The new Golf GTI takes driving dynamics to a new level

May 15, 2020

  • Pure, efficient, high-tech hot hatch for the digital age, with 242 horsepower
  • Standard electronically-controlled, torque-sensing limited-slip differential (VAQ) and Vehicle Dynamics Manager
  • Digital Cockpit has new functionality as part of a suite of networked displays

Wolfsburg, Germany — The Golf GTI is considered an icon around the world, with great handling and a pure design DNA. Launched at the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) in September 1975, it created an automotive category that hadn’t actually existed until that moment—sporty front-wheel-drive compacts, or hot hatches. With its six successors to date, it has become the world’s most successful hot hatch and more than 2.3 million units had been produced by the end of 2019. That’s a phenomenon.

However, revolutionary ideas require evolutionary development. The first Golf GTI’s DNA lives on to this day in the agile front-wheel drive chassis, sporty performance, intuitive ergonomics, and authentic design. Some 45 years after the first GTI’s world première, Volkswagen is now launching the eighth generation. The first Golf GTI of the digital age will be a brand new, networked, and fully-fledged sporting vehicle.

The eighth Golf GTI is the most digital GTI of all time. Its entire electronic architecture has been created from scratch. And that changes everything. The new generation of software and hardware is tangible inside and when driving the vehicle. On the interior, drivers have access to a digitally-networked world of displays and controls. This enables the driver to customize the visual look and technology of their Golf GTI more intuitively, and in greater detail, than ever before. The driver can decide on functions including the color range of the background lighting and the individual configuration of the infotainment system, the Digital Cockpit and the engine sound—and they also have a greater influence on their Golf GTI’s handling characteristics than previously.

The new Vehicle Dynamics Manager control system makes its debut in the Golf GTI, controlling the XDS® electronic differential lock, the VAQ electronically-controlled, torque-sensing, limited-slip differential that is now standard, and also the lateral dynamics of the optional DCC® adaptive damping system. Drivers can customize their setup using the standard driving mode selection feature and a more finely adjustable DCC system. Sharper driving dynamics guarantee an enhanced and unadulterated driving experience as the eighth Golf GTI handles extremely accurately, virtually eliminating understeer.  

The new Golf GTI is powered by a 242-horsepower (180 kW) 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection EA888 evo4 TSI® engine, with maximum torque of 273 pound-feet (370 Nm). The TSI unit is coupled with a standard manual six-speed transmission or an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (DSG®). The electronically limited top speed is 155 mph in both cases.

Compared with its predecessor, the new Golf GTI body has become lower, longer and even sportier. Designers created each body part from scratch and worked with the aerodynamicists to hone the vehicle in the wind tunnel. The drag coefficient (Cd) of the basic model dropped from 0.3 to 0.275 and the aerodynamics have been improved by a range of individual measures: Cd-optimized exterior mirrors; aerodynamic corners; a bespoke GTI roof spoiler; extensive underbody panels; and aerodynamically refined wheelarch linings.

The car also features a range of traditional and completely new exterior features. The red strip in the radiator grille is a must for a GTI and stretches across the vehicle’s entire front end above the radiator grille, merging with the fenders. For the first time, the red GTI strip is refined by a parallel LED crossbar below it, which gives the Golf GTI a new and unmistakable light signature. The exhaust system’s tailpipes, arranged either side of the rear diffuser, as well as chrome/red GTI badges on the front fenders, the hatch and on the radiator grille are also specific to the Golf GTI.

Interior highlights include new sport seats with integrated head restraints that are reminiscent of the first Golf GTI thanks to their red stitching and a tartan “Scalepaper” style fabric on the seat and backrest areas. The new multifunction sport steering wheel has been specifically designed with a red appliqué and the GTI badge. The new engine Start/Stop button comes as standard in the Golf GTI and pulses red until the engine has been started.

