The Volkswagen GTI: A Legend Matures

By Geoff Maxted on 18 June, 2020

The legendary Volkswagen Golf GTI needs no introduction. Since 1976 the German model has enlivened the driving experience of millions of motoring enthusiasts. Amazingly, this new version is the eighth iteration of the medium sized hatchback which has grown, over time, in both reputation and size. Early indications suggest that the new design doesn’t meet with total approval. Most like the clean, uncluttered lines but a few dissenters are not convinced by the, in their words, rather bland exterior. Never mind; it’s a Golf GTI and that means tried and tested driving excellence.

The Well-Known Secret

The secret of success is throughout its long life the design changes, yet the basic DNA of that 1976 ancestor has never changed. As always the car is front-wheel drive via agile running gear and is driven by a powerful 242bhp (245PS) engine through a six-speed manual gearbox with a seven-speed DSG shift-by-wire auto ‘box as an option.

The clues are there: The traditional red stripe in the radiator grille, the golf ball gear-shift knob for the manual and the plaid seat covers; all present and correct. The reason this fast hatchback has became an icon is because Volkswagen have continually reinvented it, all along combining tradition with innovation. That continues to be the case for this year’s model. Right on trend, Volkswagen has digitalised and networked the new Golf GTI, near-future proofing it with a multitude of intelligent assistance systems.

This new GTI is one of the first compact performance cars to communicate via Car2X with other vehicles, taking safety to a whole new level. As the first ‘sports’ car in its class, the GTI can be driven with ‘Travel Assist’ all the way up to a speed of 130mph (210 km/h) should you wish to go there. The Travel Assist name is perhaps a touch ambiguous in that it is not full autonomy but rather a combination of lane keep assist and active cruise control systems, allowing the vehicle to look after itself on motorways. The car offers a completely digitalised interior array of displays and controls. 

The All-Important Power

The power delivery of the GTI turbo-engine will exceed expectations, at least according to the manufacturer. The same can be said of the running gear, which can be set precisely by the driver in conjunction with a new generation of adaptive chassis control. For the sake of heritage though some things have remained the same; the perfect ergonomics of the standard chequered sports seats, for example. 

For those more sedately disposed, the familiar Golf variants remain in petrol, diesel and hybrid versions. Of interest to many in these eco-conscious times, the GTE version is aperformance plug-in hybrid which combines electrical sustainability with dynamic performance. This model has an all-electric start with no emissions and is otherwise fitted with a turbocharged petrol engine with electric motor. In terms of power the GTE has attained the output of the GTI so drivers really can have it both ways. To further tempt buyers the hybrid emits zero local emissions and has a battery with 50% more energy capacity extending electrical range to around 37 miles (60 kilometres).

The legendary Golf is back. Again.

By Geoff Maxted