PH Fleet


Friday 4th May 2012


It's a visit back home for the trusty PH Golf GTI. And the opportunity to play 'beat the nav'

Everybody plays the game of 'beat the sat-nav', right? At least those with a GPS navigation system of some sort. You know what I mean: you set your destination, check the ETA, and proceed to do your darnedest to make sure you beat it.

Playing 'beat the nav' is tricky in the Golf
Playing 'beat the nav' is tricky in the Golf
Now, I'm not sure how the various systems work out their ETAs (though I imagine it's down to a combination of an assumed average speed, combined with traffic info for TMC-equipped cars), but I do know they vary hugely in how easy they are to beat. BMW navs, for example, are super-conservative; I can only assume they work out journey times based on the average speed of a mobility scooter. The system on the PH Fleet Golf, on the other hand, seems to be eerily, unnervingly accurate.

Maybe it's just luck that my driving and routes have so far generally chimed-in with what the sat-nav feels we ought to achieve together, but sometimes I swear the thing knows where I should be and when better than I do!

Taking a quick autobahn breather
Taking a quick autobahn breather
The setting
Which brings us to a Travel Prison in Kent, a 5am start, and a requirement to be in Wolfsburg (some 500 miles away) for a factory tour at 2.30pm (1.30pm UK time). The golf said it would take me until precisely 1:02pm UK time. Given the imponderables of a Chunnel crossing, 250 miles in France, Belgium and Holland, and 250 miles on largely derestricted autobahn, I reckoned I could knock a bit off that, morning rush hour traffic notwithstanding.

Turns out not. I timed my stops as precisely I could and, with 15 minutes for a bite to eat, 10 minutes for fuel, and a 5-minute 'comfort break', I rolled up to my Wolfsburg hotel at 1:32 UK time. Exactly when the GTI said I should. Impressive, if frustrating when you're trying to play 'beat the nav'.

Stuff like this makes you feel slow...
Stuff like this makes you feel slow...
The result
It was at least instructive (and fun) trying to 'make progress' on the quieter sections of autobahn east of Dortmund. Suddenly the tendency of German cars to feel stable at high speeds but stodgy at low ones makes sense - you trade agility for high-speed solidity only when there's actually a chance of making the best use of it.

On the other hand, I also realised that the Golf, although a genuinely rapid-feeling car in the UK (though probably not as fast as the Golf A59 we 'nearly' drove), merely feels adequately fast above three figures. Although it's actually best to use the car's torque and keep the DSG in manual mode so that it doesn't kick down every time you want to accelerate.

Golf, with flies, rests on return leg
Golf, with flies, rests on return leg
The pointlessness of pub bragging
I also discovered the folly of all that down-the-pub bragging about 0-62mph times, top speeds and hp figures if you own a hot hatch. Because when you're in the outside lane of the autobahn you'd be amazed at how little advantage you have over 'normal' traffic - the Focus diesel estate that I could only keep up with by wringing every ounce out of the Golf stands as testament to that. In fact, unless you've got plenty of capacity, cylinders and horsepower under your belt (we're talking AMGs and Ms here, or the Veyron Supersport I spotted) you just need to accept the fact that you're not at the top of the tree.

Fortunately this is all irrelevant in the UK, because we have a 70mph limit on our motorways. Which we would never, of course, exceed...


 2011 VW Golf GTI Edition 35
Run by: Riggers
On fleet since: December 2011
Mileage: 14,750 miles
List price new: £31,030 (inc. £1,770 infotainment pack and £440 for parking sensors front and rear)
Last month at a glance: To Wolfsburg, to Hockenheim, too many miles, too little time!

Previous reports:
Low-ish fuel economy's been bugging us, so we decide to try out the GTI's diesel cousin
Paris road trip proves GTI's impeccable cruising credentials
Golf GTI Edition 35 arrives, complete with wintry rubber
Winter tyres go south; the Golf proves a popular choice at PH HQ

Author: Riggers