Will the Seventh Gen Golf GTI be too obvious?

With all the adoration I hold for the seventh generation (MkVII) VW GTI hot hatch, I wonder if it’s going too far with the GTI badges.

Admittedly it’s a matter of opinion that the last two GTI’s weren’t stylistically perfect—I felt the rear of the MkV wasn’t as striking as the front, and conversely the rear of the MkVI was too good for the bland front—the MkVII seems to finally mesh a clean slate all the way.  Yet where the new model fails in my eyes is it’s gone from a sleeper with modest exterior changes of past GTI’s (usually only two GTI badges for either end, a red stripe near the grille, and some different wheels) and moving into a BMW M/Mercedes AMG amount of eye candy.


While the MkVI and MkVII removed some of the silence by stretching the exhausts to either side of the rear fascia (which I appreciate), it lessens the wall-flower attitude of the original recipe by enlightening other drivers with fender badges near the mirrors, and red brake calipers with “GTI” contrasted in white (the latter on “extended performance” package).  It’s not that the GTI is a slow car—with an estimated base output of 217hp and 225ftlbs it has the right to be shouty—but the fact it doesn’t flash the massive scoops and spoilers of SRT’s, Mazdaspeeds, Si’s, and hot Impreza’s is part of what makes the GTI one of the best.  One can visit the in-laws with their kids in back, and more than likely they won’t look at you with eyes saying grow up, you’re not a street-racer.
The original MkI and new MkVII

The GTI has the new Focus ST nipping at it, as well.  Yes, the ST is a flashy package, but by how much?  Two red badges and a somewhat modest body kit (it’s no SRT4 Caliber) is fairly subdued.  Get a black or silver one and you’re golden.  What’s being done now to the GTI is suitably subtle, but raises the question of how far might this go in the future.

I suppose we’ll see if they add “GTI” to the MkVII or MkIII wheel spokes to see if the badging continues, like BMW and AMG have done for so long.

Image credits:
MkV and MkVI

Additional images and added info of MkVII:


CarsDirect Comparison: BMW X5 vs. Mercedes ML

As an aside that would otherwise go unheard, I’m putting out blogs of my work versus my own thoughts, as they are two different things.


My original text, before edited:

Germanic SUV’s are a market that give an urban parent or grandparent a safe and luxuriously solid capsule for their family.  With the introduction of the Mercedes ML in 1997, and the BMW X5 in 1999, these two vehicles have lead to a competitive assortment of all-weather gadgetfests though out the automotive landscape.  Each currently offer gas and diesel six-cylinder engines, as well as turbocharged V8’s of different outputs.

Mercedes keeps with its familiarly supple, but highly engineered products in their second oldest SUV moniker, the ML.  Offering rear-wheel or 4Matic all-wheel drive, the ML350 is a more willing partner for those who may want the capability for towing up to 7,200lbs and off-road shenanigans as there are optional tow and off-road packages the BMW doesn’t offer. Base prices of the ML sit under the X5 which may be an initial point of interest, but examine the features closely and you’ll see that things like real leather and memory seats/mirrors are only optional on the Mercedes, but standard at BMW.  Memory features are handy for quick vehicle-swaps between parents during school-run duties.  While the Mercedes makes no qualms of its SUV-ness with its off-road capabilities, the BMW X5 is instead labeled a “Sport Activity Vehicle.”

Being an SAV doesn’t make the BMW X5 a less capable machine, but it’s not going to be a utilitarian off-roader so much as an on-road lifted wagon more for driving enthusiasts.  Indeed, the BMW is a tighter fit inside, with the interior passenger volume a whole 30cuft smaller than the ML, but at least offers a third row of seats making the X5 a seven-seater.  Want a Mercedes SUV that seats more than five?  The larger, more expensive GL is the only choice at Benz to offer that, these days (the E-Class wagon offers a rear-facing backseat suited only for children).

The adage of “there’s no replacement for displacement” is nullified in the case between the X5 xDrive35i over the ML350, as the 3.0L inline-six of the BMW has nearly 30lbft of torque (300lbft to be exact) over the larger 3.2L V6 of the Mercedes.  Thank you, turbo.  What’s more, the BMW has a more flexible powerband holding peak numbers over a more rpm.  Danke turbo, again.  BMW also gives buyers and eight-speed automatic (unless you have the XDrive35d Diesel model, bolted to a six-speed auto) to help put that power to even better use.

The Mercedes does have a larger interior, can be had with better off-road and towing options, and appears to be a less expensive choice, but for a lot of the pluses outside the spaciousness, the options add up. When all is said, the X5 is smaller and equipped with better powertrains to be a drivers family vehicle with no options really needed, which helps it succeed at its intended purpose more readily.