Every new Golf GTI is fitted with assist systems such as the Lane Assist lane keeping system, Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist) with Pedestrian and Cyclist Monitoring, the XDS electronic differential lock and also, for Europe, Car2X (local communication with other vehicles and the traffic infrastructure). In the interior, the Digital Cockpit and standard 8.25-inch Composition Media infotainment system have been digitalized and integrated into a network, providing We Connect and We Connect Plus online services and functions. Other standard features include a multifunction steering wheel, single-zone automatic climate control, the Press & Drive comfort start system, Bluetooth mobile phone pairing, LED headlights, taillight clusters, and LED daytime running lights, LED reading lights and two USB-C ports. This range of equipment has been extended significantly for the GTI.

Design

The Golf GTI is an icon. “Each member of our team is aware of the responsibility on their shoulders when developing a new Golf. Evolving an icon like this is an enormous challenge but also the most exciting thing that can happen to you as a designer”, explains Klaus Bischoff, Head of Volkswagen Group Design and the Volkswagen brand’s Design department. He continues: “The Golf GTI also requires an evolution or even a reinvention of the very specific cues of this sports car. And I think that we have done a particularly good job with the new Golf GTI.”

It goes without saying that the eighth Golf GTI will carry the DNA of the original GTI into the future. Bischoff adds: “The new GTI is a design statement; it merges a dynamic, sporty character with uncompromising functionality.” The eighth-generation Golf is again based on the MQB modular transverse architecture, in this case allowing for even sportier proportions. Bischoff adds: “The new Golf GTI boasts a very low, visual center of gravity which we achieved through the wide air intakes at the front and the striking shoulder line. This superior, sporty character gives aesthetic expression to the vehicle’s potential.”

The design of the new Golf GTI embodies attention to detail. An LED strip in the headlight mirrors the red line that runs across the front of the car when the daytime running lights are activated—or when the driver approaches with the key. Another striking and unmistakable feature is the large, single-piece honeycomb lower air intake grille. The new GTI graphics also include optional foglights that have now been integrated into the intake in an X shape.

The 17-inch Richmond aluminum-alloy wheels are standard and also available in 18-inch form. There are other options in 17-, 18- and 19-inch sizes. Red brake calipers peek behind the wheels, another GTI trademark. A bespoke spoiler extends the roof line at the very top of the vehicle silhouette, while the signature C-pillar remains, shared with the regular Golf.  

The new Golf has a powerful shoulder section and a strong rear end design, carried over to the GTI. The GTI lettering is now positioned centrally under the new Volkswagen emblem rather than on the driver’s side as it was before. The Golf GTI appears to be even lower than less powerful Golf models thanks to the roof-mounted spoiler.

Right from the outset, Volkswagen created distinctive, unmistakable GTI styling cues with the multitude of interior details—the sport steering wheel with three silver double spokes and recessed Wolfsburg emblem, the golf ball shift lever, and plaid GTI sport seats with black side bolsters.

The sport steering wheel of yesteryear has been transformed into a new multifunction wheel with touch controls. The three silver spokes have been retained, with a red outline on the lower spoke. The plaid seat design is now called Scalepaper (featuring red seams with grey and black plaid), with all the decorative seams and edging also being picked out in red.

The Golf GTI’s digital displays start up as soon as the doors are opened. They are a fusion of the standard Digital Cockpit and the Infotainment system. Composition Media, featuring an 8.25-inch screen, is installed in this vehicle as standard while the 10-inch Discover Pro system is available as an option. Discover Pro merges with the Digital Cockpit to form the Innovision Cockpit, offering further enhanced functionality. Regardless of which infotainment system is fitted, the visual and functional fusion of systems creates a new and consistent digital architecture. Background lighting, which comes as standard, embeds the displays and all other illuminated interior areas (dash, door trim, storage compartment, footwell) in a spectrum of 30 configurable colors.

Running gear

“The Golf GTI has always been synonymous with pure driving pleasure. Few other vehicles in this category offer a similarly finely tuned balance between sportiness and comfort,” says Karsten Schebsdat, Manager Vehicle Dynamics and Chassis Control Systems. “Considering the Golf GTI Mk7 already handled great, we aimed to further enhance the driving pleasure of the Mk8 Golf GTI with even more direct steering response and handling. And we have succeeded.”

