By on June 16, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Image: VolkswagenGot your heart set on a 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, one with upsized wheels, stickier tires, bigger brakes, some red piping around the grille, and tartan seats?

I feel you. But Volkswagen’s illustrious GTI range is not about to co-sign any legislation on the other side of the aisle. Atlas? Tiguan? Tiguan Limited? Touareg? T-Roc? Amarok? Westfalia? Eurovan?


“I think with the three [GTI models] we have now, we are set,” Volkswagen board chairman Herbert Diess told Autocar.

Unfortunately for the United States hot hatch market, however, only one-third of Volkswagen’s GTI lineup actually makes it to America.

Maybe a Tiguan GTI wouldn’t be so bad?

20018 Volkswagen Tiguan Euro spec - Image: VolkswagenVolkswagen’s Herbert Diess isn’t ruling out performance utility vehicles altogether. In reference to a hot version of the upcoming T-Roc, “We have another sub-brand R which we are considering [for such a model],” Diess says.

Diess is therefore open to the idea of fast Volkswagen crossovers, and why wouldn’t he be? The U.S. market, for example, now generates more total sales with SUVs/crossovers than with passenger cars. There are performance SUVs aplenty in the luxury sphere, enhancing profit margins and allowing buyers who want utility and performance to have their cake and eat it, too.

Adopting such a practice in a lower price bracket will surely seem obvious at some point. Yet for the time being, high-performance variants of mainstream SUVs/crossovers are rare, though an N-badged Hyundai Tucson seems likely.2017 Volkswagen Up GTI Concept - Image: VolkswagenNevertheless, Volkswagen will reserve the GTI practice for hot hatchbacks. GTI, says Diess, “should be this car – a hot hatch.”

Despite great difficulties for the Volkswagen brand in America over the last few years — sales were plunging before the diesel emissions scandal rocked the automaker in late 2015 — the Golf GTI continues to be a success for the brand. Excluding wagons, 48 percent of the Golfs sold in the United States through the first five months of 2017 were GTIs. Factor in the all-wheel-drive Golf R and performance Golfs accounted for 60 percent of Golf hatchback sales and more than one-third of total Golf sales.

In fact, Golf GTI sales are up 2.5 percent, year-over-year, in early 2017, rising beyond the record levels achieved by the Golf GTI in calendar year 2016. Volkswagen of America reported 23,934 Golf GTI sales in 2016, 59 percent better than the annual average achieved by the Golf GTI over the previous decade.2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI - Image: VolkswagenAcross the entire Golf performance lineup, GTI and R inclusive, Volkswagen reported 11,151 U.S. sales in 2017’s first five months, 2,379 fewer than Subaru managed with the WRX/STI lineup.

Volkswagen today revealed the sixth-generation Polo and its accompanying GTI variant, a 197-horsepower junior Golf that currently has a base price 30-percent lower than the Golf GTI’s in the UK. Furthermore, Volkswagen is expanding the GTI lineup with the Up GTI, a 113-horsepower A-segment hot hatch at roughly half the Golf GTI’s price point.

You can’t have those cars. And if you could, the price points likely wouldn’t be quite as attractive on this side of the Atlantic.

You also can’t have a Tiguan GTI, Atlas GTI, or Touareg GTI. The reasons in this case are different. Such vehicles don’t exist.

And won’t exist.

[Images: Volkswagen Group]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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25 Comments on “Purists Rejoice: There Will Never Be a Volkswagen GTI SUV; Golf GTI Cruising Along Nicely in America...”

  • avatar

    Hopped-up CUVs would be a no-brainer for VW, which has long traded on a performance image.

  • avatar

    How about a GTI w a plaid seats and some other options like a pano roof and some other goodies that VW offers in the GTI lineup, But not with the plaid seats??????

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, one of the factors that kept me from buying a GTI last year. What’s really frustrating is that the same Mexican factory will build that car for you, if you live in Canada. The much larger American market isn’t worth the trouble.

      • 0 avatar

        This. I can’t stand VWoA and their “our way or the highway” attitude either, and it’s kept me from buying a car from them. Twice.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t get it. Ideally I would like a GTI Sport (220hp, VAQ differential) with plaid seats, Fender sound and the Austin wheels found on every other GTI variant.

        I’ll probably end up getting a Sport next year and swap the wheels out. Aftermarket will have to take care of the sound system.

    • 0 avatar

      According to the configurator the Autobahn trim is now available with plaid seats. Has been that way for a month or so. Sadly not a choice for the SE. I noticed it when researching before finally buying an SE a couple of weeks ago. I like the leather but choices are good. My last previous GTI was an 83 bought in 85 with 77,000 miles on it. Motor blew up at 152,000. Replaced timing belt when I got it and that is what failed. Drove the crap out of it and had no regrets. New one is super nice for what it cost.

  • avatar

    Scirocco would cruise nicest.

  • avatar

    I will admit, as an internet car enthusiast, I would love to see a GTI wagon (as the parts all exist), but that’d make it even pricier, and they’d sell roughly 5 (although I’ve seen a good number of GTIs in nice neighbourhoods with high-end bike racks, so maybe VW is ignoring the affluent spandex warrior demographic).

