1975 – 2008: THE HISTORY OF THE GOLF GTI
The Volkswagen Golf GTI was unveiled in 1975 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The ÚK market had to wait a further two years for vehicles to arrive – 1977 saw 34 examples, all of them left hand drive, sold in the GTI's first tentative year.
The GTI was powered by a 1,588 cc four cylinder engine with K-Jetronic fuel injection it developed 110 PS at 6,100 rpm and 103 lbs ft of torque at 5,000 rpm. This allowed the GTI, which weighed 810 kg unladen, to hit 60 mph from standstill in nine-seconds before reaching a top speed of 110 mph.
The now familiar mix of a high-revving, responsive four-cylinder engine installed in a hatchback body with the emphasis on driving fun was linked to a pared down interior came as a revelation at the time. Especially when combined with tartan trim and the now iconic golf ball gearshift.
The car was an instant hit. By the time right-hand drive cars arrived in the ÚK in 1979 a total of 1,573 cars were sold in that year, a number that would triple within two years.
In 1984 the Mk II GTI was launched and picked up where the Mk I left off. A new chassis structure, a 1,781 cc engine developing 112 PS and 114 lbs ft of torque and new styling evolved the GTI and saw it appeal to a new generation of fans. Sales of the Mk II GTI surpassed those of the Mk I, peaking at 17,193 vehicles in 1989. In Germany a supercharged G60 version developing 160 PS was sold, an output that wouldn't be bettered in a GTI until 2002.
Three years later the Mk III GTI was launched, bringing with it a new 2.0-litre eight-valve engine and improved aerodynamics over the previous Mk I and Mk II models. In 1993 the GTI fitted was with a 2.0-litre 16-valve engine, raising the power output from 115 PS in the eight-valve model up to a more substantial 150 PS and 133 lbs ft of torque to drop the 0-60 mph time to 8.3 seconds and raise the top speed to 133 mph.
The introduction of the Mk IV GTI in 1998 saw significant changes to the line-up with the first diesel-engined GTI introduced along with two petrol engines in a total of four different states of tune. The Mk IV GTI made significant gains in refinement and safety – in 2002 the fastest accelerating and most powerful GTI produced up until that point was released in the form of the 180 PS GTI 25th Anniversary Edition. It was the success of this more powerful vehicle that inspired the introduction of the Mk V GTI.
Launched in September 2004 at the Paris Motor Show the Mk V GTI equipped with a 200 PS engine was not only the most powerful but also the most focused GTI yet produced. A new 2.0-litre T-FSI engine linked to a six-speed gearbox and standard Electronic Stabilisation Programme (ESP) were linked to a new chassis equipped with MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link configuration at the rear. The vehicle was 15 mm lower than the standard Golf on new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars.
6-speed Manual, 6-speed Automatic
Visual cues were taken from the original GTI with the return of the tartan interior and the red surround to the grille element – even the GTI typeface used on the badge echoed that of the original.
The Mk V GTI served as a basis for two special editions – the Pirelli and Edition 30. Both models were powered by an evolution of the 2.0-litre T-FSI engine fitted to the conventional GTI, albeit both producing 230 PS.
The wildest GTI ever created – the GTI W12-650 – was also based on the Mk V. Powered by a mid-mounted 6.0-litre W12 engine producing 650 PS the vehicle could accelerate to 62 mph in 3.7-seconds and could theoretically achieve a maximum speed of 201 mph.
Production of the Mk V Golf ceased in August 2008 with a total of 17,630 examples sold in the ÚK alone. In total over 1,700,000 examples of the GTI have been sold worldwide since the vehicle went on sale in 1976.Source - Volkswagen
A compact car manufacturer in Germany, the Rabbit originally debuted in Europe in 1974 as the Volkswagen Golf and it adopted the Rabbit moniker once it made its first appearance in Canada and the U.S. in 1975. The named was switched back to the original Golf name in 1985 and it remained that way for 21 years.
In 1975, Volkswagen introduced the Rabbit as an attempt to correct flagging sales for their company. At the time, Japanese auto makers were competing with the VW Beetle by introducing little ‘econoboxes' at a much cheaper price and were overwhelming the U.S. market. Cute, compact and a front wheel drive vehicle, the Rabbit was priced nearly the same as a Japanese econobox, but with a water-cooled 4 cylinder engine with a transversely mounted engine that drove the front wheels.
Replacing the Beetle in the U.S. market, it wasn't until about 4 years after it was introduced when the Rabbit finally became popular, most of this due to the oil crisis. Fuel economy was excellent on the tiny little car, 45 in the city, and up to 57 mpg on the highway, this could be combined with the optional 1.514 cylinder Diesel. Enthusiasts clamored for this new Volkswagen. In 1979 production for the U.S. market was relocation to New Stanton, Pennsylvania and the first Rabbit rolled off the assembly line on April 10th, 1978. NBC news was on hand to document the first foreign vehicle to be built in the U.S.A. Production of the VW went from April of 1978 until July 1988 at the New Stanton plant before they closed. A total of 1,192,411 vehicles were produced at this plant.
