The rabbit has matured with age.
The DSG gearbox has two modes: Normal and Sports. The latter basically keeps the engine revving high and doesn’t shift gears as fast as in Normal mode, leading to a very responsive engine when you need it. I actually preferred the Sports mode to the paddle shifters because it felt very aggressive without me forcing it to. One interesting thing to note is that in Normal mode, when you’re pushing the car, the gear changes around 6,000rpm, during Sports mode the gear can shift all the way up to 6,900rpm, even touching 7K at times.
While driving, one of the disappointing things I noticed is that it takes time for the GTI to respond immediately. Basically, there’s always a split-second between me pushing the accelerator and the GTI going fast. The non-linear power distribution is not only a result of the turbocharger, but also all the electronic nannies trying to make your driving experience more safe. Obviously once the gear fully engages and the rpms go high, I completely forget about this little niggle because all 280 Nm of beautiful torque is delivered at such low rpms, that as I’m speeding down the road and hear the throaty exhausts “fart” (for lack of a better word), I have a huge grin on my face. Still, at the back of my mind I always know that the GTI will never show the twitch based responsiveness that I want it to have.
What gives a car like the GTI another layer of sportiness is obviously its suspension system. The adaptive chassis control, through the DCC button, means I can switch the softness of the suspension from Comfort to Normal to Sports. The final mode makes the suspension very taut, giving it a superior edge on curves. Then there’s the XDS electronic differential locking mechanism which effectively targets specific wheels to control braking during tight corners at high speeds. This results in increased traction between the tires and the road, significantly reducing any chance of wheel spin.
Now I’m not one to test high speeds on public roads like a maniac, but at 2 am when most of Dubai is asleep, I did manage to take the GTI on a test run on the curvy bridge near JLT. All I’ll say is that pushing it as far as I could, the GTI felt very confident, partly due to the suspension system, and partly due to the weight distribution of the car. At no time did I feel like I was losing control of it. In daily driving, though, the difference between the DCC suspension modes can only be felt on speed breakers and big humps, of which there are a lot in JLT.