Pre-release Party: Volkswagen Debuts Mk8 GTI Ahead of Geneva
Volkswagen gave the 2021 Golf GTI some uninterrupted time in the spotlight by debuting it ahead of the Geneva International Motor Show. While VW kept plenty of details under wraps, the important items were on display. Pay close attention, as this may be one of the few Golf models we receive in the United States and Canada.
Around these parts, the take rate for VW’s performance hatchbacks (GTI and Golf R) is far greater than that of the economy model, and it seems the manufacturer finally took notice. The manufacturer has yet to confirm anything at this point, but all signs point to GTI becoming the base trim inside the U.S.
In Euro-spec form, that means 245 horsepower and 273 pound-feet coming out of a predictable 2.0-liter turbo. That’s a sizable bump over last year’s 228 hp and 258 lb-ft and, assuming the GTI hasn’t packed on the pounds for the 2021 model year, it should yield noticeable performance gains.
Additional help in that department will come via a McPherson front axle and multi-link rear suspension that’s further aided by VW’s new adaptive chassis control system. The manufacturer said the rig adjust dampers on the fly, accounting for road conditions, steering input, acceleration, and braking. It’s also supposed to make the car more versatile by providing additional distance between sport and comfort driving modes. Naturally, the GTI remains front-wheel drive and can have its motor mated to either a standard six-speed manual or optional seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission.
The exterior remains familiar to the base Mk8 Golf that debuted last October, adding optional integrated fog lamps in an … interesting … honeycomb pattern and a standard light bar just below the hood. It also looks more aggressive overall, with a large (partially fake) grille sitting just above two small chin spoilers. VW is also continuing its tradition of offering the GTI with oddball wheels. This time around they’re five-spoke jobs spiraling out from the center hub. While your author feels the car would be well served by some replacement wheels and a black paint job (to help mask the front bumper), nothing seems like a deal breaker until you get inside.
Volkswagen has done a stellar job in terms of the cabin’s visual aesthetics — including the obligatory plaid seats and red accenting. But they’ve forgotten the buttons. All new GTI models are said to come with a new 10-inch infotainment system that juts off from the (also digital) gauge cluster. The positioning seems good, as does the lengthy list of color combinations and ambient lighting themes. As with the standard Golf, we’re not seeing any physical controls for the HVAC system, seat warmers, the radio (where’s that volume knob?) or really much of anything else. Unless VW has mastered haptic feedback and designed the perfect touch-screen infotainment system, this is might become a sore spot come review time — and since we’ve been down this road before with Honda, there’s really no excuse.
More information isn’t far away, with Volkswagen promising additional details on the Euro-spec Golf GTI once the Geneva Motor Show kicks off on March 5th.
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