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> Comparison: 2003 Elantra GT vs 2011 VW GTI
cobas
post Jun 29 2011, 10:01 PM
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So um... I bought a new GTI. I've had it a week these are impressions. Maybe they'll be useful for someone else car shopping someday. Keep in mind I'm coming from a nicely modified Elantra (wheels, tires, sway bar, camber bolts, Hawk HPS brake pads, short shifter, lightweight flywheel, etc) to a bone-stock GTI.

The styling differences inside and out I don't need to go into. Maybe I'll post a photo for reference later. Subjectively, the GTI has a really nice interior and great seat bolstering. From the outside... I like the Elantra GT just fine.

Engine & Transmission performance
Let's skip right to the driving. The main reason why I got this car is the power. It has more than enough power... above 2000rpm. On the highway it's always above 2,000. (I would've made 6th gear longer, personally) It's great when there's a momentary gap in interstate traffic to drop down two gears and burst forward. Merging is easier, changing lanes in a limited time is much easier and quieter (more of a rumble than roar), so the effect is to turn trucks and slower cars into slow moving obstacles to be passed. It's a lovely smooth engine that revs easily. I've found myself cruising at 4,000rpm because it's so smooth. However, below 2000rpm... it feels no sportier than the Elantra. On the contrary, in the Elantra I'm used to reving it and engaging the clutch as nimbly as I want and can. Which brings me to the longest part of this review... the DSG.

In summary, I think the DSG is a neat gadget and I'd opt for it again given its advantages, me being married and all. But if you're used to a stickshift and like it, get the stick, of course. It comes down to the same manual/automatic difference. In a manual car the transmission is just a dumb, simple passive tool. Once you're familiar with it (which does take time) it's completely transparent and predictable. When you're in the wrong gear, or dump the clutch too harshly, you have nobody to blame but yourself. Automatic transmissions aren't passive, so they become an 'entity,' an unwelcome third party if you're used to a stickshift. It's like chopsticks. While you suck at using chopsticks, having someone feed you is relaxing and more efficient. But once you've learned, you just want to be alone with your food. Occasionally dropping your food is still more relaxing than being fed by someone else.

Now, the DSG is one of the nicest automatics I've seen. In "Drive," it will cruise relaxedly and act like an efficient automatic with noticeable engine braking and subtly noticeable downshifts. It also crawls forward like an automatic. How? and.. why? It's also never ready to suddenly accelerate in Drive, so I use that mode when I'm groggy or stuck in traffic. In "Sport" mode... I don't know, I'm not obnoxious enough to leave it in Sport for more than a few seconds. That leaves Manual mode, my favorite. The nice thing is most shifts are super-quick and you don't need to ease off the throttle at all. (In fact if you do it gets confused and takes longer to shift). It'll rev to or past the redline, but it won't stall out - it will downshift for you if you stop.

Every upshift and every downshift is the same arm/hand motion, so I lose count and have to check with the instrument cluster LCD what gear I'm in. The downshift rev-matching is cool but I rev-match and heel-and-toe all the time - sometimes quickly and loudly, sometimes more quietly. With the DSG and the GTI's exhaust, it's never that quiet - which is obnoxious. Lastly, about the DSG... the initial clutch engagement. I've noticed two philosophies: Engage around 1,000rpm and then wait for the turbo to spin up (Drive, Sport, Manual) or rev to 3,000 and dump the clutch, leaving a single dark tire mark on the road (aka "Launch Control"). I'm hoping whatever computer controls the clutch engagement starts to learn how to do a subtle quick getaway without peeling out, or I discover some magic combination of throttle pressure and timing that will do it.

In the next part I'll review the ride & handling (preview: The Elantra is a lot of fun, actually), and then the features and details (preview: dizzying array of buttons and LCD display options to distract you, but no auto-off headlights?!).


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winc
post Jun 29 2011, 10:14 PM
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First off... Congrats on the new ride! I'm sure you're gonna love it!

Quick question: Does it lock-out higher or lower gears if you're out of the rev range, such as gears 3-6 from a stop and lower gears when you're over-revved? Just curious about the built-in logic of it.

Also, I'm glad it has the "creep" feature as the only 2 DSG's I've driven before were early-model Maseratis that didn't have it... talk about a PITA to try taking off on a hill without rolling the wrong way.


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cobas
post Jul 17 2011, 02:10 AM
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So today I found the DSG kicks-down a gear even in Manual mode when you floor the gas. There's an unambiguous "kick-down," point in the throttle pedal travel, so I guess you can avoid it. So it will rev near/past redline, but I think at some point it upshifts, it downshifts before stalling or sputtering and now it kicks-down if you floor the gas. It's basically "manual" within a certain (quite wide) range of parameters, but it's not like a true manual.

