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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Some members here have asked me to post this on the F30 forum as some folks will cross shop a 320i with a GTI. In fact a base 320i can be less expensive than a fully equipped Autobahn level GTI. Here you go:

Recently I returned my 2014 328i at lease end. This ended a 9 year BMW run starting with a 2008 328i. All had manual transmissions and RWD. Due to a job change requiring a lot of driving, leasing is no longer an option and a 328 is no longer in my budget, thus the purchase of a 2017 GTI. Mine is a 4 door painted Midnight Blue Metallic with 3 pedals. It's the Sport model meaning Clark plaid cloth seats with manual control except the seatback angle, Adaptive HID lights and the Performance Package. The PP gives you an extra 10 HP for 220 (with 91 octane fuel), R model brakes and a mechanical limited slip differential. The LSD is wonderful and there is no torque steer

It's a very agile little sedan. Turn in is immediate and the EPS is beautifully weighted and accurate. At higher speeds the weighting increases in turns. Wonderful! I will however say that even though the GTI EPS is excellent it still pales vs the HPS in my previous E90's.

The GTI engine is a 2.0 liter turbo that is quite powerful. Power drops off sharply after 5500 rpm although the redline is about 7000. You can easily chirp the tires off the line, even on the upshift to 2nd gear. The GTI is a blast to drive and prompts you to push harder.

Now some comparisons to the current F30 328i. My 2014 was the RWD Sport Line model with manual transmission, configured as sporty as possible. It was a terrific car but lacked the driving dynamic where you'd drive an hour to find the nearest twisties. The main culprit IMO being the EPS. BMW really dropped the ball in tuning the steering system. It was loose off center, and barely alive otherwise. Even a switch to Continental DWS06 high performance all season go flat tires couldn't fix this issue. Otherwise the chassis was balanced and handling was very good if lacking excitement due to the lack of feedback. Also, after 60,000 miles I felt the damping had become harsh. I'm not sure if that had to do with the age of the car, that the shocks became tired (they certainly were not at the end of their life) or some other reason.

What is immediately obvious is that the BMW is far more of a luxury car than the VW with much more content. My VW lacks power memory seats, automatic climate control, automatic headlights and a few more features. It's pretty basic although it does have keyless entry, Sirius radio and the previously mentioned Adaptive HID's which are amazing. The Sport model hits the performance sweet spot but gives up the above to reach a price point. By the way my Sport with a few minor options retailed for just over $29,000.00 including destination fees. My BMW was over $43,000.00.

The 3 series includes a wide range of vehicles, from the 320i to the 340i, with RWD, AWD, long wheelbase and SAV models. There is no distinct sports model (M cars do not count in this comparison IMO) as BMW has not taken the opportunity to tune a distinct sporty model. All they offer now is the MSport model which gives you the 704 suspension but continues with the same steering as the other models. One caveat is that I have not driven an LCI model which may have better steering although reviews in much of the automotive press say the change is incremental.

VW on the other hand markets the GTI as a separate vehicle from the Golf on which it's based. It has it's own steering and suspension tuning as well as the more powerful engine and various other details. It's designed to be a sports sedan while the 3 series is designed to be a sporty sedan. VW also allows for individual customization of the steering effort, adaptive lighting, synthesized exhaust sound and throttle sensitivity. I have mine all set to Sport except the exhaust. In Sport, that setting is boy racer obnoxious.

The engines make for an interesting comparison. Both are among the very best 4 cylinder turbo gas engines on the market. The BMW engine is a true gem, super smooth and rev happy. It probably makes 260-270 hp at the crank. The VW engine is not quite to that level. It's not as strong or as flexible. VW uses wider transmission ratios in the higher numerical gears than BMW which hurts acceleration. I almost never had to downshift in my BMW to accelerate to pass even in 6th gear but I do in the VW. The benefit of the VW gearing is the engine is turning about 350 fewer rpm's at freeway speed.

To sum up, the current BMW series is like a Swiss Army Knife. It has a lot of tools that work well but is not all that exciting. The GTI is more like a fine scalpel. It may not do everything as well as the BMW, but when you want sharp handling (sorry for the pun) it's the right tool.
 

