Quicker, more digital, still plaid

Volkswagen calls the upcoming 2022 Golf GTI the most digital GTI of all time, but don’t worry, the German brand is referring to the car’s interior. The techno-revolution will spare the sporty handling that has made it a hot hatch favorite since it was introduced in 1975. The eighth generation, or Mk VIII, Golf GTI will sport a digital instrument cluster, a larger infotainment screen, and more connectivity. More important for enthusiasts, though, it will have more power and greater agility, and be quicker around a racetrack.

The 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI will arrive in the second half of 2021 only as a four-door model. The two-door won’t return, and neither will the base Golf TSI. A Golf R will hit the market at about the same time also as a 2022 model. We had previously speculated that both would be 2021s.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

Power and dynamics

Under the hood, the GTI gets the EA888 evo4 2.0-liter turbo-4. With 242 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, it makes 14 more horses and 15 more lb-ft of torque than the current engine. It will be paired to a standard 6-speed manual transmission or an available 7-speed dual-clutch transmission now controlled electronically. Don’t worry about the manual dying off; 40 percent of current GTI and Golf R buyers choose it in the U.S.

Underneath, Volkswagen tweaks a winning formula. A front differential lock comes standard, as does an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. The car continues on an updated version of the MQB platform used by the current model.

The MacPherson front suspension’s wishbone bushings, springs, and bump stops are all revised, and the adjustable dampers have new software settings. The aluminum subframe is strengthened and 6.6 pounds lighter. The multi-link rear axle also gets new damper software, as well as revisions to the springs, helper springs, wheel mounts, and wishbone bushings, plus new damper bearings and hydraulics. The springs themselves are 5 percent stiffer up front and 15 percent stiffer in the rear. VW will offer 17-, 18-, and 19-inch wheels, with all-season tires standard and summer performance tires optional.

Steering and braking also get key revisions. The brakes have a larger master cylinder for better feel, especially near the ABS threshold, and the variable-ratio, electric-assist steering has new software for more steering comfort and reduced steering angles; the wheel turns just 2.1 times lock to lock.

Drivers will also have greater control of the drive modes, which control the dampers, locking front differential, and limited-slip differential. The 2022 Golf GTI will come with Eco, Comfort, Sport, Individual, and Snow modes. The Individual mode brings up a slider that lets drivers choose settings above Sport and below Comfort for an even softer or a more precise driving experience. The stability control has three settings of its own: standard, sport, and off.

VW says these changes make the new GTI more agile, with more-neutral steering and handling, increased grip, better bump-steer response, and greater stability and precision, all while retaining the comfortable ride quality that has made the GTI not only sporty fun but also every-day practical. In VW’s testing, the Mk VIII GTI lapped the brand’s 2.05-mile Ehra test track 3.9 seconds quicker than the Mk VII, went 1.8 mph faster in a high-speed double-lane change maneuver, and attacked a slalom 1.9 mph faster.

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Design

The new Golf GTI is slightly longer and lower than the current model, but otherwise casts a similar shadow. Reduced drag and increased lift on the front axle combine with reduced lift on the rear (which aids handling and stability) for all-around better aero balance. This also helps reduce the coefficient of drag from 0.30 to 0.275. The corners of the body design, as well as the exterior mirrors, roof spoiler, wheel arches, and underbody panels, also play into the drag reduction.

The GTI’s new design is most visible up front, where the nose has more of a wedge shape. The face features an upper red strip with an LED crossbar below it, both of which flow into slim LED headlights. The lower honeycomb grille and front air intakes are wider for a planted stance, and optional X-shaped LED fog lights sit within those intakes. Similarly, the lower portions of the body are wider and more rectangular, while the upper portions taper in to play off the front wedge shape and create a sportier look. Other details include red brake calipers and chrome exhaust tips on either side of the rear diffuser.

Inside, the GTI gets sport seats with integrated head restraints and the familiar tartan (plaid) fabric inserts that trace their roots all the way back to the first-generation GTI. A new steering wheel has a flat bottom, a GTI badge, a red applique, and touch controls.

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Connected cabin

The GTI’s cabin will come standard with a 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system; a 10.0-inch infotainment touchscreen will be optional. Drivers will be able to choose the configuration of the screens as well as the interior’s background lighting, which boasts 30 colors. An on-board eSIM card also enables a wi-fi hotspot, streaming digital audio, and other online features available through the We Connect app.

Safety and features

Every GTI will have automatic emergency braking and active lane control. Other standard features will include automatic climate control, keyless starting, Bluetooth, a heated steering wheel, LED reading lights, and two USB-C ports.

Volkswagen doesn’t have pricing yet, but the new GTI has more equipment and more tech features; a VW spokesman estimated a price increase of less than 10%. The current car starts at $29,515, so expect the new car to start around $32,000.

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