation that makes that kind of stuff "legal." 

Just think about the funky laws that somehow allow Ford and GM to meet fuel efficiency standards even though most of what they sell are big pickup trucks and SUVs and they're basically killing off most of their fuel-efficient cars. But they didn't have to trick regulators, they just had to pay off legislators. 

.Back on topic, GTI is on my short list when my WRX finally bites the dust, Not real interested in the Autobahn when the SE seems to have all the stuff I want for $10k cheaper. I've never wanted to buy a VW before, but the new 6/72 warranty puts my mind at ease to some degree, and GTi is one of the few sporty cars out there that is affordable, gets good fuel economy, and still comes wht 6MT and LSD.  Looking at you, Hyundai....put an LSD in the Elantra Sport already....

CobraSpdRH Reader
8/1/18 11:45 a.m.

So what is realistic pricing and financing on the 2018 SE's? For a 4 door manual (might have to test drive DSG) SE with leather?

Also, I don't see any VW financial offers, best rates I'm seeing are hovering around 3%. Seems like so much car for the money, especially with the warranty.

irish44j UltimaDork
9/24/18 7:01 p.m.

ok GRM, you convinced me, 2 months after my last post two up, haha...... The 10-year-old, 170k WRX was sold last weekend, and today picked up an SE for $26k out the door. 6MT, Night Blue, LSD. LED headlights. Cloth interior (I prefer that to leather, personally). 

I still immensely dislike the wheels and have every intention of getting something else that's less "import tuner." I also plan to paint the calipers black. Because ugly sliding calipers should not be accentuated!

I would say it's interesting that the GTIs on the lot had three different tires on various cars. Some had some crappy Pirelli Grand-Touring tire, Some had a so-so Bridgestone, and mine had higher performance A/S Hankook S1 Noble 2's, which feel a lot better than the other ones. 

All in all, so far I really enjoy driving it, though it doesn't have the raw get-up-and-go that my WRX (tuned, 280awhp) had. The LSD on this was very impressive accelerating through corners on the rainy drive home, I have to say. The car has nice manners and a nicely-weighted steering, and excellent brakes. 


CyberEric HalfDork
9/24/18 8:59 p.m.

Congrats! Cool car. What's the warranty like?

irish44j UltimaDork
9/24/18 10:10 p.m.
CyberEric said:

Congrats! Cool car. What's the warranty like?

6 years/72,000 bumper-to-bumper ("limited" and powertrain). So basically it beats everyone except Hyundai.

irish44j UltimaDork
9/24/18 10:12 p.m.

I do wish they didn't have such rubber-band tires on them. That small of a sidewall really scares me on my crappy commute, but with the huge sport brakes on this, only certain 17s will even fit. I may actually just get a taller sidewall for the 18s since there is plenty of wheel-well space at stock height.


Teh E36 M3
Teh E36 M3 SuperDork
9/24/18 10:49 p.m.

I went from WRX to GTI and haven't looked back. Now, it was an '02 WRX wagon, but the '15 GTI is a whole different class than anything else I drove in comparison.  I didn't like the focus RS or WRX when we were cross shopping.... too puerile.  The GTI is fast, fantastic engine, slicker than snot 6 speed manual transmission, and got my wife, two kids, and a cat across country in our move, with aplomb. 

TR7 Reader
9/25/18 9:49 a.m.

Congrats, welcome to the club. 

docwyte SuperDork
9/25/18 10:54 a.m.

Once my daughter starts driving I plan on giving her my current '08 GX470 and picking up a GTi/Golf R for myself.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
9/25/18 11:18 a.m.

In reply to docwyte :

You know I can't blame you.   I'm still very annoyed with VW brass, and the entire dieselgate conspiracy, but I very much enjoyed the Golf R I recently spent time in.  Yes, it's over $40K, but you know what?------ I'd rather have a Golf R than a Mustang GT, Camaro SS, or CTR.  It's a damn good car, and although I hate to admit it, it's probably better with the DSG than it is as a manual.  

I hate that VW ruined their reputation as a car company that actually gave a damn about the environment.   I certainly can't blame someone for buying a new one though---as the R at least is an extremely versatile, refined machine.

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