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new GTI>my new 328x wagon personally. more fun to drive, more engaging, more 'puppy-dog-wants-to-play' attitude than the wagon.

unfortunately, the GTI does not baby as well as the wagon does and while I may not enjoy the ride as much as I did with the GTI, the wagon suits more of my needs.

not for nothing, the new gti is one of those cars that only comes a long every decade or so. VW got so much right with the GTI that personally I think it's more fun than the golf R (i drove both). Everything from the interior ( a draw between the R and GTI) to the performance (GTI wins here for me) is just plain fun.

the GTI you can wind out on the daily and not feel bad, the golf R, much like an M3 (although to be clear, I am NOT saying an R=M3) is such that its a fun car to drive at their limits, but that their limits are so far from normal driving you don't access it nearly as often if that makes sense.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
new GTI>my new 328x wagon personally. more fun to drive, more engaging, more 'puppy-dog-wants-to-play' attitude than the wagon.

unfortunately, the GTI does not baby as well as the wagon does and while I may not enjoy the ride as much as I did with the GTI, the wagon suits more of my needs.

not for nothing, the new gti is one of those cars that only comes a long every decade or so. VW got so much right with the GTI that personally I think it's more fun than the golf R (i drove both). Everything from the interior ( a draw between the R and GTI) to the performance (GTI wins here for me) is just plain fun.

the GTI you can wind out on the daily and not feel bad, the golf R, much like an M3 (although to be clear, I am NOT saying an R=M3) is such that its a fun car to drive at their limits, but that their limits are so far from normal driving you don't access it nearly as often if that makes sense.
Unquestionably true. I have a 6 year old but if he was still an infant the GTI might not have been the best choice. It's pretty small compared to a F30 and certainly the F31. Love the "puppy dog" analogy.
 

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Nice write up. The current GTI gets much praise, and it is good times for enthusiasts that there are cars like the GTI around that can entertain without breaking the bank.

My first car was a 1979 Scirocco, and my wife and my first married car was a 2014 Passat GLS 4Motion. From the experiences of both those cars, I would be hard pressed by ever buy another VW. I hope your experiences are better than mine.
 

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The benefit of the VW gearing is the engine is turning about 3500 fewer rpm's at freeway speed.
You have made some very interesting observations in comparing the GTI to the F30. Your comment about the VW engine "turning about 3500 fewer RPMs at freeway speed" is perplexing. The F3x have 8 speed AT transmissions, so at any given highway cruising speed, their 4 cylinder engines should be turning LESS RPMs than the GTI with a 6 speed DSG. When comparing manual transmissions, there is unlikely to be a major difference in engine speeds @ the same cruising speed.

My wife drives a 2016 GTI Autobahn with DSG. Yes, it is definitely a fun car to drive, but it's not built like a BMW, nor does it cost as much. I find the ride of the GTI to be rather choppy and bouncy over rough pavement, which is not surprising since its wheelbase is considerably shorter than the F30/31. Unfortunately, our GTI is not equipped with the PP which includes the adjustable suspension.

It's a pity that the North American GTI does not offer many of the features available to European GTI buyers: folding mirrors, LED lights front and rear, leather interiors in colours other than black, etc. There is no denying that the GTI is probably VW's best product in their current NA lineup.
 

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Congrats on your new car Michael Schott! :thumbup:
 

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This is an interesting review. A coworker does have a GTI, maybe 2010? Both rear and front have visible negative cambers(custom aligned), and it corners like a go cart. :) The cloth seats and the rough rides of that GTI definitely add more to an adolescent/rebel feel than a refined feel of F30.
 

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There is really no comparison here except that they might cross in pricing levels...

a very distinct difference in F/R weight distribution should be clearly obvious in the first turns...
also, the 'refinement' of the 2 cars is just not on the same plane...

But I love both and wouldn't be disappointed in either, as long as you are aware of the differences...
 

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Discussion Starter #10
You have made some very interesting observations in comparing the GTI to the F30. Your comment about the VW engine "turning about 3500 fewer RPMs at freeway speed" is perplexing. The F3x have 8 speed AT transmissions, so at any given highway cruising speed, their 4 cylinder engines should be turning LESS RPMs than the GTI with a 6 speed DSG. When comparing manual transmissions, there is unlikely to be a major difference in engine speeds @ the same cruising speed.

My wife drives a 2016 GTI Autobahn with DSG. Yes, it is definitely a fun car to drive, but it's not built like a BMW, nor does it cost as much. I find the ride of the GTI to be rather choppy and bouncy over rough pavement, which is not surprising since its wheelbase is considerably shorter than the F30/31. Unfortunately, our GTI is not equipped with the PP which includes the adjustable suspension.

It's a pity that the North American GTI does not offer many of the features available to European GTI buyers: folding mirrors, LED lights front and rear, leather interiors in colours other than black, etc. There is no denying that the GTI is probably VW's best product in their current NA lineup.
Sorry I meant 350 rpm. I edited the post. My car if you read my post carefully was a manual tranny model. It's about final drive and transmission ratios. Also, the PP does not include adjustable shocks on the Sport model.
 

