Your Wheels | 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0T S: Quick and Engaging Drive

Published on Aug 21, 2023

Volkswagen has introduced some iconic styles to America: the Beetle, the Bus and the Hatchback. Although the Beetle and the Bus have come and gone and come and gone (although there is a new all-electric iteration of the bus due in 2024)….the Hatchback is still a Volkswagen staple. The hot Golf GTI is still bringing it after all these years.

Redesigned in 2022, the 2023 model carries over mainly unchanged and that includes its fun-to-drive attitude and roomy interior. It comes in four trim levels: S, 40th Anniversary Edition, SE, and Autobahn. This review will focus on the Base-level S trim.

The S model is equipped with a variety of features. It boasts 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, heated mirrors, a push-button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front sport seats, customizable interior ambient lighting, and front and rear parking sensors. On the technology side, it offers an 8.25-inch touchscreen, a digital instrument panel, integration for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a seven-speaker sound system, and a wireless smartphone charging pad. Additionally, it prioritizes safety with advanced driver aids such as forward collision mitigation, lane keeping assistance, blind-spot intervention, and adaptive cruise control.

A 2.0-liter, turbocharged four cylinder engine adds the zip to the Golf GTI’s drive producing 241 horses and 273 lb-ft of torque. My model was equipped with an easy to use six-speed manual transmission but it is also available with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic for those unable to drive a stick. One little sticking point I found (pun intended) with the manual transmission was the hill assist. Hills can be daunting when driving a stick, especially when there’s a stop sign or stoplight at the top. When releasing the clutch and engaging the gas there’s a lag in which the car can roll backwards (my worst experience was in San Francisco with a stalled Karmenn Ghia) what hill assist does is it prevents the car from rolling backward during that change from clutch to accelerator. The hill assist on the Golf GTI works a little too well. I found myself stalling due to the car not moving, I had to really gun the engine to get it to go.

The GTI’s revamped interior has a touch of the familiar once you settle in. Its excellent seating position offers numerous adjustments and promotes visibility from all angles. Drivers can easily find a comfortable position, with ample space in the front. However, the rear might feel a bit constricted for taller passengers.

The GTI masterfully blends performance and comfort. The seats come with distinct side and thigh bolsters, offering support without constriction. And the GTI retains its signature tartan cloth seats. The ride’s comfort is enhanced due to updated suspension adjustments. My test model came with an adaptive suspension, allowing a switch between a soft Comfort mode and a rigid Sport mode.

The best part in my opinion is the drive. From the second I engaged the accelerator, that car flew. I know in the LA area we don’t get to drive fast very often, but occasionally there are moments when the GTI can strut its stuff. Once we escape the confines of the city, the zippy steering kicks in for tackling even the windiest of roads.

If you appreciate some athleticism in your drive then the 2023 Golf GTI 2.0T S will make your day.

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