There's just one powertrain configuration in the 2011 Volkswagen GTI--and it's a good one.
A turbocharged 2.0-liter, 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine is VW's choice to pull the GTI up, up, up and away from the pedestrian plane occupied by the Golf. It's a torque machine, twisting out a wide, flat powerband like a mechanical F1 tornado, minus all the peakiness you'd feel in some other blown engines.
It's also faster, by a tick or two. The manual-shift GTI scoots to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds while it earns 21/31 mpg fuel economy. With the dual-clutch gearbox, the same 60 mph arrives in 6.7 seconds and fuel economy jumps to 24/33 mpg. Top speed for both versions is 130 mph.
Handling is a strong point with the GTI. Its electromechanical power steering has a well-sorted feel, and the ride is taut, not jarring. The front strut and independent rear suspension absorb big bumps with nary a crash or bang, and braking on GTis we've driven felt strong and controllable. The GTI also adds an electronic limited-slip differential called XDS, which helps it push through corners better by shifting power to the front wheel with more traction--not a true limited-slip differential, but an approximation that works for most drivers well enough. The GTI wears standard 18-inch wheels and summer tires for the 2011 model year.