This is a new, enhanced GTI experience. “We owe this to elements including the new Vehicle Dynamics Manager that centrally coordinates all electromechanical running gear functions,” Schebsdat says. “Thanks to the combination of new running gear plus the VAQ and the Vehicle Dynamics Manager we were able to elevate the Golf GTI’s outstanding overall performance to an even higher level.“

The control arm bearings, springs and bump stops on the front suspension have been reconfigured, as have the damping hydraulics. The front suspension weight has also been cut by nearly 7 pounds thanks to a new aluminum subframe optimized to provide maximum rigidity. The front axle spring rate has been increased by five percent in comparison to the Golf GTI Mk 7.

The rear axle also features a new bearing and spring setup, with reconfigured helper springs and damper bearings. As is the case for the front axle, the rear axle also features new damping hydraulics. The spring rate at the rear axle has been increased by 15 percent compared with the Golf GTI Mk7.

The Vehicle Dynamics Manager coordinates and activates the functions of the electronically-controlled limited-slip differential, the electronic XDS differential lock, and the adaptive damping system. In this process, adapting the individual wheel damping (200 times a second) guarantees particularly agile and accurate handling, virtually eliminating understeer. This is partially due to the VAQ being able to increase torque in Sport mode. At a race track, it is possible to adapt the stability control (ESC) in two stages. In ESC Sport mode, the ESC thresholds and traction control (ASR) slip thresholds are increased to reduce the intensity of interventions. In ESC Off mode, ambitious drivers can deactivate ESC altogether. However, Front Assist and Swerve Assist reactivate ESC in emergencies.

The VAQ torque-sensing limited-slip differential offers benefits including a variable degree of intervention, full integration into the Vehicle Dynamics Manager, and ESC, EDS and XDS+ functions. This makes it possible to completely avoid interference with the steering, as is the case with mechanical locking differentials. Thanks to a multi-plate clutch, the VAQ optimizes grip and handling in fast corners, thus enhancing the performance and ultimately providing additional driving pleasure.

The DCC adaptive damping system continuously reacts to the road surface and driving situation while taking account of various inputs including steering, braking, and acceleration. By means of the set driving profile mode, the driver can influence the reduction in body motion as desired. The required damping is calculated for each wheel and adjusted at the four dampers within fractions of a second. This ensures that DCC always provides the highest level of driving comfort and ideal driving dynamics in conjunction with the Vehicle Dynamics Manager.

In the latest DCC generation, the vehicle setup can be extended in INDIVIDUAL mode to go beyond the existing range of the fixed COMFORT, ECO and SPORT modes. The driver can accurately set and store their personal driving profile using a digital slider. Beyond the COMFORT setting, the body is “decoupled” from the road surface as much as possible, thus boosting comfort. Beyond SPORT mode, there is an extended setting range with maximum damping for minimized body movements and extremely direct handling for that unbridled GTI feeling.

The progressive variable-rate steering system is installed as standard in the new Golf GTI. This is essentially differentiated from the basic steering system by variable steering rack and pinion gearing as well as a more powerful electric motor. This system has also been enhanced, with a more direct ratio and new software and software algorithms. The variable ratio on the steering significantly reduces the effort required when maneuvering and parking, but on winding country roads the steering is more direct. From lock to lock, there’s a mere 2.1 turns.  

 

About Volkswagen

Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is an operating unit of Volkswagen Group of America and a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, with headquarters in Herndon, Virginia. Volkswagen’s operations in the United States include research and development, parts and vehicle processing, parts distribution centers, sales, marketing and service offices, financial service centers, and its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Volkswagen Group is one of the world's largest producers of passenger cars and Europe's largest automaker. Volkswagen sells the Arteon, Atlas, Atlas Cross Sport, Golf, Golf GTI, Jetta, Jetta GLI, Passat, and Tiguan vehicles through more than 600 independent U.S. dealers. Visit Volkswagen online at www.vw.com or media.vw.com to learn more.

 

“DCC”, “DSG”, “TSI”, “VW”, “Volkswagen”, “XDS”, all model names and the Volkswagen logo are registered trademarks of Volkswagen AG. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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