Most women I have dated, a couple of friends and a fair number of family have accused me at times of not being the most adept at applying the concept of balance to my life. The general complaint is that I am too focused on whatever it is I have going on at the time.
After listening to these complaints for far more years than I care to remember, I have given this one some thought and keep running into the same problem: How can one succeed at anything if they are not focused? I don’t care what self proclaimed, self-help guru you listen to – hell, you could listen to Oprah – and they would all tell you the same thing. You need to focus on whatever you want to do in order to be successful at it. Doesn’t matter if it is being a social worker or sex worker. Focus is the key.
So if focus is the key, how can we all be successful without being focused? If we are focused, how on God’s green earth can we be balanced? You see my conundrum.
That was until I met the latest derivation of the people’s sporty car, the Volkswagen GTI.
On paper, I can’t honestly say I am excited about the prospect of the GTI. 200 HP. 207 lb ft of torque. Boxy hatchback. And the worst part - the three most painful words to any proper car guy: Front wheel drive.
After time behind the wheel, I believe the term ‘It just comes off the page’ was invented for the Volkswagen GTI. Add up all the mumbo jumbo I just spewed on the page above and they come together to create the automotive equivalent of balance.
Let’s start with the GTI’s modus operandi: Handling. You would think a front wheel drive car with a measly 200 hp would prefer to avoid roads that bend more than 10%. You would be wrong. I should have practiced at Yankee Stadium prior to driving the GTI because you don’t drive it through a curve; you throw it into a curve. It is the kind of car that prefers to be tossed around. Balanced confidence.
This is partly the responsibility of one of the two available transmissions. My personal favorite is the manual because it raises the whole interactive experience of the GTI about 150% over the available DSG automatic. To put it another way, the DSG is like climbing on a Dance Dance Revolution machine and the manual is like dancing tango in Buenos Aires.
The DSG is not bad and definitely one of the best ‘automated manuals’ on the market. A side note here – most of my friends look at me like I am nuts when I use the term ‘automated manual’. Basically, it means the transmission, even though it is an automatic, still has a clutch that needs to be engaged and disengaged. It is just does so without your left foot. That aside, I really am a fan of these types of transmissions and would buy one if we lived in a world where a three pedal operated car did not exist. The car is still very capable with the automatic, it just doesn’t let you fully control the downshifting. A personal favorite pastime of mine is to power through curves in lower gears, which helps control the motion of the car with the gas pedal alone. In the DSG version of the GTI, you cannot downshift to second unless the computer nanny running the transmission agrees with your choice of speeds. Both are highly capable but the manual is just that much more able to make you giggle like a schoolgirl on back roads. Balanced fun.
The balance really comes into play when you break out the spreadsheet and look at this car by the numbers. This is where the GTI has borrowed a page out of Spiderman’s book – ‘With Great Power, Comes Responsibility’. Volkswagen realized they could put more power through the front wheels, but really, it would be a waste. It turns out 200 HP and 207 lb ft of torque is the answer to the question ‘how much power can efficiently be spun through the front wheels without pulling you off to the side of the road’. The MAZDASPEED3, while a lot of fun, is an example of too much power going through the front wheels and thus not balanced.
The balance theme continues inside. Think build quality of a Panzer tank on a cheap and cheerful budget and you get the idea. Most everything is high quality and soft to the touch. Wolfsburg has even revised the gauge cluster. There are individual offset hoods over the tachometer and the speedometer that are cool in a somewhat retro way. The gauges themselves have gone a bit backwards as VW has ditched the distinctive blue lighting in favor of soft white. While pragmatic, I preferred the unique blue scheme.
When it comes to kitting out the interior, there are two choices on offer. However there is really only one that you should take seriously. The check cloth. It looks like something straight out of shower curtain or table cloth chic but it seems to work in a odd old world charming kind of way. Even though the technical name is ‘Interlagos Cloth’, the good-humored VW folks have even given it a unique nickname: Verberry.