Following the Mk8 Volkswagen GTI’s (virtual) debut at this year’s (canceled) Geneva International Motor Show, VW has more details to share on the beloved hot hatch. Although the car is still over a year away from hitting U.S. shores, company execs spilled some of the GTI’s key performance details during a virtual interview with the media.
Hot Hatch Gets Hotter
At the heart of the 8th-gen GTI is a new version of VW’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, good for 242 horsepower (180 kilowatts) and 273 pound-feet of torque (273 newton-meters), respective gains of 14 hp (10 kW) and 15 lb-ft (20 Nm) over the 2020 GTI. Both a six-speed manual transmission and seven-speed DSG automatic will be available on all trim levels. According to VW, 40 percent of customers opt for the manual on the Mk7, which gave them plenty of reason to keep the three-pedal option around for Mk8.
The two most notable pieces of standard performance kit for Mk8 are the limited-slip differential and the complex Vehicle Dynamics Manager (VDM). While a standard LSD isn’t new to the GTI, the VDM system is a major addition. Think of this system as the GTI’s performance brain, which monitors key systems, including the adaptive dampers, LSD, and steering, hundreds of times per second. On the road, “the brain” can add braking force to the inside wheel helping the car rotate, quicken the car’s reaction to steering input, and cut down on roll stiffness, among other tricks. All of this, VW says, makes the GTI a much more dynamic handler over its predecessor.
From a hardware perspective, VW went to town revising the GTI’s suspension, which consists of a MacPherson front and multilink rear end. There are reconfigured springs and dampers, as well as a lighter aluminum subframe at the front end. Spring rates are five percent stiffer in the front and 15 percent stiffer in the rear compared to the Mk7.
Based on the provided information, there will be five wheel options for the new GTI, including 17-, 18-, and 19-inch sizes. All wheels come wrapped in Bridgestone tires, but the 19-inch wheel gets wider 235-section rubber to improve grip. Speaking of, Volkswagen will also offer a Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 option, which will undoubtedly add some extra oomph to the GTI’s cornering abilities.
While we won’t have a go behind the wheel for a while, VW shed some light on how these changes to the Mk8 work in the real world. On the company’s handling test track in Germany, test driver Benjamin Leuchter drove a Mk7 GTI Performance and Mk8 GTI with identical power outputs and identical tires. Around the 2.0-mile track, the Mk8 was four seconds faster – and that’s without the optional Michelins. Though the test is hard to contextualize, it shows how the Mk8 puts the power down better than its predecessor.
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What We Can Expect
VW also hinted at what we can expect from GTI, at least in terms of its timeline. According to SVP for Product, Marketing and Strategy, Hein Schafer, VW is eyeballing “an on-sale date at the back end of next year, and the Mk8 GTI will come to the U.S. as a 2022 model year car.”
As for other variants? Well, the Mk7’s success in North America means that Wolfsburg execs are taking a closer look at bringing more hot Golfs stateside. Schafer explained, “we are fighting hard to get every version of the GTI to the U.S. market.” Although engine homologation costs might get in the way of this, hope is not gone for getting our hands on more track-focused cars like the TCR and Clubsport.
VW was less willing to talk Golf R details for now, but they did confirm its return in 2022, alongside the GTI. Either way, enthusiasts can take a deep breath knowing that Volkswagen hot hatches have a bright, fast future.
Gallery: 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI