VW Golf GTI had me mad for plaid

Written by on November 10, 2014 in Cars and Chicks, Perspectives, Trends - 17 Comments

Krystyna Lagowski 2015 VW Golf GTIOut of all the hatchbacks out there, one has always stood out as the hot hatch that started it all. That’s the Volkswagen Golf, which started out in 1974 as the Rabbit – remember the ones that had “Wabbit” plastered on the back? Yeah, me neither. I just read about it on Wikipedia.

Anyways, the Rabbit somehow became the Golf. Sounds like an Aesop’s fable, doesn’t it? But it was the introduction of the GTI version, with its va-va-voom power and sporty feel, that captured the imagination and wallets of driving enthusiasts everywhere. Think about it. A light, sturdy car with room for passengers, groceries, that’s quick on its feet and smartly styled. Small enough to park anywhere, but more than assured and solid enough for the highway.

For 2015, Volkswagen introduced its seventh generation Golf, and I was lucky enough to get my hot little hands on the GTI version in Tornado Red. It was the kind of red that packs a one-two punch – pow! And you’re ready to go. With a set of 18-inch (!) wheels, I could hardly wait to get smouldering down the road.GTI interior

But when I opened the door, I was greeted by a set of plaid seats. Yes, plaid. I hesitated for a moment, then sat down. Hm, comfy and supportive. The plaid kinda reminded me of a thermos my father took to work at Westinghouse. Andrew Lagowski was very particular about his coffee – he liked a bold, dark roast, and drank it strong and sweet. Not like the insipid slop served in the cafeteria! So one day, while shopping for screws and fasteners at Canadian Tire, Andrew spotted a black plaid thermos with a bright red cap. Every morning, he would stand in the kitchen, clenching a pipe between his teeth, and pour steaming hot coffee into the black plaid thermos. He’d load it up with sugar – usually seven or eight teaspoons, screw on the top, and then the bright red cap. And then he’d turn around, put his pipe and thermos in his briefcase, grab his hat and coat, kiss me on my sleepy head, and stride out the back door to the car. Whenever I smell a pipe, I think of my father. And evidently, whenever I see plaid, it reminds me of that thermos.

VW emblemSo who knows, maybe the plaid was the official Volkswagen tartan? Anyways, I pressed “start” (I ❤️ keyless ignition) and got a nice snarl from the engine. Inside, the car was cleanly and stylishly laid out. VW does design like no one else, I’m sure even the guy who does the door handles has a master’s in graphic design. There was bright red stitching on the steering wheel that carried on around the seats, and red accent strips along the door.

Every edge was squared off and clean – even the driver info on the dash came up in small perfect squares. On the 5.8 inch touchscreen, radio VW Golf GTI frontstations paraded by in tiny, beautifully designed boxes. The technology was simple and straightforward, with buttons clearly designated by purpose – media, navi, traffic, voice, and so on.

Backing up, I could hear something click in the back, and knew from my VW Golf experience earlier in the year, that the VW badge on the trunk had twisted aside to reveal the rear-view camera. Not only did the screen display what was behind the car, but when I shifted back into first gear to move forward, it asked me if it was safe to proceed. That’s German efficiency!

But speaking of first gear, I was disappointed by a glitch that had the car stalling every other time I stopped. It felt like it was in third gear when it was actually in first gear. At first, I thought it was me. Still, I’ve driven VW standard shift before, and in fact, have been driving a stick for over 20 years with no problems. So when I got stuck on a slope trying to get out of a parking garage and did a spectacular burnout just trying to move the car forward, I realized – it wasn’t me, it was the car. I’m not enough of a technician to diagnose an issue like this, so I just avoided hills for the rest of the week.

VW Golf GTI rearFortunately, I could drive down the Don Valley Parkway, which was lined by a flamboyant forest that almost took my breath away. Our fall season is all too short for this annual spectacular display of red, gold and burgundy leaves. It’s when Mother Nature puts on a magnificent show to cushion the departure of summer, and bolster our spirits for the frigid days ahead.

Down by the beach, the colours continued to dazzle, and the red VW fit right in. Planted firmly on the concrete, we lapped up the kilometres, leaning into corners with the confidence of a car twice the price. The Fender sound system carrying the catchy R’n’B rhythms of Soul Town urged us on, rocking out down and around the marina, where the boats perched awkwardly like beached whales in drydock.GTI badge

Stopping for a coffee, I rolled down the windows and drew back the sunroof, where a screen discretely protected me from the afternoon sun. And sipping a sweet, strong latte, I wondered what my dad would have thought of the GTI. He had never been a big Volkswagen fan, but admitted the Germans knew their way around a car. I tried to think of what Andrew Lagowski would say if he saw me in the bright red hot little hatch.

He’d probably take a short drag on his pipe, and his blue eyes would twinkle mischievously.

“So now the car has to match the hair, eh?”

Right, dad.

Father knows best, and he always did …

GTI back end



17 Comments on "VW Golf GTI had me mad for plaid"

  1. Christine Peets November 10, 2014 at 9:15 pm · Reply

    How wonderful that this car is such a good colour for you, and that the plaid seats reminded you of your Dad. What great story of your memories, and what he would say about you driving this car.

    I have fond memories of our old VW bug, so I’d love to drive one of these new cars. The technological advances abound. The first gear glitches would have me worried though. Sounds like you had a good week with the car in spite of that.