    But then with the cheapest 5-door GTI coming in at $35k CDN, I’d appreciate a cheaper option as well. The Polo would be just about perfect, but probably not going to happen. Considering how stout the regular Golf’s 1.8T is, a Golf GT/Sportline/whatever they want to call it would be appreciated, but they probably recognize they’d lose a bunch of GTI sales to people who’d buy the cheap one and crank the boost to make up the difference.

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t mind a GTI wagon, it’s not like they don’t already exist. It could compete with the Polestar V60. The alternative is to buy a Golf wagon and tune it, but it wouldn’t be quite the same.

    • 0 avatar

      Not sure if they have one, but a Golf Sport with the 6MT/DSG and brakes/suspension/tires splitting the difference between the base model and GTI. If you want a stickshift it’s a big jump from the S to the GTI. They need something in between.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s pretty much exactly what I’d be content with, but I don’t think it currently exists.

        We got a MkVI Golf Sportline, but I don’t think it was much more than wheels and slightly more bolstered seats.

    • 0 avatar

      Meh, if they did a Golf “Sport” or “S” with the 1.8 and uprated tires/suspension, it’d probably land around $23,000. A base GTI comes in around $26,000 these days, and if you drive it back to back with a Golf 1.8T manual, there isn’t really much comparison – the GTI is far, far quicker. I can’t see them selling many of the “uprated” 1.8Ts.

      But I’d agree the 1.8T model is a first class sleeper. With a manual, it can do 0-60 in well under seven seconds, which will blow away any other “non-performance” compact car. On the road, it feels even quicker than it is.

      I’d skip a “S” model and take the Wolfsburg Edition with a manual – $21,000. Brilliant car for that kind of money.

      • 0 avatar

        Thinking in Canuck bucks, there’s about a $15k difference between a base Golf and a 5-door GTI – lots of room up here for something in between that.

  • avatar

    Translation: “We don’t really want to make more money by raising transaction prices on our crossovers by offering high performance versions. It’s not like anyone’s ever had success doing that!”

    Pulling one bullet out of their foot, putting two more in.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly! I’m looking to move up in size from my GTI for my next vehicle, but don’t want to sacrifice the performance I’m used to. I looked at the Tiguan and thought, “This thing is already an overgrown Golf; why don’t they just drop in the GTI bits??” I’d guess there are many buyers in my situation that “outgrow” the GTI, and would love an option elsewhere in the VW showroom to turn to.

      • 0 avatar

        Be careful what you wish for. When my wife and I got a Tiguan in 2013, we wanted power seats, only available in the top. That also included 19-inch wheels and a “sports suspension,” as listed on the window sticker. That’s a seriously firm set of springs and shocks that gives our Tig very flat cornering at speed, though the seat bolstering lets the chassis down. GTI seats would improve that, but beware of a stiff suspension on a high-riding car. Our car transmits every bump in the road, but worse, the height of the car and its seats means much more head toss and side-to-side motion is felt when the road surface tilts.

        I’ll always remember the day I picked up my daughter from quadruple wisdom tooth surgery. The novocain was just wearing off as we drove home, bouncing like a buckboard wagon while she moaned pitifully in the back seat. The TIguan, with sports suspension, rides like a truck, pure and simple. Partial relief comes in the fall, when I’ll swap in the winter tires on 17″ rims with some cushioning capability. But the ride and handling combination is never as perfect as with my other car, an eight-year-old GTI.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually from the article is sounds like they are interested in doing that, they just won’t call them GTIs.

  • avatar

    A Westfalia GTI? That’s the stuff dreams are made off.

  • avatar

    I really did love my GTI – I just wished it spent less time at the dealer for “unscheduled maintenance”.

  • avatar

    Isn’t the Tiguan already the GTI SUV?

    They’re the same car. People even swap in Tiguan suspensions to their GTIs for the winter months where I live.

    • 0 avatar

      It is the same car minus 10-20hp

      • 0 avatar

        It’s the Mk5/6 GTI minus either of the good gearboxes (6sp manual or DSG), with the dash from the euro Golf Plus but larger tires than that car. Not a bad CUV at a lower price, if you don’t need luggage space and rear seat space on the same day. They can call it the Tiguan GLI or GCI or GSI just like on the sorta-GTI Jetta GLE. I don’t care about what letters they use Just give us cofortable seats, good power, restrained looks, manual shifting and I’l buy.

  • avatar

    Ive owned a 2016 GTI SE manual 4dr in silver, a 2016 Passat R-Line in Fortana Red and a 2017 Passat R-Line in Urano. Once had a 2012 CC Sport in Urano w/16″ Daytona Wheels. All have been great cars with no issues. Wish I would have kept them longer. Its always been a problem with me. I wouldn’t mind if they made the GTI in Urano Grey with LED lights, manual, Tarten and upgraded stereo. Wont ever see that color in the GTI here but I can dream.

    We will always be a third world country to VW.

  • avatar

    I would buy a US version of the Golf R Estate wagon. Yeah it would be 45K in the US but heck of a price for what it is. I just bought a new GTI SE manual but came very close to buying a Golf R DSG. In the end it felt too much like a GTI to justify the price difference of nearly $15,000. I would love if they put the 2.0 liter in the Alltrack. I drove an Alltrack but felt it was a little pokey with the 1.8. Great car though. I am trying to convince my wife she wants one.

  • avatar

    Saw it coming years ago. Pls don’t let me be right. I’d prefer they resurrect the Brougham treatment for CUV/SUV, and leave performance models to cars.

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