First launched in 1976 the 110hp Volkswagen Golf GTI created a whole sub class of hot hatchback. The new 245hp/370nm Golf GTI has been launched to the press online and we were there. The 8th generation Golf is a mainstay of the German firm with the GTI its star turn. The mark 8 GTI is also probably the last time we will see a GTI with just a four cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet.
With new GTI Volkswagen says it wanted to keep its everyday usability and fun to drive characteristics to the forefront. Fun fact – originally VW was going to produce just 5,000 GTIs but to date more than 2.3m have been sold. Thankfully the iconic hot hatch is not dead yet.
The five door Golf GTI 8 features classic German conservative attitude to change. There is of course the old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t break it” and this is true with the GTI.
Styling features are subtle and these changes allow the GTI attract only the right type of attention.
Head on the front looks wider than the GTI 7. Golf 8’s 10-point LED fog light give the new GTI a smart identity. The rear sees the GTI badge sit directly under the VW badge and again the rear looks wider and ‘evolved from the GTI 7. Side on the roof line looks longer with a new spoiler boot top design and the GTI badge is higher up with a crease line running through the door handles. GTI’s iconic twin exhaust pipes continue on either side of the rear.
Inside the famed GTI tartan fabric pattern continues on new GTI specific sports seats. New digital instruments and displays features and the technology is a polar opposite to the original GTI – a car I know well and have driven with its designer as my front seat passenger (yes it was a massive fan boy moment). GTI features an “Innovation” cockpit that comprises of a 10.25 inch digital cockpit merged with a 10 inch navigation display. The car is connected through the always on ‘We connect services’.
The Tech stuff
The new GTI features a choice of a manual gearbox or new DSG auto (DQ381). Red brake callipers are visible through the standard 18 inch alloy and 19s shod with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres are optional. A larger main brake cylinder helps increase braking power and there is speed-related recognition in the electronic brake booster for more sensitive control. The car’s electronic vehicle dynamics manager (that includes the adaptive chassis control – DCC and XDS chassis functions) is the star and enables the car to have multiple personalities. You can set the car to be comfortable or as edgy as you want – at the grip limit you can even enjoy slight drifts. Damper adjustments can take place up to 200 times a second. The GTI gets a front electronic differential lock (VAQ) as standard and this greatly aids cornering and reduces under-steer. The GTI can also use braking intervention (on the inside wheels) to reduce under-steer when cornering. Progressive steering is more spontaneous and direct with a very tight lock to lock of just 2.1 turns. The steering ratio is 14:1 and new software enhances this.
The goal VW says was to have agility in slow speed corners but also to have a stable rear at high speed. GTI’s aerodynamics are improved and this helps reduce fuel consumption but also reduces axle lift at high speed – making the car more stable at high speed. Suspension has been improved front and rear. Upfront there are reconfigured wishbone bushings, springs and bump stops and damper hydraulics. The aluminum front sub frame is stiffer and lighter (-3kgs). The rear suspension gets: reconfigured springs and auxiliary springs and wishbone bushings. There are new wheel mounts and damper bearings and hydraulics plus new software for the DCC system. GTi’s spring rate is increased – +5% at the front and +15% at the rear. Wheel and tyre sizes are tweaked for less weight and more grip. Driving profile selection includes: Below Comfort, Comfort Sport and Above Sport (these exact names appeared on a slide but may have been lost in translation). Then latest generation ESC features in the new GTI. Stability control features three stages with the ability to select to have it on fully, partly on (ESC Sport) and off – although anti collision ‘Front Assist’ will kick in if the car detects the need for it.
VW works driver Benjamin Leuchter showed us videos demonstrating the 8’s apparent superiority on the track over the outgoing car. Ben also confided that the car caught him out initially when he went to do a slalom test for the first time as he hit a couple of cones – the reason – the new car turned in much quicker than he expected – high praise.
The car arrives in Ireland in late Q3 or early Q4 this year. VW Ireland says pricing should be circa €46,000 (close to GTI 7). Standard kit includes: matrix LED headlights, GTI steering wheel and infotainment display, 3-zone ‘Climatronic’, key-less entry and stop start, tinted windows and ‘Travel Assist’ on board safety safety system alongside ‘lane’, ‘front’ and ‘park’ assist.