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 12, 2014 at 3:27 am · Reply

      All cars look good in red, Christine! My father was general easy-going and laid back, but particular in a few cases. In the mornings, I would drag myself into the kitchen and he’d be mixing up his brew, thermos on the counter, ready to go.
      You’d be astounded by all the toys on this VW, and apart from first gear, it was fun to drive. You know I always find a way around these things : ))

  2. Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) November 11, 2014 at 2:17 am · Reply

    I never did have VW but I’ve had other German cars…nobody engineers a car like a German, in my book. Though the first gear glitch sounds troublesome? I’m curious if you ever got an answer for this?

    But the best part was how it evoked memories of your Dad and imaging him seeing you in this spiffy red car:) Yeah, I’m prejudiced being a ginger myself. Reds are the best…car and women:)

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 12, 2014 at 3:21 am · Reply

      I’ve driven many a VW in my time with standard shift, and never quite experienced this issue. So I know they’re well designed – and am still waiting for the manufacturer to get back to me with what went wrong. And yes, memories of my father and that thermos really came flooding back. I’m so sure that’s exactly what he would have said! Redheads 4 ever!!!

  3. Ken Dowell November 11, 2014 at 4:38 am · Reply

    Wow! That looks nothing like my image of a Golf. I have a 12-year-old Passat which has been brilliant, although it is a now a second car and doesn’t get used that much. Have been thinking of getting a new VW and will take a look at this one.

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 12, 2014 at 3:18 am · Reply

      These are all-new, Ken. VW has a completely new lineup based on a sort of a modular platform that can accommodate a number of different designs, including diesel, hybrid and electric. If you’re a fan of VW, there’s lots to drool over at your local dealer : ))

  4. Jeri November 11, 2014 at 10:59 pm · Reply

    I would totally fall for the plaid seats as well. Quirky is always good, and VW’s have that reputation. I’m still a bit miffed that we didn’t get a German rental car on our recent trip. We got stuck with a giant Grand Cherokee instead. I guess it had something to do with insurance and our needing to take the rental into northern Italy.

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 12, 2014 at 3:15 am · Reply

      Jeri, the plaid seats were very retro and “quirky” too! I’m amazed that they have Jeeps in Europe, when I’m sure some equally sturdy and much more interesting Euro beast of burden would have done you just fine. But, yes, insurance. I *know* you had a great time anyways!

  5. Patricia Weber November 11, 2014 at 11:26 pm · Reply

    Ooooo – plaid. How funny that we don’t see that too often. I love what sounds like voice guidance with the rear view mirror, very nice. Your dad sounds like a hoot. Loved this car ride with you Krystyna!

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 12, 2014 at 3:13 am · Reply

      It’s very unusual to see plaid interior in a car, Patricia! I think it’s traditional for the vehicle to be outfitted in the “Volkswagen Tartan.” And it wasn’t so much voice guidance with the rear view mirror, it’s just that it’s enabled as soon as you put the car in reverse – the emblem cover on the trunk swivels up and the camera comes out. It’s a cool feature!

  6. Tim November 12, 2014 at 12:30 am · Reply

    I remember well the Rabbit but not the Wabbit. This has kept evolving into a very sporty model and apart from the first gear trouble, seems like big trouble, this one looks very cool. For you it’s like an accessory 🙂

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 12, 2014 at 3:08 am · Reply

      Hey Tim, I don’t know that there was ever an official “Wabbit” – it’s just what some goofy Rabbit owners stuck on their back windows. And you’re right, it’s evolved into a gorgeous car, and apart from my problems with first gear. On the highway, it was a blast!

  7. Lenie November 12, 2014 at 7:08 pm · Reply

    Hi Krystyna – isn’t it nice how some things just bring back the best memories – I’m so glad you have those good ones of your dad. Back in the early 70’s we had a older VW Beatle – that thing would go through all kinds of snow – what it didn’t have was a heater and I remember opening my window to move the wipers back and forth to at least remove the snow – course with the air inside the car as cold as outside, the windows didn’t frost up, only we did. Anyway, the VW was and still is a great car and this one looks like a winner – I like that extra safety feature (and I do remember the Wabbit)

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 13, 2014 at 4:12 am · Reply

      Lenie, do you remember the commercial about how does the snowplow driver get to work? In a VW Beetle, of course! They were just indestructible, with or without heaters. My very first boyfriend had a Beetle, and he drove it up to Toronto all the way from Chicago. To start it, we had to push it down a hill! In those days, you could still do that … Glad you have some good (if chilly) memories of your Beetle …

  8. andleeb November 14, 2014 at 5:07 pm · Reply

    I have no information about German cars but its nice to know about it. Here normally American cars or Japanese are used. Its nice to see VW beetle. I was thinking how few things brings memories. The car is looking very nice.

  9. Meredith Wouters November 14, 2014 at 6:18 pm · Reply

    The designer in me LOVES the plaid! And the red. 🙂 I remember seeing Rabbits when I was growing up. The first car I owned was a Jetta, and I just loved it. Nothing fancy or GTI about it, but it always got me where I was going. I have fond associations with VW. I think I would love this little Golf.

  10. Arleen November 14, 2014 at 9:53 pm · Reply

    I give you credit getting that car to move on a slope. Who knows whoever might have seen might of thought you were cool driving that red car and burning rubber. At least the plaid seats gave you good memories and you can laugh at the stick shift

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