The Volkswagen GTI has earned a place near the top of our favorite affordable sporty cars several times over. In part, that’s because the selection is fairly limited; unlike in Europe, hot hatches and the like aren’t all that common. But it’s also because the sporty two-box VW punches well above its weight on many levels: not just performance, but build quality, usability, and the ever-important, hard-to-define quality Volkswagen itself made famous under the term farfegnugen — driving pleasure.
Of course, all that’s only known about the current and former generations of the iconic hatch. An all-new generation of Golf is nearing its big reveal, and with it will come a new GTI — one being born into a new era at Volkswagen, where the carmarker is in the midst of being transformed by its monumental push to electrification in the wake of Dieselgate and in the face of ever-stricter regulations across much of the world. It’s only natural to ask: Will the GTI be left behind?
Well, fear not, worried Waterfest attendees. According to VW’s US boss, the GTI is sticking around, and the next one will be “cool as hell.”
Those three reassuring words uttered by VW of America CEO Scott Keogh come from a recent wide-ranging recent interview with Automobile. “We will be launching the Golf Eight, which will be the next-gen and it will have a GTI, so we’re 100 percent on board [with that model],” Keogh told the publication. “But right now the GTI is going to stay GTI. And the [eighth-gen version of that] will come, and it’s going to be as cool as hell.”
It’s good news for many reasons — not the least of which being the rumors that Volkswagen is planning on axing the regular (I.e. non-GTI and Golf R) versions of the Golf from American showrooms, which Keogh’s “100 percent on board” comment seems to negate. (It wouldn’t be that big a surprise if they did, thought, considering the carmaker sells roughly twice as many GTIs as regular Golfs here.) But it also is proof that the carmaker isn’t giving up on its traditional mission of serving up fun, inexpensive vehicles…which hopefully bodes well for our chances of getting a small Vee-Dub pickup truck here in the US.
That said, keeping things status quo wouldn’t seem to fit the definition of “cool as hell,” so it seems safe to assume the next-gen GTI will score a few updates that’ll keep it fresh and fun. The platform will still be based on a version of the super-flexible MQB architecture found under most of Volkswagen’s current front-wheel-drive-based models, but it’ll likely be lighter and stronger than the version used in the current Golf. An EV powertrain doesn’t seem likely — gas-free performance will be the prerogative of VW’s new ID family of cars — so expect a turbo inline-four to stick around under the hood. That said, Car and Driver claims it’ll likely add 48-volt mild hybrid capabilities, which can improve fuel economy and, as we found out during our test of Mercedes-AMG’s 53 models, smooth out the power delivery of a turbocharged engine. Fingers crossed for the continued choice of six-speed manual and seven-speed dual clutch automatic currently found on the model, as well as the sweet plaid seats that have become a GTI trademark.
The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf is expected to make its debut before the end of the 2019 calendar year, though we in the US will likely have to wait until the following year to snap one up.