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Will Volkswagen’s electrification push turn the GTI into a hybrid?

Why it matters to you

It's proof automakers are warming up to the idea that hybrid cars don't have to be boring.

Volkswagen’s electrification push could reach the GTI. A recent report indicates the next-generation model will offer enthusiasts more power by adopting a gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain for the first time.

The GTI’s hybrid drivetrain will be built around a re-engineered version of Volkswagen’s ubiquitous 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. However, British magazine Autocar has learned the four will lose its turbocharger and instead adopt an electric compressor fed by a 48-volt system. Going electric will virtually eliminate turbo lag.

The hybrid part of the drivetrain will come from an electric motor integrated into a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The motor will boost performance by zapping the front wheels with more power when needed, and it will improve fuel economy by working with the four-cylinder in normal driving conditions.

The GTI will be a mild hybrid, meaning it will not be capable of driving exclusively on electricity. It’s unclear whether the motor can be integrated into a six-speed manual transmission, or if buyers who want three pedals will need to get a non-hybrid model. It’s not too far-fetched to speculate Volkswagen could sell both hybrid and non-hybrid variants of the GTI side-by-side to reach a wider audience.

One of the main issues with a hybrid drivetrain in a performance car is that the components required for electrification add a substantial amount of weight. Volkswagen engineers know this, and they will offset the extra mass by building the GTI on a lighter version of the modular MQB platform.

The 8th-generation Golf is expected to go on sale in late 2019. The GTI will debut a few months later, a time frame that suggests it might not roll into showrooms until the 2021 model year.

Comments made earlier by one of Volkswagen’s top executives suggest the next GTI won’t be the only electrified hot rod in the brand’s lineup. Jürgen Stackmann, the automaker’s sales and marketing boss, explained turning the production version of the all-electric I.D. concept into a driver’s car worthy of wearing the iconic GTI nameplate wouldn’t be complicated to accomplish.