My real thoughts:
Like with the Forester/CR-V article, SUV’s aren’t my forte.  It is well accepted that the BMW is the German SUV for drivers while the ML is for those who want comfort and offroad ability, and a third contender– the unmentionable-at-the-time Porsche Cayenne– is a mix of the two but at a price.  But otherwise, what I wrote is actually how I felt.  Why Mercedes still only seats five in the ML is beyond me.

CarsDirect assignment: Subaru Forester vs. Honda CR-V

As an aside that would otherwise go unheard, I’m putting out blogs of my work versus my own thoughts, as they are two different things.

Though not given credit, this was my first assignment at CarsDirect.

Original text (before edited):
With the third largest market behind the midsized and compact car classes, the compact CUV causes quite a clamor for car companies trying to keep their footing.  Starting in 1996 with the Toyota Rav4, competition stacked up rapidly with the Honda CR-V in 1997, and the Subaru Forester in 1998.  Here in 2013 model year, the CR-V is still among the top selling of the modern day CUV’s, but has a lot more competition, including a yet-again fresh Forester for 2014.

As Subaru has offered since the 1990’s, the Forester is still an all-wheel drive-only deal.  And what Subaru would be complete without the unique horizontally-opposed Boxer engines that give such a unique chuffing sound?

Looking at the ’14 Forester, it takes nit-picking beyond the greenhouse and ’09 Elantra-esque headlamps to see what’s changed since the ’13.  Surprisingly it’s almost completely new aside from the 2.5L Boxer engine.  Subaru now offers a CVT instead of the begroaned four-speed automatic of last years model, putting the engine to better use by holding the power right where it needs to be.  Unlike the CR-V, the Forester offers a manual transmission (six speeds, up from five), as well as another engine to choose from if the 2.5L’s 170hp isn’t enough: a brand-new 2.0L turbo-charged, direct injected four-cylinder good for 250hp.  Forester also has a better turning radius for U-turns and tight lots.

While the Honda CR-V may only have a five-speed automatic and just the one 2.4L, 185hp engine against the Foresters wider range, and weigh 200 lbs more than the Subaru, the CR-V matches the performance of the non-turbo Subaru.  The CR-V does struggle a little more in EPA fuel ratings, however, with city/highway/combined mpg sitting at 22/30/25 with AWD while the Subaru ratings are consistently 2mpg ahead in all three categories.  Shaving the AWD on the CRV still has the Honda stepping up 1mpg in all three.  The Subaru does have 174lbft of torque—11 more than the Honda— at lower, more accessible RPM.
With that said, the CR-V does pull a gas-can out of a hat and gets better road-test mileage in the real world than the Subaru.  Furthermore, the Honda has a smaller interior volume overall, yet has more cargo and rear-seat space than the Subaru.  Both the Forester and CR-V are strong CUV veterans, but the Honda does hold stronger resale value, and all while being a fresher-looking package.

Where my opinion really stood:

I’m not a fan of CUV’s and SUV’s, so neither really floats my boat as a whole, and genuinely meant it when stating the Subaru looked like a refresh instead of a new model.  The Subaru held many advantages to me: manual transmission, turbo option, tighter turning circle, and of course better MPG.  Subaru is also noted for being better off-road.  As long as that Subaru has a turbo model, that’d probably be my choice.

With that said, the Honda genuinely did have some surprises, like the larger interior and (to a lesser shock) better economy.  The styling could be worse, too.

Something new to be added to the blog: Reviews from my CarsDirect gig.

CarsDirect.com has been around for a long time, and I’ve been writing for them for a few months now.  It’s not a company of journalists, but is more based on getting the consumer into a car.  For that (and at the risk of saying too much), I am given article assignments that are to compare two similar vehicles in 300-400 words with a overseen winner from the start.  In other words, I’m paid to write a “comparison” in which I may not quite agree with the winner, but nonetheless must show it’s positive attributes.

I have no problem with that as it’s my first paid writing job, and am very thankful for the opportunity.  There is editing, of course, which tends to reword and cut-down what I’d originally sent.  This new content on Manaully Shifted Soul can throw some filler in between the other more bloggy observations that I have to come up with on my own, and also shows the differences between the linked pages of CarsDirect versus my original, as well as what my conflicts and observations were that made it either and easy or hard assignment.

edited 8/4/13
As time goes on, my writing has better adapted to the site, so only minor editing changes occur.  Regardless, I’ll be putting up both the CarsDirect URL’s and my original assignment files as I have been.