For the late 1979 model year the Rabbit received a make-over as the production was moved. The largest and most noticeable change to the American Rabbit, were the addition of all new square headlights. 1979 was also the year that the Rabbit Convertible was introduced and featured the body of the Rabbit, but featured a soft vinyl top. The convertible featured the round headlights that were found on older-model rabbit's.
The Rabbit received yet another make-over in 1981 and featured the new square headlight from the previous year, with wrap around turn signals that replaced the ones that had been used previously in the bumper. Inside, the Rabbit received a much more modern ‘Americanized' interior that was color keyed completely in the inside. For the 1981 model year, the engine was upgraded to a larger size and the gas engine leaped from 1.6 to 1.71 and the diesel also shot from a 1.5 to a 1.6.
During its production run, the VW Rabbit didn't receive many changes, though it did undergo many improvements. The Rabbit pickup was debuted in 1979 late in the year for the 1980 model year. The pickup was lengthened by 3 feet and had great hauling capacity and was offered with either a diesel or gas engine, though most were sold as diesels.
The GTi was introduced in 1982 and a much more sporty rendition of the VW Rabbit. The engine was a 1.81 and it featured a much stiffer suspension, front air dam, alloy wheels and unique Recaro sports seats. All of the grand features that drivers wanted were improved, the top speed, the handling and the acceleration on the GTi.
In 1982 a special 'black tie' edition Rabbit was introduced and featured black bumpers and mouldings that gave it an elegant look. On the inside, special seats were utilized and a rear wiper was also added. A Wolfsburg Edition Rabbit was debuted for 1984. A lush Rabbit model, the Wolfsburg came with a very unique interior, along with an extra moulding on the bottom of the door, and A/C.
The Volkswagen Golf was introduced in July of 1984 and the Rabbit stepped aside a bit. After being redesigned and renamed, the Rabbit convertible became the Cabriolet, and more recently to the Cabrio. Though it was not a long-lasting vehicle, the Rabbit was a popular vehicle that made a big impact on the history of Volkswagen. Today, the Rabbit is still a popular vehicle that is still in high demand all over the U.S. Though U.S. production has stopped, the MK1's continue to be produced by Volkswagen of South Africa dubbed as the CitiGolf model.
Volkswagen of America announced the return of the Rabbit on April 12, 2006 at the Detroit Auto Show. This was due partly to the decline of sales for the VW Golf in the North American market and VW of America choosing to re-brand the Golf name. This newly introduced model is the same as the Golf V that is sold worldwide.
For the 2007 model year, the Mk V Rabbit replaced the VW Golf and the engine was upgraded to a standard 2.5-L 150-hp I-5 for both the 2-door and 4-door models. The '06 Rabbit was available in two trims, a 2-door and a 4-door hatchback. The 2-door came wit a 150-hp 2.5L DOHC engine, speed sensitive wipers, 10-speaker AM/FM CD stereo system, 6 way manually adjustable driver's seat and turn signal indicator in side mirrors. The 4-door rabbit came with a 150-hp 2.5L DOHC engine, heatable front seats, adjustable lumbar support for both driver and front passenger, light tinted windows, and 60/40 folding rear seat.
By March 2009 the Volkswagen again chose to drop the 'Rabbit' nomenclature and chose once again to rename it the 'Golf'. Volkswagen debuted the all new Golf/Rabbit online on August 2008, thought the official unveiling of the 6th generation occurred at the 2008 Paris Motor Show in October 2008. The newest Golf/Rabbit will be wider than before and will feature body styling similar to the VW Scirocco as well as tail-lamps that remind one of the Touareg. Under the hood was a range of 2-diesel (1.9-liter and 2.0-liter TDI) and 3 Petrol (1.4-liter TSI, 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter TFSI) burning engines. The '09 Rabbit features a 5-cylinder engine with Tiptronic 6 speed automatic transmission which can be adjusted to sport mode which allows for longer RPM runs before gear shifting. To keep the engine in the power band, the sport mode also aggressively down shifts. A manual mode is available as an alternative that allowed the driver to shift gears up and down, much like a F1 car.
On October 15, 2008 the first U.K. example of the all new Golf was auction off for charity by the London Press Club Ball. All of the proceeds went to the 'Journalists' Charity', a UK charity for journalists in need.
At this time there are no hybrid variants of the VW rabbit, but there is also an opportunity that Volkswagen's 2.0 liter clean diesel engine will be available from 2008 on. Outside of North America the VW Rabbit is known as the Golf and over 5 generations and more than 24 million vehicles have been produced.By Jessica Donaldson