Cars – 2005 Volkswagen GTI

When I decided to get rid of my 2000 Intrepid R/T, another part of that decision was due to me just not liking big cars anymore. My depth perception had always been crap, gas mileage was poor, and I got tired of parking it. I wanted something compact, quick, fun, manual, and a coupe because I was also tired of driving people around.

My 2005 Volkswagen GTI

The dealership experience was great, and they did right by me on the trade-in. To keep the payments low, I went for a lease instead of buying it outright. I think it cost me about $350/m for 12000 miles. Initially I tried to be careful with the mileage, but eventually I just had so much fun with the car that I bought it outright.

The GTI was a blast. I remember the first night driving it, the red and violet dashboard lighting up for the first time resulted in a mutual “woah, cool!” from my girlfriend and I. Performance wise, this thing was like a go kart. It ran circles around everything I’d driven up to that point, and regularly got 30mpg.

I recall one time early in my ownership, taking a friend for a ride in the car. I was showing off of course, ripping through curves and tearing down straights with absolute impunity. There were a few points where I managed to induce some oversteer, and at the end of the joy ride he said “ok yeah, that thing is quick!” Probably the best compliment I could have gotten.

Over the course of ownership, there were very few issues with the car related to defect. I’d say the top two were the ignition coils failing so regularly that I’d keep extras in the trunk. Also, the car’s electronics made heavy use of lead free solder, which resulted in the drivers door locks randomly failing to work correctly. Other than that though, it was a solid car.

Of course, in the classic game of rock, paper, scissors – telephone pole always defeats car.

The previous winter, I wasn’t able to meet some friends returning from duty in Iraq because my humble FWD couldn’t make it up a particularly steep road with good tires. Even with the traction control disabled, it was the little engine that couldn’t. That lead me to buy snow tires on smaller wheels the following year.

I don’t think I even had a chance to try the Blizzaks out in actual snow by the time this happened. I was heading to Middletown for it’s 10k mile service on a cold, clear morning when the car hit some black ice and began to spin into the road. I corrected one way and slid into oncoming, corrected the other way, slid back, eventually finding a telephone pole which spun the car 180 degrees after the collision.

I was unharmed, but very annoyed. Insult to injury, the NYS Trooper who wrote up the accident cited me for failure to keep right. Telling him I hit black ice got the response “it doesn’t matter you’re responsible for controlling your car.” Real sympathetic, quota hit I guess. I didn’t care for the Blizzaks regardless, they had very soft sidewalls and made a normally tight and firm handling car feel… squishy around corners.

That wouldn’t be the last time to the body shop in my 6 years and 53000 miles of ownership. For some reason, people absolutely loved running into my VW from behind. The first time it happened, an elderly couple in a Ford Crown Victoria were racing to beat a tractor trailer to a merge, and didn’t notice that I was ahead of them at a dead stop, waiting to turn.

I looked in my rear view as the front of their car bottomed out under heavy braking, it scooped my little VW up and shifted it out of the way like shooing a small animal. The driver even tried to blame me, saying they didn’t see my turn signal. Or my brake lights. Or me at a dead stop. Sorry, that dog didn’t hunt.

Then I got rear-ended again on my way to work, construction had held up traffic on 17A, and while I waited I saw a green Eagle Vision TSI (Eagle version of the Dodge Intrepid). This time I saw it coming, cut the wheel towards the shoulder and tried to get out of the way. I wasn’t quick enough and BOOM.

Lastly, I decided to go down to the Jersey Shore for a day. A quick hour and a half drive to sunshine, ocean waves, and relaxation. All was well, I was at a traffic light, looking at a Smart Fortwo next to me, when a white Chevy Equinox slammed into me again. Whiplash rules, btw. Each hit was worth about $1500-$3000 in damage. The hit from the Eagle cost the most as it required replacing the exhaust from the cat back.

There was also the time I was going to Vermont for the week, started the car, smelled smoke, and my entire dashboard died. Long story short, a mouse chewed up the wiring on the fuel pump and caused a short circuit. Warranty didn’t cover the several thousand dollar repair, but thankfully my insurance did. The big issue was that the part came from Germany and had to be programmed there (mileage, etc…).

Eventually though, life came along and adjusted the equation. I started dating – and eventually married someone – who had two kids. Loading and unloading the coupe every day became tedious, so I decided to trade my beloved VW in for something more family friendly, safe, and reliable. However, I can’t talk about my Subaru Legacy without discussing my 1989 Chevy Silverado project.

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