Volkswagen Golf GTI Pirelli | Spotted

The run-out Pirelli trim harked back to the good old days – and a very specific tyre tread

By John Howell / Wednesday, 15 March 2023 / Loading comments

It was just too obvious. It couldn’t be, surely?  But don’t assume anything is the golden rule, so I didn’t. And thank sweet Jesus I didn’t, because if I’d published anything about this car and hadn’t pointed it out, well, I’d have been toast. It would have been comment number one and one hundred, and all of the ones in between. You lot would’ve spotted it in an instant, no question of that, and I’d have felt jolly silly.

Goodyears. It’s on flipping Goodyears. How could they do such a thing? Was it parsimony, apathy? Or was it a wonderful moment of irony when the previous owner headed to Kwik Fit – other tyre suppliers are available – and the person behind the counter said: “So, what tyres would you like on your Volkswagen Golf GTI Pirelli special edition? We have the lot, all the good makes, don’t feel constrained in any way. Go for it?”

And they said: “Stick a set of Goodyears on it, please.”  

Okay then. I really hope it was irony.

Anyway, I need to get a grip. I need to tell you about the whole car and not just its tyres. It’s a Mk5 Golf GTI Pirelli, of course, but this wasn’t the first of its kind as many of you will know. The original Golf GTI Pirelli came out in 1983, and if you’ve always wondered why you see Mk1 Golf GTIs with a ‘P’ pattern running around the rim of the wheel, that’s why. ‘P’ for Pirelli. Makes sense, doesn’t it.

Except it was only called the Pirelli edition in Germany. Over here it was called the Golf GTI Campaign, although either way it was the runout model for the Mk1 Golf GTI. And along with its P-slot wheels it had Pirelli tyres, obviously, quad headlights rather than the standard two, tinted glass, a factory-fitted sunroof, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and a trip computer. Boy was it popular. In just six months, Volkswagen shifted 10,500 cars, which makes you wonder why it took 25 years and the end of the line for the Mk5 to produce a follow-up.  

This time, the Pirelli link in the wheel design wasn’t quite so obvious. Its name was on the centre caps, but otherwise the 18-inch wheels looked like a relatively unadventurous set of five-spokes that could easily have been mistaken for an aftermarket upgrade – especially because this car appears to have been rudely lowered as well. Look closely, though, and you will see that the spokes are, in fact, the elongated ‘P’ of the Pirelli logo.

I mentioned that this one appears to have been lowered because the Pirelli Edition’s suspension was identical to the standard Mk5 GTI’s. Indeed, the only mechanical addition was the TSI engine from the Edition 30, which gave it a 30hp boost to 230hp plus an extra 14lb ft, taking the total torque to 221lb ft.

The tyres were unique, though. You couldn’t get a set of Pirelli P Zeros on an ordinary Golf GTI, and to emphasise that the Pirelli edition had them the tread pattern was embossed into the Alcantara centre section of the part-leather seats. Those, by the way, also had exclusive contrasting yellow stitching, which appeared on the steering wheel as well, and there was a yellow Pirelli logo mounted above the glovebox.

Like the Mk1 Golf GTI, the Mk5 was a good car. Much better resolved than the Mk3 and Mk4 dynamically, which injected the fun back into the GTI brand it so desperately needed. So this wasn’t a special edition based on hot air; it was a celebration of a good car. That makes this one worth having in my book, even if it needs a little love to bring it back to minty fresh. The good news is the tricky bit to restore – the interior – looks tidy and the MOT history doesn’t indicate there’s anything nasty going on underneath. Two things, though. Stick the suspension back to stock and, for heaven’s sake, when someone asks you what tyres you want, just say “Pirellis, please.”

SPECIFICATION | Volkswagen Golf GTI Pirelli (Mk5)

Engine: 1,984cc, four-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 230 @ 5,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 221 @ 2,200rpm
CO2: 194g/km
MPG: 34.4
Recorded mileage: 94,000
Year registered: 2009
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £7,999

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