Volkswagen has big plans for the eighth-generation Golf GTI coming to U.S. showrooms next year, but while the sporty hatchback is expected to retain strong demand, the automaker now plans to end sales of the conventional Golf line, officials revealed Wednesday.
Going forward, American buyers will only have access to the GTI and the less sporty Golf R, said Hein Schafer, senior vice president of product marketing for Volkswagen of America. There are no plans, meanwhile, to bring either an all-electric or plug-in hybrid version of the Golf to the U.S., added Schafer, though he did note during a media webinar that the German automaker is working on an electrified concept version of the new GTI.
“I wouldn’t say the door is closed,” said Schafer, but considering the rapid decline in demand for hatchbacks during the last several years, “It is highly unlikely that the (standard Golf) version will come to the U.S.”
Despite the dramatic shift in the U.S. market from passenger cars to light trucks, the Volkswagen GTI and, to a lesser degree, the Golf R, have retained a strong buyer base. In fact, the U.S. and Canada together account for 45% of global demand for the GTI, said Product Manager Megan Closset, making North America the single largest market for the sporty hatchback.
VW hopes that it can move at least some conventional Golf buyers over to those two models when they come to the U.S. While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could lead to timing changes, the current plan calls for the 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI to go on sale during the “back half of next year,” said Schafer, the Golf R coming around the same time.
For the 2021 model year, the existing seventh-generation GTI will remain available in the States, though the Golf R will be out of market, that version of the hatchback ending its run temporarily with the end of the 2019 model year.
The next-gen Golf line, in general, will be “evolutionized, rather than revolutionized,” said Closset, adding that the automaker wanted to “play it a little safe with design.”
In a separate web briefing last week, VW global design chief Klaus Bischoff emphasized there are clear “do’s and don’ts” when working with such an iconic product. The basic dimensions of the 2022 Golf – and variants – is near identical to the outgoing product, but for a slightly lower roof.
The GTI does adopt a softer, more rounded look, with a sloped nose anchored by a low, crosshatched grille and slit-like headlamps, while the sides are more curvaceous than the outgoing GTI and there’s a subtle, coupe-like roll to the hatchback’s roofline.
The new honeycomb grille with 10 integrated foglamps is meant to accentuate the GTI’s width and make the car appear much lower.
The interior gets a much more high-tech appearance, VW officials revealed during this week’s briefing. That includes a standard-issue reconfigurable 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster and new 10-inch infotainment touchscreen. The new GTI will feature the Volkswagen We Connect telematics service, ambient lighting that can be adjusted to any of 31 different colors, and a new array of advanced driver assistance systems, including Lane Keeping Assist. A head-up display will be offered as an option.
Of course, with a vehicle like the VW GTI, performance will be the focus for most potential buyers and the hatchback’s 2.0-liter turbo now will deliver 242 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, up from 228 hp and 250 lb-ft with the gen-seven model.
Buyers will have the option of either a seven-speed double-clutch gearbox with paddle shifters or a six-speed manual. With the outgoing GTI and Golf R models, about 40% of customers opted for the stick, noted Closset.
The next GTI will reach market about the time Volkswagen begins ramping up its push into the all-electric vehicle market, the German giant planning to have about 50 battery-electric offerings from its various brands by 2025. That includes the ID.3, the first of these BEVs, which is roughly the size of a Golf. VW officials have hinted at the idea of having something like an ID.R, an all-electric alternative to the Golf R. But there also is interest in finding ways to electrify both the Golf R and GTI models themselves.
“Yes, we do want to find something that potentially can carry forward into the future some of the success we’ve had” in the hot hatch performance market while also expanding VW’s push into electrification, said Schafer. He hinted at the possibility of a concept GT R that would likely use some form of hybrid driveline.
Considering that more and more automakers are seeking ways to use electrification not only to boost mileage but also to enhance performance – taking advantage of the instant torque electric motors can deliver – it seems highly likely we will see electrified versions of the sportiest Golf models, at least in concept form, over the next few years.