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2018 Volkswagen Golf R: The Best Premium Hot Hatch You Can Buy In North America?

You would think that a car like the Volkswagen Golf R (which, TL;DR I liked a lot), would lend itself to an easy review.  But it does not.  In fact, this is something like the sixth go at crafting something I’m willing to let see the light of day.

The reason for this is the fact that in the premium hot hatch market there are some great choices; Golf R, Ford Focus RS, and the Honda Civic Type R. It’s not that one car is better than the other, it really boils down to what fit’s your personality best.

Hear me out.

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Quick Spin: 2018 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T SEL Premium

There’s a problem with mid-size sedans. They’re not selling. Seriously, no one is buying them. Everyone wants an SUV these days. It’s so much of a problem that Ford, a huge automaker by any measure, gave in and decided “hell, let’s just not make any ‘cars’ for the U.S. market”. And others might follow suit, because irrational thinking is contagious.

Not all automakers are so quick to simply give up on cars but it’s obvious that the focus for most sits with SUVs and crossovers. Volkswagen has the Atlas and the recently redone Tiguan, which is now available with third row seats. There’s also the excellent Alltrack, which itself is a jacked up version of the Golf Sportwagen. A version that’s significantly pricier and better selling. It’s maddening. Still, there’s also the lovable Golf, the new Jetta, and the Passat.

But is just having cars in an automakers’ portfolio enough? 

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First Drive 2019 Volkswagen Jetta: Mainstream American Family Sedan

When Volkswagen moved the Jetta down market with the sixth generation model, specifically designed and built for the North American market, there were more than a few enthusiasts who were disappointed as previous Jetta’s especially in GLI trim, gave you a bit of that BMW M driving experience at half the cost. The thing is, the move down market greatly increased sales, and at the end of the day, that is what a car company needs to do.

Now comes the all-new 2019 Jetta built on the MQB platform, though still specifically tailored for the North American market. Not that long ago the compact sedan segment was one of the main battlegrounds for all volume manufactures. Now with the market moving to CUV’s and SUV’s while the segment is still important, it’s not quite as critical, but that doesn’t mean OEM’s can slack off on quality, content, and pricing.

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2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI: The Gray Man’s Hot Hatch

2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI Sport

What is a “gray man”? Urban Dictionary says, “A man who can blend in to any scene or situation without standing out, hiding his skills and qualities  OK, the red GTI that I had in for the week isn’t exactly subtle, but take off the minimal badging ( badges, we don’t need no stinkin’ badges) and it looks like any other Golf five-door, and therein lies the beauty.

Today’s landscape of hot hatches in the U.S. is two, the Focus ST and the Golf GTI.  The forthcoming Civic Type R is more in line with the Golf R and Focus RS, toss the WRX STI in even though it’s a sedan.  Even in Golf R form, in a world where everyone else tacks on body kit parts like there is a 70% off sale at J.C. Whitney, The GTI, and the R, keep a low profile.

Now, perhaps your personality is one where you do like to shout “look at me”, and that’s cool, this hobby takes all kinds, but there are some who like to have all of the fun, and fly below the radar.  It’s this slot where the GTI shines.  Like the grey man, the GTI just blends in with it’s very conservative, though still handsome shape.  On the inside of our Sport edition it has one fashion statement, the heated tartan cloth seats, other than that one item, the interior is the well appointed and well done Golf.  If you want leather you can get that in the SE and Autobahn models.

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2017 Volkswagen Atlas: The Pure Gold Review

Volkswagen’s new muscular three-row seven-seater SUV “Atlas” is an appropriately German reaction to the desires of the US family car buying market. It makes sense for Volkswagen to build this, but considering it shares lineup space with a full-size SUV that seats five (Touareg), a compact SUV that seats both five and seven (Tiguan and Tiguan Allspace respectively), and a recently greenlit 5-seat Atlas, where does this mid-size model actually fit? 

