By on May 10, 2018

Volkswagen’s Golf GTI isn’t a vehicle you hear people complain about very often. Bridging the gap between fun and functionality near perfectly, the hatchback delivers on every promise it makes. Still, detractors exist, and they’ll fixate on the GTI’s somewhat vague clutch pedal and lack of horsepower.

Both of these gripes are preferential problems. The car’s light clutch pedal can be a blessing in extremely heavy traffic and also totally optional, since the automatic is still highly enjoyable and shifts with greater speed. Horsepower is similarly subjective, since a lot of the car’s charm comes down to how it delivers power. The 2.0-liter turbo isn’t a heavy hitter but if feels like the right tool for the job most of the time.

However, there remains a subset of the enthusiast population that will look at the base GTI’s spec sheet and claim 210 hp isn’t nearly enough. VW has already introduced a solution to that by offering one of the better performance packages we’re aware of. Unfortunately, competition threatens to unseat the hot hatch king from his throne. The 275-hp Hyundai Veloster N is fast approaching North America and its entire existence revolves around taking sales away from the plucky little German. Volkswagen can’t have that , so it recently introduced the new GTI TCR Concept to level the playing field. 

While not yet a production vehicle, VW has already expressed its intention to make the car happen before 2019. Unveiled at this year’s Wörthersee GTI Meeting, the GTI TCR offers more of everything — provided it relates to performance. Its 2.0-liter cranks out a claimed 286 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, both of which are a cut above the standard GTI specifications. Power is transmitted to the front wheels via the standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and a limited-slip differential.

Top speed is also standard to the GTI Sport, at 155 mph. But Volkswagen says the TCR will have a governor which can be disabled for a new top speed of 164 mph. This is some BMW nonsense, and not something we’re into. The average customer may not need to travel that fast but we are not fond of automakers charging more to unlock the full potential on performance trims you already paid extra for.

New 18-inch “Belvedere” forged aluminum alloy wheels are standard and VW claims upgraded brake calipers, working with perforated discs, will stop the TCR just as quickly as the race concept that inspired it. Customers can opt for a performance pack offering 19-inch wheels, a sports chassis setting, DCC adaptive damping, and the higher top speed.

A new front bumper feeds air into the vehicle’s two additional radiators. Other tell-tale signs that this is not a standard GTI are its subtle front splitter, rear diffuser, and side skirts with TCR badging.

The seating upholstery ditches the standard plaid for a tech-chic design in microfiber. Further distinguishing the model are red accents wherever VW could make room for them. The rocker trim emits a red hue whenever the doors are opened, which also project the TCR logo onto the pavement, and there is contrast stitching on both the steering wheel and shift lever.

While the model is definitely a little off-kilter, there’s nothing to suggest everything we’re seeing won’t make it into a production vehicle. “At the moment, the Golf GTI TCR Concept — an athlete derived from racing — is a study. But at the end of the year, we want to make this GTI vision come true,” Jürgen Stackmann, Sales, Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, said at the car’s unveiling.

After rumors that it wouldn’t make it to North America, we’re stoked to see Volkswagen of America talking about this car. But the company will need to keep it a healthy distance away from the Golf R’s price tag if it wants it to be a success. The base and Sport GTI still feel like a good value but the top-trim Golf GTI Autobahn’s $35,000 MSRP is really hard to rationalize when the all-wheel-drive R is just a few grand more.

Volkswagen referred to the TCR as the “new top GTI,” which leaves us thinking it could begin above the Autobahn’s starting price. That slightly worrisome. However, if VW manage to leave the model’s specs as claimed, a race between the Golf R and (presumably lighter) front-drive GTI TCR could be close enough to warrant closer pricing. We should know more as the model approaches production.

[Images: Volkswagen Group]

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26 Comments on “286-horsepower VW Golf GTI TCR Is ‘Almost Ready for Production’...”

  • avatar

    So it’s an automatic GTI with a tune, or a Golf R without AWD. How thrilling.

    • 0 avatar


      Pure German business concept–split the difference in price between the Autobahn and the R.

      There’s plenty of room for other models there, too–each one different from its neighbors by $100.

      • 0 avatar

        Mitsubishi did this with the Lancer Ralliart. Arguably, so did Subaru when they bumped the WRX up to 260-ish HP after the STI became well established.

        Chevy did this when they released a Cobalt SS without forced induction.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh–and you’ll still want to tune the DSG anyway.

  • avatar

    Maybe the R is done? so this will become the new top spec Golf?

    And yes a normal Golf with an APR tune and a few aftermarket bits or a quick dip into the VAG parts bin (Audi TT brakes up front) will get you the same performance for less I bet. My brother has an R but even a stock GTI on the track is decent weapon. These cars can often run comparable times to my older 350Z around a track, they tend to surprise people with their performance given their humble hatchback look.