Handling is a hard thing to review in a new daily driver. Let me put it this way; I've bee driving the GTI for three weeks and still don't know where the limits are. Taking the Elantra out for a spin today highlighted the contrast.

Taking a fast corner in the Elantra, I heel-and-toe down into second gear with a bit of a roar. It's not the most melodious engine sound but it works. The brakes are "OK," but the rotors are also warped a bit. I brace myself between the dead pedal and the seat, feed the steering in and feel the suspension load up before the tires start to squeal. I know that if I lift off the throttle, I can get the rear sliding just a tad and fix that with more throttle. Too much and the inside wheel will spin and attract more attention than I want. At the end, I straighten out the steering and feel the car's weight level out again. It's not bad.

Taking a fast corner in the GTI, I start to brake and I grab the left paddle a few times until the dash LCD says "2." There's a noticeable quick "Vrrooom!" with every gear that goes down. It sounds cool... also sounds cool to anyone within half a block, and it's the car doing it, not me. The steering's heavier than the Elantra's. The suspension doesn't "load up," noticeably - the car just stays flat and corners harder than I've been willing to push it. I don't know what happens at the limit yet - probably the ESC light starts flashing, since the ESC can't be shut off. Then, if I get on the power early, the TCS light will flash but the car will still pull out of a corner well and with nearly no torque-steer. I'd guess that XDS system is using to the front-inside brakes to achieve that. The seat bolstering is appreciated.

The stiff suspension is more appreciated in high-speed lane changes, where the GTI is quick and confident and the Elantra has to lean and sway its way into the next lane. But you pay for that with ride quality. It may not crash over bumps, but with 38psi 18's you feel every expansion joint, depression, surface change in the GTI where the Elantra cruises. You can crash over harsh bumps in the Elantra but you never feel your internal organs jolted like in the GTI.

Even with 200hp, the GTI cruises around 3,000rpm at 70mph. That means plenty of power for passing, even in 6th gear - but fuel economy suffers. 6th should be longer, IMO. I keep coming back to that ability to jump from 70mph to 80 or 90 in just a second or two, and the suddenness of lane changes possible in the GTI - it's like you've been playing an arcade driving game and just found the Diffuclty Setting, was set to "Hard," so you changed it to "Easy," and now... it's too easy.

In the cabin, there are way too many buttons. I can signal, flash the headlights, downshift, toggle all the cruise control functions, skip tracks forward or reverse, change the volume or start or end a phone call all with my left hand, without it leaving the steering wheel 9-o'clock position. It can get distracting. But I'll leave the details for another day.


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Silentwolf
post Jul 17 2011, 03:38 PM
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Seems clear that your suspension needs more work then on the Elantra.

And thats the thing i hate about Manumatics, is having to tap to the gear rather than simply "putting" it into the gear you want.

You should try and come down to Orlando and Seaworld again (have annual pass still) and then go for a spin in my car.


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cobas
post Jul 18 2011, 03:01 AM
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I have to admit the interior is nice. The cargo organizer is one of my favorite features, and it's not expensive. All the doors have pockets, even the rear ones. There's a center armrest for the rear, with cupholders, and a pass-thru for skis, and the seats fold down 60-40 too. There's also HVAC vents for the rear passengers on the center console (instead of our cupholder/ashtray). The glove box has a shelf at the top for the owner's manual (better than an elastic band, no?). There's an HVAC vent inside the glove box, which can be closed off. The front seats are heated, the sunroof is one-touch open/close/tilt. The whole top of the dash is soft and rubbery, all four windows are one-touch-up, one-touch-down, there's a sunglass holder despite the sunroof, etc. The materials in general are very nice - even the seatbelt buckles are wraped in cloth (ok, it ain't leather, but it ain't plastic either). There is NO CD storage at all. But there's an iPod port, an Aux port and an SD Card slot, so I've stopped using CDs. The stereo/phone/nav interface is a touch screen but you can use buttons and knobs too. As nice as the stereo/nav system is, you can get those at Crutchfield or BestBuy without buying a whole new car. Ok, it won't look quite as nice, but it'll be just as functional.
Also I'm finding the "wheel unbalanced," speed in the GTI is around 70mph. I think it's inevitable with those huge heavy 18's. Those wheels look nice enough but they can't be good for performance... oh well, I'm not changing them at least 'till the tires wear out.

The center instrument panel has an LCD screen with a variety of settings... a depressing fuel economy gauge (19mpg?!), a distracting compass, a display of the name of the road you're on (?), a digital speedometer, a travel timer, distance-to-empty or just the name of the cell phone that's synched in bluetooth. I'm still deciding which one is the least distracting.

