The new, eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI has been revealed, with the company’s technical chief promising that it’s more of a “true GTI” than its highly regarded predecessor.
The newest version of the genre-defining hot hatchback is based on the Mk8 Golf, which was unveiled last year. It sticks closely to the established template for the model, retaining the Volkswagen Group’s familiar ‘EA888’ turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and sending power to its front wheels exclusively.
However, the standard version of the new GTI features all the additions fitted to the GTI Performance version of the Mk7 Golf, including boosts in power to 242bhp (from 228bhp) and torque to 295lb ft (from 258lb ft), a limited-slip differential and upgraded brakes.
To please enthusiasts further, the GTI retains a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, although a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is again optional.
“The Golf 8 is a big step from the Golf 7 and the step forward we took with the new GTI is bigger than with the normal Golf,” Matthias Rabe, Volkswagen’s technical boss, told Autocar. “It was very important for us to ensure we made the GTI a perfect car for everyday use, but one that was still a true sporty car.
“The new car will be more GTI than its predecessor, and not only from the looks; you will feel it when you drive it.”
The GTI uses the same upgraded version of the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform as the regular Golf Mk8, with suspension by MacPherson struts at the front and multi-links at the rear. It’s also fitted with a new Vehicle Dynamics Manager, which controls the electric differential lock (XDS) and optional adaptive dampers (Dynamic Chassis Control) to improve the balance between maximum comfort and driving dynamics.
Volkswagen’s engineers have also reworked the steering, making it more direct in a bid to improve both response and feedback.
The designs of the three performance models have been brought into line by way of a bespoke front bumper, a roof spoiler and other flourishes. While the GTI retains its familiar red styling accents, including for a new illuminated bar running across the front grille, the GTD uses silver and the GTE blue.
The GTI also continues with its classic twin tailpipes and red brake callipers, with the latter now featuring on the GTD and GTE, too. Each model sits on 17in alloy wheels as standard, and 18in and 19in versions are also available. As with the regular Golf, there are no longer three-door versions of the GTI, GTD and GTE.
All three GT models feature the upgraded electronics and technology introduced on the standard Golf, including a number of new driver assistance and safety features.
This also means that many of the physical buttons and switches inside are replaced by a larger central touchscreen and touch-sensitive panels.
The GTI features the Golf’s top-spec 10.0in infotainment touchscreen as standard, while the GTD and GTE come with the 8.25in version but can be upgraded.
Meanwhile, the standard 10.25in digital instrument display features a GTI mode that highlights the rev counter.
A new sports steering wheel has been added, while the manual gearlever retains the traditional ‘golf ball’ knob. For the first time, the GTI, GTD and GTE will all be offered with differing varieties of Tartan trim, with the traditional red stitching of the GTI replaced by grey and blue in the GTD and GTE respectively.
The GTD features a new version of Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre TDI engine that produces 197bhp (up from 181bhp) and 295lb ft. It’s fitted with two selective catalytic reduction filters and has new turbocharging and cooling systems; Volkswagen claims these changes improve fuel economy and reduce NOx emissions by around 80%.
The GTD is offered with the dual-cluch automatic gearbox only and is intended as the ‘endurance athlete’ of the Golf family, having a claimed range of more than 500 miles.
The GTE (details of which were revealed when the standard Golf was launched) has received a hike in output over its predecessor to make a combined 242bhp and 295lb ft. Its powertrain comprises a turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine making 148bhp and a electric motor making 114bhp. The latter is powered by a 13kWh lithium ion battery; with almost twice the capacity of the battery in the previous GTE, this allows for around 37 miles of electric-only running.
As well as making room for a lower-powered plug-in hybrid model (which won’t be offered in the UK), this performance increase makes the GTE a match for the GTI. Rabe said this move is intended to make it a true alternative to the traditional performance Golf.
Furthermore, both the GTD and GTE use the same chassis, suspension and dynamic set-ups as the GTI.
Volkswagen had considered a hybrid powertrain for the GTI but instead decided to focus on upgrading the GTE. Rabe said a mild-hybrid petrol engine was ruled out for the GTI because most of the benefits of such a system come at lower speeds, so they wouldn’t enhance the driving performance that enthusiasts expect of the GTI.
Pricing for the three hot models are yet to be released, but the GTI’s starting price is anticipated to be just under £30,000 – a small premium over the £28,710 of the old GTI Performance. The order books for the GTI and GTD will open this summer, before deliveries commence in the autumn.
In light of the upgrades made to the base GTI, Volkswagen will no longer offer a GTI Performance. A higher-spec version of the machine in line with the outgoing Golf TCR will arrive later this year, but it will receive a new badge, since Volkswagen no longer races in any TCR-specification touring car series. Volkswagen sources hint that the Clubsport suffix will be revived, although that’s subject to final approval.
While Volkswagen is tight-lipped about this model, a previous leaked product plan showed that it will be tuned for 296bhp, a 0-62mph time of less than 6.0sec and a top speed of 155mph.
The new four-wheel-drive Golf R range-topper, honed by Volkswagen’s R division, will be revealed later this year.