Crisp and connected, the Volkswagen Golf will get a digital reboot in 2020

Volkswagen Golf 8 sketch

The Golf is to Volkswagen what the iPhone is to Apple. It has been the firm’s cornerstone since the original model made its debut in 1974 as a replacement for the rear-engined Beetle. Volkswagen is putting the final touches on an eighth-generation model with a sharper design and a panoply of tech features that have trickled down from bigger, more expensive models. While the hatchback is still a few months away from making its debut, Volkswagen released a pair of design sketches and preliminary information that give us a taste of what to expect from it.

One of the sketches suggest the eighth-generation model is still recognizable as a Golf, but it’s not merely a careful update of the current, seventh-generation car. Designers made the air dam integrated into the front bumper bigger as they reduced the size of the grille to achieve a crisp, confident look. We haven’t seen the back end of it yet, but we expect similar styling changes. The sheet metal hides an update of the modular MQB platform.

While the next Golf will be the eighth generation of the nameplate, one look inside suggests it may as well be the 10th. The second sketch confirms the Golf will benefit from big technology upgrades such as a wide display made up of two screens. The one on the left, positioned directly behind the steering wheel, will replace the analog instrument cluster in most models. The one on the right will let the front passengers access the infotainment system, which we also expect will be new. We’ve seen this setup before, but only on relatively expensive cars like members of the Mercedes-Benz family.

“People want a Golf — it’s iconic — but now there’s a huge leap forward in the digitization inside it. It’s still a Golf, but now digital. It’s kept what people have loved and moved it to the next phase,” Volkswagen board member Juergen Stackmann told British magazine Autocar.

To that end, designers have also drastically reduced the number of buttons, dials, and switches in the cabin to achieve a cleaner, more elegant look. An over-the-air updating system will keep its software current even as it ages, and the car will be permanently connected to the internet.

Volkswagen mk8 Golf teaser sketch

The Golf adopts mild hybrid, 48-volt technology to keep fuel economy and CO2 emissions in check. The 1.0-liter and 1.5-liter engines feature a belt-driven starter-generator which recovers kinetic energy when the car coasts, sends it to a small battery pack, and pumps it through the drivetrain under acceleration. The system relies on data from the navigation system to locate the best place to release electricity; extra power makes more sense when going up a steep hill than when cruising through a crowded city center, for example.

Digital Trends has already tested Audi’s version of the 48-volt mild hybrid technology in the second-generation A7, among other models, and we concluded it’s an unobtrusive way to save fuel. This system will become increasingly common in every segment of the market in the coming years as automakers go to great lengths to comply with ever-stricter emissions regulations.

Not every variant of the eighth-generation Golf will be electrified, though full technical specifications remain guarded for the time being. We’re looking forward to discovering the next episode in the GTI saga, and we know the mighty Golf R will once again occupy the top spot in the hierarchy.

Earlier reports claimed Volkswagen wanted to save the eighth-generation Golf for the 2019 Frankfurt Auto Show. Those plans have changed. We now know the star of the firm’s display in Frankfurt will be the ID.3, its first purpose-designed electric model. The next Golf will instead make its global debut in early 2020, though Volkswagen hasn’t revealed precisely when and where we’ll see it in the metal for the first time. Sales will begin for the 2021 model year — assuming the Golf returns to the American market.

Unverified rumors suggest the American market will receive the GTI and Golf R variants, but it won’t get the standard Golf because it competes in a small segment of the market that’s not expected to get bigger anytime soon. Volkswagen hasn’t confirmed the reports; a spokesperson told Digital Trends that the firm hasn’t decided whether to sell the eighth-gen Golf in America yet.

“The Golf R and GTI are confirmed, but other Golf 8 models are still under consideration for the North American region,” the spokesperson told us. Additional details about the hatchback — and the odds of it turning a wheel on American asphalt — will emerge by the end of 2019.

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