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334hp Mk 8 Golf R spied | Update

Winter testing gives us our best look yet at the new Golf range-topper

By Sam Sheehan / Monday, February 17, 2020

Last week's rendered preview of the upcoming GTD gave us our clearest indication yet of how the sportier Mk 8 Golfs will differ in appearance from their cooking cousins. With the usual assortment of larger grilles and sharper creases all present and correct, it renewed our hope that the hotter hatches in the range will offer a greater degree of visual intent than their droopy-faced relatives.

This week brings us new shots of the Mk 8 Golf R, a model believed to be a little further from release than the Geneva-bound GTI and D. Wearing a set of R wheels over uprated brakes and calipers, the test mule also sports the quad exhaust set-up which has come to be associated with the car. Aesthetically it doesn't seem to be quite there yet; while airflow through the front grille has certainly been increased, a more aggressively styled bumper, flared arches and rear wing are all surely still to come.

One thing the new photos do look to show for the first time is the full-width light strip depicted in that GTD drawing. While the Mk.7 Golf R made do with a simple chrome strip in place of the GTI's iconic red trim, it seems that all performance derivatives of the Golf will get the new LED-infused design for 2020 - if the feature's brightness relative to the headlights and contrast in comparison to the chrome VW badge are anything to go by, at least.

With a leak - detailed below - already seeming to have confirmed a 334hp output for the new R, it certainly ought to outperform its predecessor on the road regardless of how it stacks up at the kerb. Even the Performance Pack'd Mk 7 only produced 310hp, meaning the new car should be capable of handily beating its 4.6-second and 166mph 0-62 and top speed figures. And that's before we address the rumours of a 400hp 'R Plus' model, set to go toe-to-toe with Mercedes' A45 AMG and Audi's RS3...

Pics: S.Baldauf/S.B. Medien

LAST UPDATE: 22/01/2020

Volkswagen's next Golf R will head the Mk8 range with 334hp, bookended by a 245hp GTI that will arrive first in the spring. That's according to the numbers featured on what's purported to be a leaked internal slide posted onto social media, suggesting the upcoming R and GTI will have 11hp and 29hp more than their respective seventh-gen predecessors. The slide also says the TCR will have 300hp and the GTD will have 197hp, bringing gains all round.

Those who've kept track of rumours for the Mk8 range will note that the leaked figures are considerably lower than previously expected. The most ambitious speculators had suggested 400hp for the top R model, although that headline figure has been rolling around the internet for years. The lower figure is entirely plausible given the model's current positioning and while it would leave the car 52hp short of AMG's non-S A45, it would overshadow the current A35, which is likely to be closer in price.

VW has refrained from commenting on the numbers at this stage so they're certainly not confirmed by any means, byt we've less than two months to wait before the GTI is officially revealed. The car will be shown in public at the Geneva motor show in March, where it's expected to retain the EA888 turbocharged 2.0-litre of the Mk7, albeit with a few upgrades to achieve its bump in peak output. Barring the already announced new hybrid GTE, each hot Mk8 Golf is expected to retain the performance four-pot motor in differing states of tune. Clearly the slide does not preclude the introduction of a more powerful R version - or a Clubsport S - as we'd expect to see them later in the Mk8 life cycle anyway. Fingers crossed, eh...

LAST UPDATE: 02.12.19

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…

Previous story: 11.07.2019

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]

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