2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI First Drive: Breeding Like Rabbits

In the never-ending quest to continually improve the Golf GTI, Volkswagen is blessing its hot hatch with a limited-run Rabbit Edition model, more power, and a new dual-clutch automatic transmission for 2019.

Armed with trim-specific 18-inch black wheels, black mirror caps, a black spoiler, red-stitched floor mats, and requisite rabbit badges on the seats and tailgate, the $28,895 Rabbit Edition is primarily an appearance package. Still, the extra $1,300 that Volkswagen charges for the model over the entry-level GTI S also nets buyers safety and convenience kit such as a forward-collision warning system with low-speed automatic front braking, and a blind-spot monitoring system with rear-cross-traffic alert (items available on the base GTI as part of a $450 option), as well as a proximity key with push-button start and adaptive LED headlights from the $31,795 GTI SE.

The Rabbit Edition, however, is only the tip of the 2019 GTI iceberg, which now includes an extra eight horses in its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine’s stable. With 228 horsepower, the GTI now packs as much punch as the Mini John Cooper Works models.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI: First Drive

Making the most of the GTI’s newfound ponies is an available seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. (Don’t worry, a six-speed manual still comes standard.) The $1,100 gearbox replaces last year’s six-speed unit, and its noticeably...