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An electric Volkswagen GTI could prove going green doesn’t mean going soft

Why it matters to you

Electrification is changing the way automakers like Volkswagen view performance.

Volkswagen’s upcoming electric vehicle offensive could include a sporty, GTI-badged model, the company has suggested. The nameplate has denoted gasoline-burning hot hatches for decades, but companies like Tesla have proved that going electric doesn’t necessarily mean going soft.

“I think the formula of GTI will change — it will not be the same formula that took us here. But to have an exhilarating, fun to own, fun to drive car, with electric cars it is possible to deliver that. Technology is clearly set to be able to do that — it is actually quite easy to do,” said Jürgen Stackmann, Volkswagen’s sales and marketing boss, in an interview with British magazine Auto Express.

More: VW built the most fun compact hybrid you can buy … but not in the U.S.

The magazine speculates Volkswagen’s first battery-powered GTI will be based on the production version of the I.D. concept (pictured). The standard hatchback will be rear-engined and rear-wheel drive, meaning it would spawn a GTI with completely different driving dynamics than any model to date. Volkswagen could simply accept that, but Stackmann hinted building an electric hot hatch with four-wheel drive is also a possibility.

The current GTI hits 60 mph from a standstill in 5.8 seconds, according to Car & Driver. In comparison, the I.D. concept performs the same task in less than eight seconds. The hatchback needs to become a faster sprinter in order to be considered a true GTI, and it needs to provide the engaging, buttoned-down handling enthusiasts have come to expect since the first-generation model debuted in 1976.

The production version of the I.D. concept isn’t scheduled to debut until 2020, so Volkswagen has plenty of time to figure out whether building a hot-rodded model makes sense, and whether it’s worthy of the iconic GTI emblem. Volkswagen of America CEO Hinrich Woebcken recently explained to Digital Trends that the I.D. won’t replace the Golf, so it stands to reason the arrival of a faster model wouldn’t spell the end of the Golf GTI.