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Sorry I meant 350 rpm. I edited the post. My car if you read my post carefully was a manual tranny model. It's about final drive and transmission ratios. Also, the PP does not include adjustable shocks on the Sport model.
No worries, I figured it must have been a typo.

Adjustable shocks were part of the PP for Canada. We couldn't justify the extra CD$2300 cost for PP.

A 2016 GTI Autobahn DSG , PP with leather pkg and tech pkg. lists for CD$40,605 before dealer add ons. A basic 2017 320ix AT lists for CD$39,900 before dealer add ons. However, after including a couple of options like Sportline Pkg and LED Light pkg, the 320ix climbs to CD$47,000. In any case, I would argue that the BMW is a better long term bet than the GTI, given VW's lacklustre reputation for long term reliability.

Since we have both a VW and BMW in our garage, a GTI and a 328ix Touring , we will find out over the next few years which car proves to be the more reliable.
 

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There is really no comparison here except that they might cross in pricing levels...

a very distinct difference in F/R weight distribution should be clearly obvious in the first turns...
also, the 'refinement' of the 2 cars is just not on the same plane...

But I love both and wouldn't be disappointed in either, as long as you are aware of the differences...
Agreed. Just sold a stage 2 GTI for my current car. Great car but just got tired of it. The GTI is so easily tuned for a LOT more HP and a lot of fun to drive; however, the FWD gets overwhelmed with too much torque. I had no issues with mine but they do have their issues, mostly some crappy plastic components (intake man, water pumps...). But, wouldn't hesitate to get another one day.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
There is really no comparison here except that they might cross in pricing levels...

a very distinct difference in F/R weight distribution should be clearly obvious in the first turns...
also, the 'refinement' of the 2 cars is just not on the same plane...

But I love both and wouldn't be disappointed in either, as long as you are aware of the differences...
Your comment about refinement is important. Many of us who buy a 3 series as a driver's car feel it has become too civilized. The ride is too willowy, the steering is too imprecise and the car has grown in size. The transition from the E90 to the F30 was a huge move in the wrong direction for the enthusiast. I really enjoyed mine but it was not inspiring to drive.

As far as how the GTI drives in the curves, you are pretty far off. It turns in way better than the BMW and has as much grip. I understand what you mean about weight distribution but modern FWD cars have a ton of grip and use electronics and in this case a mechanical LSD to keep handling neutral. I suppose at the very edge of cornering limits it may be an issue or on the track but if you feel a car like the GTI understeers like a pig you could not be more wrong.
 

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Michael, what's your sense of the build and material quality of the GTI relative to the BMW? I realize it's only been a day, but does anything stand out, plus or minus?
 

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Congrats on the new car Michael :thumbup:

By the way my Sport with a few minor options retailed for just over $29,000.00 including destination fees. My BMW was over $43,000.00.
How far below retail were you able to work the deal? When I drove the GTI shortly after it came out my (completely stupid) local dealer actually had a $5k market adjustment on it :rolleyes: so I'm interested in how far down the deals have come.

It's a very agile little sedan. Turn in is immediate and the EPS is beautifully weighted and accurate. At higher speeds the weighting increases in turns. Wonderful! I will however say that even though the GTI EPS is excellent it still pales vs the HPS in my previous E90's.
I know this sounds pedantic, but the GTI isn't a sport sedan, its a hot hatch. No?

I did not. It's too crude for a car I will drive 20,000 miles/year and it's ugly.
Oh man, 20k miles a year on a VW :yikes: Did you buy the extended warranty, or are you feeling lucky?!? :rofl:
 

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Congrats on the new car Michael :thumbup:


How far below retail were you able to work the deal? When I drove the GTI shortly after it came out my (completely stupid) local dealer actually had a $5k market adjustment on it :rolleyes: so I'm interested in how far down the deals have come.


I know this sounds pedantic, but the GTI isn't a sport sedan, its a hot hatch. No?

Oh man, 20k miles a year on a VW :yikes: Did you buy the extended warranty, or are you feeling lucky?!? :rofl:
When I was shopping, the dealer was willing to go about $2k below invoice, but to be clear I never made it past my first visit to the dealer. Because it couldn't baby it was out pretty quickly.

The golf R had zero wiggle room, MSRP was the price and that was an "if we can get the car" type of thing.

The GTI they were giving away, but this was at the heart of the diesel scandal.
 

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When I was shopping, the dealer was willing to go about $2k below invoice, but to be clear I never made it past my first visit to the dealer. Because it couldn't baby it was out pretty quickly.

The golf R had zero wiggle room, MSRP was the price and that was an "if we can get the car" type of thing.

The GTI they were giving away, but this was at the heart of the diesel scandal.
Wow, 2k under invoice, that's pretty good! Thanks for the data point.
 
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