1) It sits on the same platform as the old one.
Yep, at heart the Mk8 Golf GTI is the same car as the Mk7. It rides on the Group’s clever MQB platform and uses the same 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine as the car it replaces.
Of course, changes have been made—Volkswagen wanted the new GTI to be more precise and predictable than the old car was, but also more practical and comfortable, so it’s tinkered with the suspension and introduced some new tech.
On the hardware front, the Mk8 nicks the more rigid, marginally lighter aluminum subframe from the last-gen GTI Clubsport S, the front spring rate is up 5%, and various other suspension components have been reconfigured. Meanwhile, the rear axle gets a new wishbone bearing and spring setup, as well as new damping bearings and hydraulics. Here the spring rate has been increased by 15%, which is a lot.
2) It’s much quicker.
Not outright. The standard Mk8 GTI gets the same 242hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine as the last GTI Performance, and as it’s based on the same platform, it will probably weigh more or less the same. VW hasn’t released performance figures yet, but with the seven-speed DSG, you’re looking at 0-100kph in a little over 6sec. The top speed will be limited to 250kph.
So, by what measure is the new GTI “much quicker”? Around VW’s 3.3km handling circuit at Ehra-Lessien, we’re told the Mk8 GTI is some 4sec per lap faster than the Mk7 GTI Performance.
Some of that will be down to the hardware tweaks we mentioned in the last slide, and some the tires (the Mk8 GTI is available with sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s—it’s not clear whether both cars used the same kind of tire for their laps).
But (mainly software) improvements have also been made to the progressive steering, the brakes, the electronically controlled locking diff, the optional adaptive chassis control, and the ESC. All systems now report back to a new, central ‘Vehicle Dynamics Manager’ that, for example, can adapt the damping of a single wheel up to 200 times a second.
3) You can get it with a manual.
Oh, yes—effective as the seven-speed DSG is at delivering uber-quick shifts, VW recognizes that some people will always prefer to row through the gears themselves, even if nowadays, it’s a slower and less efficient way of doing things.
VW’s head of driving dynamics, steering, and control systems Karsten Schebsdat (who set up the Mk1 Ford Focus, and had a hand in all GT versions of the Porsche 997) said the DSG “might be more quick than the manual gearbox is, but there are still lots of customers who would like to shift themselves, to heel and toe... This gives many drivers a more emotional way of driving, so I think it’s important to have a manual gearbox.”
4) It drifts. Kinda.
The Mk8’s DCC ‘adaptive chassis control’ has 15 different settings. There’s Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes, but should you wish, you can go even softer than Comfort, or even harder than Sport. Schebsdat tells us that “when you would like to have some small drifts, you should shift the slider more to the right to position 15 [beyond Sport], where the car has a more higher fun factor.” Good, good.
5) There will be a quicker one.
From launch the last-gen GTI was available in two specs—regular or ‘Performance’. Then, eventually, came the special ones—TCR, Clubsport, and Clubsport S. Unsurprisingly, VW is remaining tight-lipped when it comes to future, faster GTIs, but the thinking is it will at some point reveal a more potent GTI with almost 300hp.
6) It’s not a hybrid.
The regular Mk8 Golf is available with a mild-hybrid system, but not the GTI. VW chose not to augment the 2.0-liter turbopetrol engine with any kind of e-motor, despite speculation that’s exactly what it was planning to do.
There will still be a hot(ish) electrified Golf in the form of the GTE, which is a hybrid of the plug-in variety. It has as much power as the GTI—242hp—but from a 1.4-liter gasoline engine and e-motor drawing power from a 13kW battery. Should be able to do around 60km without calling upon the internal combustion engine.
Then there’s the diesel—the GTD uses a 2.0-liter oil-burner with 197hp.
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.