There are subtle upgrades over the regular GTI.

Volkswagen introduced the Golf GTI Mk8 at the end of February with 241 horsepower coming from a turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline engine. Should you want a beefier version of Wolfsburg’s hot hatch without having to go for the all-wheel-drive R model, VW has got you covered. Meet the TCR, a more track-focused version of the world’s most popular hot hatch set to make a return after being briefly offered during the Mk7’s life cycle.

This time around, it will be a permanent member of the family rather than a limited-run special edition. We’ve just spotted a prototype with virtually no camouflage as the only thing VW decided to hide was the side badge on the front fender that reveals the model’s name. If you’re wondering why it doesn’t have those extra LED lights in the front bumper, that’s because the GTI TCR and the R likely won’t have them.

Gallery: 2021 VW Golf GTI TCR new spy photos

The leaked internal image from January showed all the hot Golfs front and rear, and these two models did not have the X-shaped fog lights that are optional on the regular GTI, GTD, and GTE. The front bumper has a slightly more aggressive look than that of the standard GTI, and while the red accents may be missing, they could be added to the production model.

2021 VW Golf GTI TCR spy photo
2021 VW Golf GTI TCR prototype
2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI
2020 VW Golf GTI

A closer look at the side profile reveals the prototype appears to be sitting closer to the road and has drilled front brakes behind those new alloy wheels. A chunkier roof-mounted rear spoiler is also visible, as is a diffuser flanked by the exhaust tips that look a tad larger than those of the normal GTI. Bear in mind that while the car doesn’t have any camo, it might be because it was missing some of the final bits, although probably nothing to write home about.

2021 VW Golf GTI TCR spy photo
2021 VW Golf GTI TCR prototype
2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI
2020 VW Golf GTI

According to the aforementioned leaked image, the TCR version will up the power ante from 241 hp to 296 to match its Spanish cousin, the don’t-call-it-a-SEAT Cupra Leon. It should be the same story with torque, so look for somewhere in the region of 295 pound-feet (400 Newton-meters). Time will tell whether VW will sell this car with a manual gearbox, although we’re tempted to believe it will be a DSG-only affair.

The wraps should come off in the coming months, with the range-topping R slated to arrive later this year. Further down the line, there might be a new flagship with close to 400 hp, but we wouldn’t hold our breath.

Sources: CarPix, Automedia