2015 Volkswagen GTD Preview Drive

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It’s the fastest, most powerful GTD ever—capable of getting to 60 mph in less than seven seconds, and hitting a top speed of 143 mph, yet returning more than 40 mpg on the highway.

What even is the GTD, you ask?

We don’t expect many Americans—not even many driving-enthusiast types—to be in the know. But as we recently found out on an extended 250-mile drive this past week in Germany, GTD is a model name you should take note of if you want a ‘green,’ fuel-efficient car that’s also satisfying from a performance standpoint.

And if it comes to the U.S. in 2014—as it likely will for the 2015 model year (it’s at least a year away)—the GTD is more than just a performance car you fuel up with the green pump handle. Distilled down to the simplest, it’s “the GTI of diesels,” and this is no new idea; it’s been sold in Europe since 1982. You get, essentially, the same all-around performance package as the GTI, only with the latest EA288 Volkswagen TDI clean-diesel engine—in this case, modified in various ways to produce 184 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque.

One of the most athletic small diesels yet

How does the GTD drive? Mostly, like a GTI, and more athletically than any other diesel compact car we’ve been in—except, maybe, the limited-production (and much pricier) BMW 335d from a few years ago. The GTD, like the GTI, takes advantage of all the weight savings in the new ‘A7’ version of the Golf (based on VW’s ‘MQB’ global architecture). And with its curb weight of just over 3,000 pounds plus the engine’s robust response even when revs are low, VW says the GTD can accelerate from 50 to 75 mph in fifth gear in just 7.5 seconds. From a standing start it doesn’t quite leap forward with the hair-trigger verve of the GTI, however.

Compared to previous four-cylinder TDI efforts, the completely new engine is stronger, cleaner, more flexible, and even more efficient—thanks to variable valve timing, new engine controls, an intercooler integrated into the exhaust manufold, and a new dual-loop exhaust-gas recirculation (EGR) system. Additionally, the high-pressure common-rail direct-injection system has been cranked up to 29,000 psi, from 26,000.

Clean-air concerned take note: The GTD is a 50-state car in its new form. With its NOx storage system and urea injection (as it would be offered in the U.S.), it complies with Euro-6 emissions standards and wouldn't require other additional systems to be sold in California.

Just like the GTI, the GTD includes an excellent variable-ratio (‘progressive’) steering rack, a two-stage electronic stability control system with ESC Sport mode, the XDS+ electronic differential lock (helping to send extra torque to the wheel with the most traction), and Dynamic chassis Control (DCC). Altogether the setup feels as comfortable with tight esses as it does blasting along at more than 100 mph.

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