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Volkswagen’s celebrated Golf GTI returns with more power and new tech

Volkswagen introduced the eighth-generation Golf GTI online ahead of its public debut at the 2020 Geneva Auto Show. Although the standard hatchback it’s based on may not come to the United States, the celebrated hot-rodded model has already received clearance to turn its wheels on our shores. It’s more powerful and smarter than before.

Creating a new GTI is a balancing act for everyone involved. On one hand, designers and engineers can’t ignore the nameplate’s 44-year heritage. On the other hand, their task is to move it forward in a meaningful way. Visually, the newest GTI remains true to tradition with subtle changes including a wider grille with honeycomb inserts and integrated LED daytime running lights plus obligatory red accents. GTI emblems hint at the cavalry lurking under the hood, but the overall look isn’t overly loud. Stylists didn’t add gaudy wings and needlessly garish vents.

Step inside, and the GTI tells a different story. Like the eighth-generation Golf, it goes fully digital with a 10.25-inch, driver-configurable instrument cluster and a 10.0-inch touchscreen for the online-connected infotainment system. There are several model-specific features, like a mode that puts a turbo boost gauge, a tachometer, and an output gauge in the driver’s line of sight. Electronic driving aids (like lane-keeping assist), vehicle-to-everything technology, and USB-C charging ports come standard, so it has everything you want in a modern hatchback, but you’ll still find tartan upholstery and a golf ball-shaped shift knob for the manual transmission. Phew.

Creating a new GTI is a balancing act for everyone involved.

The rumors claiming Volkswagen would add the GTI to its on-going electrification offensive weren’t true. Instead, it carries on with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine turbocharged to send 245 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. These specifications suggest the GTI will drive at least as well as its predecessor, which deserved the high praise it got from me and my colleagues, and I’d expect nothing less. Performance numbers will be released closer to its on-sale date.

Speaking of, Volkswagen will release information about the American-spec Golf GTI (including its final output and its availability) in the coming months. Sales will likely begin during the 2021 model year, and pricing will start in the vicinity of $30,000. The hot hatch is one of 34 new and updated models the German company will launch in 2020.

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