It’s Easy Being Green: Volkswagen explores ways to be fuel efficient and fun

Car enthusiasm boils down to the enjoyment of the drive. All you need is a car you enjoy, a twisty road and some exciting scenery. But the scenery aspect always seems to be left out – the natural backdrop that turns an average drive into a memory. A drive through California will remind you just how important nature is to enjoying a car, and how to make cars not adversely affect the world we live in. No, this article will not be an environmental screed if you were wondering, but it will highlight how VW and other car manufacturers are keeping the joys of motoring while taking into account the preservation of the planet.

The GTI and Golf R are pretty good examples of how far automakers have pushed the envelope, balancing performance with green friendliness. Don’t be mistaken, neither of these cars are hybrids. The GTI and Golf R both share turbocharged 4 cylinder engines, but the R dials up the power and is equipped with 4Motion AWD. But it was the GTI that I took the keys to start the day.

It was the early morning and everyone was scrambling to get into the car of their choice. Volkswagen had their full lineup here in San Francisco; so many journalists were trying to get into the newly revised CCs, Beetle TDIs and Golf Rs. So why did I pick the GTI? It may be three years old in its current state, but there’s something inherently right about a GTI on the roads of California.

Make note that I did not say the best driver’s car though. With 200hp, and a little bit too much weight, the GTI is not a go-to canyon carver, but it is perfect for those that want to enjoy the ride instead of making it go by as quickly as possible. The GTI is composed and refined where many competitors are always antsy to go faster and harder. It may not be the fastest car when compared to the likes of the WRX of MazdaSpeed3, but it offers a balance of speed and refinement that the others lack. Also, the GTI is exemplary of how far the environmental and performance goalposts have moved since the dawn of the catalytic converter.

Pulling off onto the shoulder to grab a picture of the scenery reminds you of just how large of an impact the quest for clean engines has had on the environment. My view of the rolling hills and vistas of San Francisco is clear and crisp – a nice break before taking off again. However, if this same picture was taken during the 1960s, the view I stopped at may have been covered by smog. Blankets of carbon dioxide used to coat California before the catalytic converter. Since its introduction, the clouds have lifted and the view is only halted by how far you can see, or the traditional San Francisco fog.

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