The GTI’s freshly introduced electromechanical steering has a variable ratio input that increases the turning angle of the front wheels when you rotate the steering wheel past 60 degrees. That sounds complicated, and it probably is … to those engineers. But in the driver’s seat it’s immediately intuitive and a great step up. Bobbing through deep, looping esses in Targa country, the driver’s wrists and ankles are a choreographed symphony of fun. The steering wheel is now less chunky and easier to grip; the unobtrusive paddles for the 6-speed double-clutch DSG GTI are cool and non-intrusive at the fingertips. Peak torque delivering the goods all the way from 1500 to 4400rpm means moxie on tap. That generous band hunkers, ever present, beneath the right pedal, pre-spooled like the Tassie devil of Looney Tunes fame. Punch the gas and it reacts immediately, turbo lag negligible.
It’s visceral and satisfying, accompanied sonically by a bark that’s dropped half an octave.
Binalong Bay, it turns out, is set against a whitesand beach so picturesque you’re tempted to try flipping it over to see if you’re on a postcard. Nudging the standard adaptive dampers back from ‘Sport’ to ‘Comfort’, we emerge from the hills and drop smoothly towards the seaside on the also-standard 18-inch alloys. After Binalong, we head to Bicheno for lunch, and then Hobart. I’m behind the wheel of the manual, a $2500 snip below the 6-speed double-clutch DSG GTI. If the auto is merely excellent, then the manual
is superb, from its cute golf ball-dimpled gear level to its precise, no-nonsense shift action between cogs. The Pacific is vast and still at my left shoulder, nowstandardissue sat nav directing me south.
Visitors to Australia rave at the emptiness of the Outback, but in pure driving terms the Red Centre’s charms are overrated. Even wide, smooth, immaculate roads aren’t a lot of fun when the next turn is 96 brown, featureless kilometres away … and you’ve only a trillion flies for company. Heading out there expecting any sort of driving pleasure is an opportunity lost.