When you have the key to a car like the Golf GTI, you really want to go everywhere further…
The people over at Volkswagen are one of the nicest in the industry. Firstly, they always ensure that every single motoring journalist get to experience their entire range of cars. Secondly, they are the only one that allow us scribes to drive their test cars into Malaysia (on our own without any chaperon, mind you) so that we can have a comprehensive experience and also, fully understand its function and potential.
All thanks to that, yours truly have had the opportunity to sample the Mark 5, 6 and 7 Golf GTI both here in Singapore and also across the Causeway; the Mark 5 GTI press car was driven to Cameron Highlands and then Kuala Lumpur on two separate occasions, the Mark 6 to Kuala Lumpur and Penang also on two separate occasions and the Mark 7 to Kuala Lumpur, twice. Recently, I was handed the key to the Golf GTI Mark 7.5 press test car. Well, what better way to get acquainted with the car than to drive somewhere far for dinner, right?
It’s true that Kuala Lumpur is filled with lots of affordable top-class eateries, but this time around I wanted to venture slightly out of KL — to avoid the crowd, what else? - for some Western food.
Hence, Me’nate Steak House in Shah Alam was my chosen destination this time around. Located at Vista Alam, Jalan Ikhtisas, 40000 Shah Alam, Malaysia, Me’nate Steak House, as its name suggests, specializes in steak. A Halal establishment, they have a variety of beef cuts available for you to choose from but at the same time also serve lamb, chicken and fish. Just in February this year, they were awarded ‘Emerging Brands Award (F&B)’ at The BrandLaureate SMEs Best Brands Award 2017-2018. (Ok to be honest, I chanced upon them in social media; based on the good review, I thought ‘why not?’)
For a seasoned traveller into Malaysia, I’m sure you’re aware the best time to go through the immigration checkpoint smoothly - in the afternoon - is anytime between after lunch to before 4:00 pm; any other after that, you need to brace yourself to face some traffic jam as Malaysians working in Singapore begin making their journey back home via motorcycle and cars. Lets not forget the tour buses as well.
With a full tank of petrol (thank you, Volkswagen!), off I went from Volkswagen Centre Singapore to Tuas Checkpoint, then to the Sultan Abu Bakar Immigration Complex in Johor followed by the Gelang Patah rest area; traffic was smooth, hence I was at the rest area 45 minutes from where I began. The drive from here to Shah Alam would need about three hours, so my travel partner and myself took the opportunity to stock up on drinks, snacks and titbits — not forgetting a quick run to the rest room — before we moved on.
As before, the drive was smooth all thanks to the light traffic flow along the Linkedua highway, and the GTI was happily cruising on the fastest lane at speeds of 110 km/h to 120 km/h. This highway is notoriously known for the mobile speed cameras set up by the police Highway Patrol team with a road block set up — most randomly — before the Senai toll booth, north bound; so it’s always, always, always best to stick to the set speed limit here.
However, we were slowed down the moment we connected to the main PLUS highway; the combination of rain and heavy vehicles meant safety is the order here and keeping a safe distance from the vehicle ahead is a must. Over the years of driving in Malaysia, I’ve seen heavy vehicles losing control and skidding across lanes, even jumping into the opposite direction when it rains; this caused me to be more wary of everything around me, 360-degrees. Hey, at least if — excuse the language — shit happens, I can try my best to avoid or get out of it.
It was not until we entered the Melaka stretch when it stopped pouring. As the road dries up and traffic at a low, yours truly got the opportunity to stretch his legs and see what this baby has. To be blunt, it’s ridiculous what this 2.0-litre turbocharged GTI could do. Besides being AND feeling fast in a non-religious manner, road holding really gives you the confidence to just leave your foot planted onto the accelerator even as the road curves ahead. The brakes are stupendous as well, gamely bringing the car down to legal speeds as you approach the fixed speed cameras at markers 184.2 and 214.5.
The rest of the journey was smooth, and suddenly, I’m already entering the Shah Alam district with the monumental blue mosque standing proud in the distance. Arriving at about 6:30 pm also meant having to face a little bit of peak hour traffic, but this GTI, especially in Sport mode, is responsive enough to the point rapid lane-changers and annoying queue-cutters are disallowed the opportunity to do any trick manoeuvres around this car. Brilliant on the highway, and equally brilliant in urban traffic: Yumz!
Subtle and unassuming; another trait to appreciate if you're not the loud sort
Before dinner, our stop was Plaza Shah Alam as my travel partner needed to do some, well, grocery shopping at the supermarket. Two trollies and RM$500 later, the Golf GTI’s 380-litres boot was filled to the brim, to the point the rear seats were also employed to put more stuff. Talk about fully utilising a family hatchback…
Ahh… Dinner, finally. Me’nate Steak House wasn’t hard to find, although the GPS system in the Golf GTI was a slight — ahem — pain in the butt; it seemed to have a mind of its own and on top of that, doesn’t seem updated for Shah Alam. Alas, it was good ol’ stopping-to-ask-people-for-direction that worked. That aside, I’ve managed to find a beautiful parking spot just infront of the restaurant; eating and being able to admire a car is, after all, every grown boys’ hobby. No?
Ordering the food here is easy. You go to the freezer to select your meat (all priced according to weight), tell the staff how you want it done, what sauce you’d like and just wait for it to come to your table. Being a typical Singaporean, I ordered additional plate of meatballs (20 in a plate) and also fried salmon - I wanted more, actually. Drinks are free-flow for every meal ordered, making this a deal of the century; to me, at least. Call it good planning from the kitchen staff, but our food came all at once; it’s a tough call choosing which to sink your fork into first. In the end I came up with a sequence: Meatball, fillet mignon, salmon. Soon enough, ended up with me enjoying the fillet mignon first, followed by salmon and the meatballs packed in a to-go box for the drive back to Singapore.
With a bill totalling less than RM$300 for our satisfying meal, a tummy filled full to the brim and a Golf GTI fully packed, it was time to make the journey back to Singapore.
Nothing like a nice RM$5 massage after all that time spent on the throne...
The drive back was smooth and easy, until nature called and forced me to make that toilet break at the Ayer Keroh overhead rest area. When you ‘overfill’ yourself and mixed it up with glasses of ice lemon tea and cups of coffee, the end result is this ‘bunch of guys’ wanting to force their way out of you, I guess. Once the — ahem - deed was done, I happened to see a pay-to-use massage chair; while it’s not as good as the real thing, it is good enough for a quick recharge.
Driving in pitch darkness poses its own challenge though, and in the past, I’ve seen stray dogs and wild boars crossing the highway at night. With that, my recommendation when driving at night is to not go too fast as though you’re on the unregulated Autobahn. Take it ‘steady’, at a pace you are very comfortable with; oh, and remember to slow down at markers 146.8, 185 and 214 south bound, as those are the locations of the fixed speed cameras.
It was slightly before 1:00 am when we went past the Tuas Checkpoint. What was amazing was the fact I did not feel tired even after reaching my carpark in the eastern part of Singapore. A total distance of 738.2 km was covered, 8 hours and 39 minutes spent behind the wheel and I felt as though I could still go further; it must be the combination of (a) the ease of driving this effortless car and, (b) the comfortable sports seats.
Geez… This sporty family hatchback could do so many things — cover ground rapidly, handle brilliantly, ferry a boot full of groceries and return so much smiles per miles. If I ever buy this car, trust me, I’ll be spending every weekend heading up north for dinner.
You just gotta love the Volkswagen Golf GTI.