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A New VW Golf GTI Always Makes Us Happy, and Here's the Mk 8

Tony Quiroga
Photo credit: Volkswagen

From Car and Driver

  • The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatchback is here.
  • It has a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque.
  • Europe will get the new GTI this fall, but Americans will likely have to wait until the fourth quarter of 2021 for it to arrive.

As the former owner of two second-generation GTIs and a fifth-gen, I’ve been tasked with writing about the eighth-generation Golf GTI that’s set to debut at the Geneva auto show next week. In case you’ve stumbled upon this story while looking up the Green Thumb Industry or the Government Training Institute, the Volkswagen GTI is the affordable and sporty version of the sensible and practical Golf hatchback.

Photo credit: Volkswagen

While the GTI has always added handling and performance to the mix, part of its appeal is that it adds the things we love without diminishing the Golf’s let’s-go-to-Ikea-and-buy-a-new-bedroom-set practicality. So, there’s still a hatch in back and room for five, or for a shrink-wrapped mattress. There are 30 different colors for the interior lighting, a golf-ball shift knob, plaid seats, a red-spoke in the steering wheel, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, and a standard 10-inch navigation/infotainment screen. But those GTI extras in no way diminish the basic car’s practicality.

To ensure that everyone outside knows that they’re looking at a GTI and not a Golf, there’s a red LED strip between the grille and the edge of the hood and a large honeycomb grille set below the bumper. An LED light strip is positioned below the red accent. This thin LED element ties the low-slung headlights together and makes the GTI immediately recognizable. Think of it as a modern version of the red-bordered grilles that nearly every GTI has had from the beginning. Around the back are LED taillights, a unique bumper with a diffuser, a roof spoiler, and two exhaust tips on each side of the car. To really bring home the whole red theme, the brake calipers are painted in a crimson hue.

Photo credit: Volkswagen

Perhaps the most critical part of the Golf GTI experience is the engine. VW’s excellent 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder returns, but this time with 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Those power figures are for the Europe-market car, but we're certain that the American GTI will offer a bump compared to the current U.S.-spec car's 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual will be standard and a seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) automatic will be optional.

To balance the extra power the GTI enjoys over the Golf, the suspension is retuned and the car sits 0.6 inches lower. In Europe, 17-inch wheels are standard, but like today’s U.S.-market GTI, we expect 18s to be the smallest wheel available on our shores. Volkswagen will also offer optional 19-inch wheels. It’s also likely that U.S.-bound cars will come standard with the adaptive dampers, a torque-vectoring limited-slip differential, and yaw-control systems that are part of Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC).

Photo credit: Volkswagen

Europeans will get the new Golf GTI this fall, and we’re told that it’s safe to assume that the U.S. will get the new model in the fourth quarter of 2021. We’re also told to brace for a slight price increase to reflect the greater amount of standard equipment and the fact that our GTIs will now be built in Germany instead of Mexico. The decision to move production to Germany may mean that the U.S. will not get a base Golf at all since sales of VW’s hatchback have been slow and moving production means the company will have to charge a bit more for it. But, we will get the GTI, eventually.

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