    • 0 avatar

      The R needs the 5 cylinder 2.5 from the A3 RS and move up in price a little. It would then justify the price tag (and the AWD) and give the TCR room in the lineup.

    • 0 avatar

      Any difference in price gets you the VAG new car warranty from the factory.

      I bet it’s worth it.

    • 0 avatar

      VW has already announced a 2019 Golf R and the rumors are some dramatic changes. Slightly wider body, estiamted 350hp, brand new interior, revised lighting, modest weight loss,and updated transmission. All for pretty much the same price as the current year. At least those are the rumors.

      The other rumors are that the next GTI will be around 255hp.

  • avatar

    It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep the price down on this car – safe to say the Veloster N would probably sticker out at around $28,000, which is about the base price of the current GTI S model.

  • avatar

    So is this thing going to come from Europe, if at all? Because the Mexican factory gave up on producing 2-door models a few years ago.

    • 0 avatar

      I wish they’d bring the two door back…alas.

      But I don’t think it’d be much of a trick to make a four-door version.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, I don’t know of any other car that such year-to-year production variability. First you can’t get the sport package, then they kill the 2-door, then the dynamic suspension is limited to the Autobahn, then the sport package is standard on all but the cheapest model, then the S model doesn’t get it at all, then leather becomes an extra cost option on the SE…

        I think the ’18 model finally hit the sweet spot for me, but only because the 2-door will never come back.

  • avatar

    In the off chance that some VW engineers are looking for other new ideas, how about putting the GTI engine into the Alltrack? As a VW loyalist (who is taking a brief hiatus into Ford in a Lincoln MKZ… but hey, when it comes time to trade it in they won’t have any cars to offer) I’m planning to park a VW in my garage in 2019. An Alltrack with the 220HP engine would be pretty sweet!

    Is anyone from VW out there??

    • 0 avatar

      I feel ya! My biggest 3 complaints about my GTI are

      1. Fwd sucks i want awd.
      2. The back isnt big enough, i want a wagon version
      3. The stock clutch sucks for handing even stock power levels

      Give me a GTI awd wagon with a ttrs clutch and ill eat the depreciation on my ‘16 and buy new again. Keep the same “21 horsepower. I can fix that easily.

    • 0 avatar

      This is pretty close to what you are looking for. The Golf GTD Kombi. And yes, it’s a diesel version of the GTI.×316-76b79f7e0613a7ac.jpg

  • avatar

    This does nothing the R doesn’t do better.

  • avatar

    With the exception of Porsche, all German brands have limited their cars to a top speed of 250 km/h as part of a gentleman’s agreement. Nowhere can you drive 250 km/h or higher legally than on the German Autobahn and perhaps on a race track with long straightaways. It is a mystery to me why some people are upset about these types of cars being limited to 250 km/h when they will never be able to legally reach and exploit such a speed.

  • avatar

    I don’t really get adding much more power to a car that has FWD wheel spin at 220hp already. I’d rather see Volkswagen market a ‘purist’ edition and offer a lighter, cloth-interior-only, stripper GTI, with LESS hp and potentially better power:weight ratio for closer to the Hyundai’s price. As it is I think the 2018 base GTI is about perfect.

  • avatar

    Honestly, given the size/hp of the engine, the 0-60 (admittedly magazine) times are still among the best in the non-limited hot hatch category. Not quite drop-the-clutch WRX times, but still better than the new Honda Civic Si.

    Usual German sandbagging of hp ratings or just the ability to actually get the power to the ground?

    • 0 avatar

      Both, I think. And yes, there seems to be something of a gentlemen’s agreement or perhaps it’s in the TTAC stylesheet that they have to pretend that German power ratings are the same as those of other brands.

  • avatar

    What in the world does TCR stand for? Ticklish Camry Replacement.

    • 0 avatar

      Touring Car Racing. Its a sportscar racing class that is slower and cheaper than the existing GT/GT3/GT4 classes. It is apparently pretty popular in Europe, and in the US the Continental Challenge Series added the TCR class this year. Its a factory racing car, basically. This car is not, its inspired by the VW GTI TCR car.

  • avatar

    Buy a model with the performance package and throw a tune on it

    The only reason to buy this over a car with a tune is if you autocross in the stock class.

  • avatar

    This is stupid if it really is going to be a ~$37k car. I already question the intelligence of anyone who shelled out $35k for a top spec GTI. Your so damn close to the Golf R, why are you wasting your time and money? Now this thing will be priced even closer to the R? o_0

    If I had the money, I wouldn’t even look at this, I’d just go buy an R and be done.

    I’m seriously considering getting a GTI, but the based of bases one, and I’ve got to do some saving to even pull that off :(

    Hyundai has definitely got my attention though, since Honda decided to ruin the Si. I’ll be checking out the new Velosters whenever they actually start selling them. If I can get 80% of the GTI for 80% of the cost or less, might be a great thing for me. That GTI S is really nice though.

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