The headlights... they're Xenon with a very sharp top cut-off and... they move. They aim into the corner at moderate speeds. The coolest thing about that is the little dance they do when the car first starts up at night. Don't know why but they focus, spread out, focus again, rise and then fall like a mini concert lightshow, It's um... a neat way to impress your friends, if you have friends who are impressed by that sort of thing.

Oh Silent.... erm... I was just in Orlando on the 8th for the STS-135 launch. Totally forgot to let you know, but we just drove down to Miami after the launch went off. Reserved a midsize. Got a Mustang instead! An automatic Mustang, the V6... a convertible... not so quick. But quick enough to get me a speeding ticket. sad.gif


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Silentwolf
post Jul 18 2011, 10:00 AM
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I had to work that day as it was, but fall would be a better time to come to the theme parks as it will be cooler out.


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cobas
post Aug 23 2011, 10:12 PM
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I've been playing with using "Neutral" to coast (otherwise it engine-brakes), or when stopped just because its odd that it creeps forward on its own like an automatic. It's not bad at slipping into N and back into D or Manual when moving, but when it's stopped, it's interlocked with the brake pedal. That means I have to be on the brake to shift from N to D. It's caused me some confusion when I'm sitting at a red light in N and then release the brake and try to shift... dang!

Last week I drove mostly the Elantra. This week I parked the GTI in front, so I guess it's this one. I go back and forth. I wish either this were a manual with a softer suspension (uh.... TDI?) or the Elantra had 200hp smile.gif . There's a voice command button on the wheel I sometimes hit accidentally, but nothing I tell it seems to work. There's basically too many damned buttons on the steering wheel. Also the gearing is still too short.

More importantly... it appears I prefer N/A engines. I'd never really driven turbo cars before and I see the... problem, now. I figured the power was more non-linear with RPM, but it's not just that, it's an actual time-delay after hitting the throttle, at any RPM, on top of the RPM non-linearity. That's partly while it does mostly nothing for 1-2 seconds and then the tires are chirping. The DSG clutch engagement makes it worse from a standstill, but even rolling I can notice the slight delay. Sure the power depends on RPM in the Elantra too, but for any given RPM, if you floor it suddenly, you get all the power you expect instantly, time after time, independent of how much throttle you had fed in a second ago. I like that.... Also, the GTI is too quiet. It does have a deep exhaust note but at higher RPMs under part throttle I can't really hear the engine over my music and I find myself looking down at the tach a lot. I never thought I'd be saying I wish my car were louder, but... I wish the GTI were louder so you could hear where the engine is.

So what am I saying, that my 2003 Elantra has a better ride and a more responsive throttle than the GTI? Yeah. I also still feel far more comfortable wringing out the Elantra - I can feel the cornering limit on a daily basis, I can feel the rear getting light or slipping, the wheels starting to squeal. The GTI won't break a sweat keeping up with the Elantra. It's so tightly sprung that whatever goes wrong will probably happen pretty suddenly. Not sure my reflexes are up to it... guess that's what ESC is for.


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Vinnie
winc
post Aug 23 2011, 10:25 PM
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ersherls erbernd
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What I don't like about the drivability of a turbo is that the power/torque is NEVER consistent. With a N/A engine, there aren't as many variables, but when adding boost, it could be there immediately or it may not have any guts at all, which sucks if you're wanting to plan an evasive maneuver. On the Saab, it usually had the power available as long as you were above 1900 RPM, but any lower and it'd lag for at least a second or three until it built up or unless you really hammered the throttle where it'd be almost instantly.

My Volvo has too high of a first gear, combined with only 4-spd auto... near impossible to have any wheel-spin on take-off... I'd say it has a good second plus before it feels like it's really "launching", my biggest gripe with the car. Otherwise it responds more than quick enough any other time.


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cobas
post Aug 23 2011, 10:31 PM
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Yeah, it's hard to get a good handle/feel on the engine's response when it's not reproducible. I see now why people actually argue N/A is better: you get exactly the same thing every time. The turbo adds an annoying uncertainty...


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NevynPA
post Aug 24 2011, 08:34 AM
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QUOTE (cobas @ Aug 23 2011, 11:12 PM) *
There's a voice command button on the wheel I sometimes hit accidentally, but nothing I tell it seems to work.


What are you telling it? "Bring us a shrubbery?" I doubt that's going to work.

tongue.gif cool.gif wink.gif


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cobas
post Aug 24 2011, 09:43 PM
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Erm... generally things like "Aw crap," "goddamit," "Shut up," and "Leave me alone, I didn't mean to hit that button you stupid computer."


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elantragt
post Aug 24 2011, 10:45 PM
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So Enrique, at this point does it feel like 25,000 well spent dollars?


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