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Comparison test GTI convertible vs. Wendland-Golf: New opening times

Rossen Gargolov
Convertible comparison test Golf GTI and Wendland-Golf
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L performance in a strawberry basket used to be rare : Tuning fans tore the four-cylinder from their cloth cap Golf and transplanted VR6 or 1.8 turbo engines into lengthy operating rooms. The surgeons were paid homage on the annual pilgrimage to the GTI Mecca of Wörthersee. You guys have to come up with something new - engine transplants were yesterday, today the factory officially awarded the Golf Cabriolet the GTI performance medal.

Tuning versus series, small versus large

But does it have to be 210 hp ex works? Anyone who owns the previous top model with 1.4-liter TSI and 160 PS does not have to sell their open-air Golf given the market launch of the open GTI. With the Wendland-Golf 1.4 TSI Cabrio, we show how the supposedly smaller can stand up to the larger. Starting shot for the duel between series and tuning: red stripes on the honeycomb grille and sports seats with classic tartan fabric - optically, the convertible passes the entrance examination into the GTI family with a smooth one. The first reading is 9.0 seconds. We don't start with acceleration, but with the striptease to the topless GTI. The soft top opens and closes electrically up to a speed of 30.

Into the tornado-red fresh-air Gulf: Unlike in the past, the volume level no longer swells when the top is closed and at higher speeds, as if you were sitting in the middle of a hurricane. Thanks to the robust sealing and roof construction, the sixth generation convertible no longer has to put up with any malice on the motorway. Up until now, the top of the strawberry basket billowed out like a puffer fish.

From zero to one hundred in 7.4 seconds

Not only the top technology has grown up. The two-liter TSI of the EA 888 series with 210 hp, which is already known from the two and four-door models, works under the bonnet. Similar to the closed variants, the turbo gasoline direct injection engine pushes well. With 7.4 seconds for the sprint from zero to 100 km /h, the GTI Cabrio misses the factory specification by a tenth of a second, but is only 0.2 seconds slower than the fixed roof GTI ( sport auto 5 /2009). And that even though the convertible is dragging 135 kilos more weight.

A sports suspension that increases the front axle by 22 mm and at the rear by 15 mmis supposed to hide the extra pounds as much as possible. When cruising, the GTI convertible acts just as confidently as the permanently closed version with suspension comfort suitable for long journeys. However, when cornering quickly on the country road or in the border area on the racetrack, the weight is noticeable. The result: lateral inclination and pushing over the front axle when braking.
If you don't throw the anchor in the last groove and push the GTI convertible to the limit in a finely dosed manner, you will even feel a slightly steered rear when the load changes. A clean, smooth driving style is important, otherwise the ESP, which cannot be switched off, regulates. With a lap time of 1.21.8 minutes at Hockenheim, the convertible laps the small circuit two seconds slower than the closed GTI. There's scolding for the delay. At 40.4 meters from 100 km /h to zero, the GTI convertible brakes even worse than its tin roof brother (39.4 meters).

Through targeted tuning to 210 PS in the Wendland Golf

Even if the majority of the Golf Cabrios are only strolling between elementary school, tennis court and shopping center, we go even further into the extreme: Black racing stripes on a white background - optically the tuned Wendland convertible wants to wobble on the GTI throne. 'We wanted to achieve at least the GTI performance,' says Dieter Wendland, who runs the Wendland Motorentechnik company in the Swabian town of Rangendingen together with brother Karl-Heinz.

Goal: 160 series HP should become a stable 210 HP . Not an easy task, after all, the 1.4 TSI series unit is always noticed by worn timing chains, defective chain tensioners and camshaft adjusters. Partly occurring engine damage is the bitter consequence. To improve the stability and service life of the 1.4 TSI, Wendland, which specializes in VW, Audi and Porsche, now assembles forged pistons and selected timing chains. The engine specialists are also optimizing oil and piston cooling and the oil supply. Then Wendland modified the engine management of the original engine control unit. 6,000 euros for engine tuning are not a bargain, but they are well invested in terms of the promised stability against the susceptible series engine.

The more speed, the more toxic

And how does the small engine with the big power go? In short: Slightly worse than the GTI in the lower rev range, but significantly better at the top. When accelerating, the tuned four-wheeler takes a tenth of a second off the GTI up to 100 km /h, and even 1.4 s up to 180 km /h. But there is more to the GTI conqueror. Suspension specialist H&R installed a racing-style coilover kit that benefited from the experience of the bright green H&R Scirocco R of the Fleper Motorsport team from the VLN endurance championship on the Nordschleife. In a similar form, the coilover kit is also street legalthe market. All around the chassis lowers the center of gravity of the Wendland convertible by 40 mm. “We also have a negative camber of 2.5 degrees at the front and the rear lane is slightly open,” explains Walter Wirtz, Head of Chassis Development at H&R.

Well then off to Hockenheim. We prefer not to delve into the topic of everyday comfort in view of the firm suspension. 'For those who like it more comfortable and value lowering, we offer moderate chassis variants for the Golf Cabriolet,' says chassis developer Wirtz. On the racetrack, the tuned convertible makes up for it with its driving fun for many a spine kick on the crossways of the motorway. For the transverse dynamics presentation, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup slippers were quickly put on. Thanks to the better grip level of the semi-slicks and the modified chassis set-up (including toe-out instead of toe-in on the front axle), the Wendland-Golf steers in more directly than the production GTI.

Faster than the series GTI

The Wendland TSI welcomes load changes with a relish turning rear end. At least until the electronic reins catch him again. A clean driving style is a basic requirement for a fast lap with ESP that cannot be switched off. Larger transverse stays at the stern immediately brake the control impulses. Even if the 1.4 TSI convertible with the smaller brake achieves the better deceleration values, the pressure point and ABS control are better with the GTI. Enough grumbling: valley, south curve, start-finish straight - the black and white checkered flag falls for the Wendland-Golf Cabrio at 1:19.4 minutes. This means that the tuned 1.4 TSI convertible is 2.4 seconds faster than the production GTI. Déjà vu for long-time sport auto readers: In issue 12/1979, the Golf I Cabriolet from Riechert-Tuning with a drilled 100 PS four-cylinder including 2B2 Zenith register carburetor competed for the then GLI called series top model with 110 hp to hunt. Which brings us back to the strawberry basket.


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