If you’re part of an American household with a child, chances are you’ll desire something like this to tote your child and all of their friends. It looks enough like a truck that you won’t get your ass kicked at your weekly fantasy football group. It drives enough like a car that your muscle memory learned from a few years in a Passat won’t change much. It’s wider, so maybe you’ll have to take that into consideration a bit. So, do you actually need one of these? Read on to find out. 

In the interest of full disclosure, Volkswagen flew me to Texas, put me up in a nice room, and fed me nice food. When tornados on the east coast completely jacked up flight schedules, their staff went out of their way to accommodate me. 

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Meet Your Heroes – 2009 Volkswagen Golf GTI Review

As a young and impressionable teen in 2006, the North American launch of the Mk5 Golf GTI was one that captivated me like few other cars had done before. It was a car that was portrayed as having a fun and youthful spirit while still being the more mature choice. If reading Super Street in that era taught me anything, it’s that the possibilities for modifying and/or ruining a car were endless – but this German-engineered hot hatch was supposed to .

After winning my heart, over a decade went by without a chance to experience one and see if my hype for it was justified. A month ago though, I finally got that chance through a Turo rental I found while I was in California. I had four days with it to see how well it’s held up and whether it really could be as great as I was expecting, even in the context of all the progress that’s been made in the industry since then.

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The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is your adventure wagon

Dear Fellow American… buy more wagons!

Yes, you think you need that crossover or sport utility vehicle. Well, the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is here to prove you wrong. This is basically the Audi Allroad Jr. It’s a near-premium longroof that looks good, drives well, and can go deeper into the world of no roads than your average crossover mall cruiser.

Save the wagon… you don’t need that CUV.

[Disclaimer: VW tossed us the keys to this Golf Alltrack and included a tank of fuel. I needed to get it washed… more than once.]

Review: 2016 Volkswagen Golf R

We a year ago I drove a VW GTI. Based on everything I have read about it, I should have been in love. But there I was, on the twisty Merritt Parkway, in the middle of the night, feeling rather indifferent. I wanted to love it, but just kind of liked it. It’s was a great little hatch, but until this day I don’t know what I did not like about it. I guess this is what modern dating must be like; high expectations based on a biased written description and an eventual disappointment during the real-life encounter.

But now I have a date with the Golf R, a GTI on steroids, if you will, with more power and all-wheel-drive. The question is how much better, or different, can vehicle be with some extra power, a little chassis tuning, and two more driven wheels really be?

Quite a lot, actually…

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Volkswagen Golf GTE: Your Electrified GTI

Ready to sample some currently forbidden fruit? Today it arrives in the form of the Volkswagen Golf GTE. No, that’s not a typo. This is a GTI… plug-in hybrid, and it’s been available in Europe since 2014.

Pay attention to this car though, fans of the VW brand, as this could be the path to a non-diesel salvation for the brand.

[Disclaimer: Volkswagen tossed us the keys to the Golf GTE for a few days, and included a full tank of gas in the car. We barely dipped into that fuel tank. Seriously, why aren’t they selling this here yet?]

2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE and SEL – The Vermont Maple Syrup Review

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Volkswagen of America wants a hero, they want a champion. If you watched the Democratic Debate a couple of weeks ago, Volkswagen wants someone like Bernie Sanders to stand up and say ‘Nobody cares about your damn NOX emissions!’. Having sat through the Passat pre-drive press conference question and answer session last week, it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen any time soon. Nearly every question asked by a journalist involved the nasty D-word, and nearly every answer given by VW PR was along the lines of ‘We’ll give you more information when we have it’. VWoA wants the Passat to be their champion, they want people to take notice of its strong new sheetmetal and its increasingly advanced tech available inside, and they want people to ignore that there is no longer an option box on the order sheet for TDi Clean Diesel. Is the new Passat good enough to help us forgive and forget? I flew to Stowe, Vermont to find out.

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