Volkswagen has been caught winter testing its upcoming Mk8 Golf GTI in the Arctic Circle, where the 260hp+ model has ditched all but the smallest elements of its disguise in the run up to an anticipated springtime launch. The five-door model will use an updated version of VW’s EA888 turbo 2.0-litre with sufficient power to take on Hyundai’s i30 N Performance for the first time. Not only will the increase in output shift the entire GTI line-up forwards, it’ll also help the front-driven variants to keep up the pace as the range-topping R arrives with close to 400hp in a bid to take on the AMG A45.
The regular GTI will, however, remain more focussed on providing the broad capabilities of its predecessors, with its engineers expected to deliver even greater refinement and efficiency alongside improved performance. It now seems that the four-cylinder motor will work without electronic assistance - as was previously suggested - but it is expected to make modest gains over the outgoing Performance model. It’s plausible then that a higher-powered version could mirror the 290hp currently available in the TCR.
While the new design will give the Mk8 GTI a different face to its predecessor, the spied car clearly suggests it’ll continue the design evolution seen on the non-sporting Mk8s. We’re thinking the same for what’s underneath, too, with those MQB underpinnings and EA888 engine also being joined by a familiar six-speed manual gearbox or DSG auto, with ‘Vorderachsquersperre’ VAQ offered for those wanting more bite from the front axle. Adaptive damping will also remain a tick-box option, giving the GTI the broad-batted capabilities that have left it unmatched in the segment for years.
Responsibility for facing more focussed alternatives such as the Renault Sport Megane and Honda Civic Type R will fall to the next TCR, which has been confirmed for launch and should surpass the 300hp figure with its version of the 2.0-litre four-pot. Fingers crossed that a Nurburgring-tuned Clubsport S will join the ranks, too, although at this stage there’s no official word on that. Stay tuned…
The next-generation Volkswagen Golf is only a matter of months away, meaning engineers are also at an advanced stage of development for the following GTI version, which has been spotted lifting an inside rear at you know where. The Mk8 model is expected in summer 2020 with an evolved chassis and further developed version of today’s 2.0-litre turbo engine. That means it won’t get the hybrid setup that was previously speculated although, happily for us, it’s still expected to come with a substantial bump in performance.
We’re confident of that thanks to the recent TCR run-out model, which with 290hp and a more engaging setup has set a new agenda for GTI models this side of the circuit-honed Clubsport variant. The Mk8 GTI might not get the TCR’s output, but its updated EA888 motor is expected to have a healthy 260hp, with the motorsport-inspired TCR to make a return shortly after to provide something in the region of 300hp. That would extend the hot Golf’s attack onto the most focussed hatches, including the Honda Civic Type R and Renault Sport Megane Trophy. The next GTI will also retain the choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch, keeping everyone happy.
Although we’ve not yet seen the regular car, spy shots of the GTI show that a similar recipe of design alterations are due with the hot hatch. It’ll wear more aggressive bumpers, larger wheels and a roof spoiler to assert its positioning, but Volkswagen isn't interested in the divisive styling that Honda brought to bear with the Civic Type R. Still, with the more aggressive face of the Mk8 Golf just visible beneath the camouflage, the car ought to look properly purposeful.
As for the cabin, the Mk8 Golf is set to follow suit of its youngest group siblings and get a widescreen dash infotainment system with a digital instrument cluster as standard, meaning options for the interior will be related to software specifications, trim and seats. We’re expecting tartan fabric to remain the default choice for the latter, with leather on the option list. It’s all set to be familiar stuff.
A case of evolution rather than revolution it may be, but clearly the recipe of the Mk7 has just been too successful to warrant significant divergence. The next-gen car’s still some way off, but things are already looking very promising for what is almost certainly going to be the last pure combustion engine Golf GTI generation. Don't you think?
[Images: S. Baldauf/S.B. Median]