28 September 2020
A brand new-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI examined on UK roads for the primary time, although admittedly in left-hand-drive kind. That Wolfsburg has wasted so little time in introducing this automotive into the broader Mk8 Golf mannequin household reveals you the way essential it has grow to be, and the way considerably it now underpins the profitability of the Golf’s enterprise case.
Comparatively restrained and considered tuning has, as its 4 many years on sale have rolled on, given the GTI a broader-based enchantment than so lots of its sizzling hatchback rivals; and that has meant cash within the financial institution for VW. The plain fact is, each quantity automotive maker on the earth needs it had a big-selling efficiency by-product as commercially profitable as this, and lots have tried – and sometimes failed – to emulate its recipe.
And but, when you would possibly count on VW to tinker very cautiously with such a recipe, we already know that this eighth iteration isn’t simply extra of the identical. Over latest generational metamorphoses, the GTI has actually been handled with child gloves; when the goatee-bearded Mk5 segued into the marginally plusher however deeply acquainted Mk6, after which into the extra chiselled Mk7, you’d have been forgiven, in some methods, for blinking and never noticing.
However whereas Wolfsburg assures us that on a regular basis, real-world driver enchantment, and that just-so mix of desirability and bang-for-the-buck worth, stay the center and soul of the GTI’s mission assertion, it’s actually taken a threat with its golden goose this time round. The Mk8 is sort of clearly a automotive with larger ambition to excite and entertain than so lots of its forebears have had.
The query for this tester, having simply spent a protracted day driving one, is whether or not it’s nonetheless the slick, versatile, usable and dynamically polished proposition you would possibly count on it to be.
What’s it like?
We’ve detailed the technical modifications which have been wrought on this automotive earlier than, and what precisely separates it from a Mk7.5 GTI beneath the pores and skin, in each early passenger rides and in our European first drive. The quick model is that, whereas the mechanical make-up of this automotive could look acquainted, little or no of it has escaped overhaul.
The automotive’s engine could have the identical headline outputs because the outdated GTI Efficiency, but it surely has a brand new, higher-pressure gasoline injection system and revised combustion and emissions controls. There often is the similar alternative of six-speed guide and seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearboxes, however the latter is new to the GTI, providing shift-by-wire expertise for the primary time. The ‘XDS+’ electronically managed locking entrance differential you used to get as a part of an possibility pack is now GTI normal package, and has been tuned to work even tougher to reinforce the automotive’s dealing with.
Now you can go as massive as 19in alloy wheels on the automotive if you wish to, greater than any common GTI has had earlier than, with chunky 235-section tyres specifically developed by Bridgestone. ‘DCC’ adaptive dampers stay an possibility, however even these have been recalibrated to supply a broader unfold of adjustability within the automotive’s physique management and experience consolation and a extra exact degree of alternative over precisely how tender and supple, or taut and tenacious, you need the automotive to really feel.
So there’s a lot that’s new to absorb. However the wider modifications to the GTI’s suspension and steering in all probability communicate loudest about its new, barely racier priorities. The automotive rides 15mm decrease than an everyday Golf; however in contrast with the outgoing GTI, it has spring charges firmed up by 5% on the entrance axle and a few 15% on the rear. Reworked rear-axle kinematics and mountings have been adopted to create higher lateral wheel management and chassis response, whereas the automotive’s ‘progressive’ rising-rate steering has been quickened by between 5% and seven%.
All of that has been finished, says VW, with a deal with creating keener dealing with response throughout the velocity vary, however particularly on better-rotating the automotive’s chassis in tighter corners and in doing so producing a extra poised, agile and – whisper it – barely playful really feel. It’s left fairly a placing impression. The GTI is now extra vigorous and potent-feeling than its predecessors, with a larger urge for food for mauling the Tarmac and altering path.
However the hassle is… properly, that doesn’t sound very GTI, does it? This automotive’s dynamic stature has not, to this point no less than, been one to measure in how shortly or neatly it may possibly negotiate an 18-metre slalom take a look at. What has made the easiest trendy quick Golfs stand out for so long as I’ve been reviewing them is that they dare to be pragmatic efficiency street automobiles. They’re born out of considering that values the capability to take aside a moist and uneven B-road no less than as extremely as shaving a number of seconds off some dealing with observe lap time; if not, increased nonetheless.
The brand new GTI is tauter, pointier, extra direct and extra vigorous to drive than that acquainted, finely polished outdated GTI recipe; but additionally firmer, fussier and a little bit bit much less couth with it. Then once more, should you’ve at all times considered this automotive as a little bit of a moist blanket, I suppose, it’d now be a extra engaging prospect.
The automotive’s very recognisable from the motive force’s seat. It’s now one with an built-in headrest design however continues to be very comfy, with good-sized bolsters you possibly can lean on. The de rigueur plaid fabric upholstery is current and proper, and the controls are properly situated in entrance of them, the marginally overly cumbersome gearlever and overly chubby steering wheel rim being solely minor bugbears.
The touch-sensitive regime for its secondary controls won’t be your cup of tea; the spokes of its steering wheel are actually busy, and it’s simple to pull a thumb throughout them by mistake when you’re feeding the wheel. However the digital devices, I preferred; they’re clear and adaptable, and I’m a sucker for the stylised GTI-branding and honeycomb background they’ve.
The revised EA888 2.0-litre turbo engine nonetheless appears a little bit bit cultured by class requirements. It doesn’t pop or bang on the overrun, doesn’t growth or whistle beneath load both, and is usually properly in a position to fade all the way down to a restrained background hum once you need it to. It’s torquier than you count on it to be, although, with a fairly fierce, thrusty sort or responsiveness from about 2500rpm. It doesn’t supply a lot past 5000rpm; and even when it did, the automotive’s barely nondescript guide shift motion and pedal weights wouldn’t be notably tactile invites to wring out the revs. However the GTI actually feels fairly potent and ‘on tune’ should you preserve the needle between these two crank speeds, and it will get up the street greater than urgently sufficient to carry your consideration.
The brand new and barely insistent firmness of the automotive’s experience, and damping that at instances can really feel just a bit bit gristly and uncompromising, will preserve you concentrating, too; probably distract you, even, should you hit a testing floor and also you’re all of the sudden on the lookout for an adaptive damping mode that brings that fast-striding ‘GTI’ suppleness out of the automotive, which someway now appears conspicuous by its absence.
As shocked as I’m to be reporting it, I mustn’t exaggerate this; on most UK roads, the brand new GTI rides properly sufficient – and nonetheless higher than quite a lot of its rivals. There’s a lateral firmness to its set-up that makes it liable to a little bit of head-toss when its axles are upset asymmetrically, although, and a grabbiness to the damping over greater vertical inputs that may be difficult to iron out even with the automotive’s new 15-position ‘DCC slider’ adjuster (obtainable in Particular person drive mode) pushed all the way in which down. On a patchy motorway, the automotive has the gentlest high-frequency fidget about it and is simply that little bit reluctant to settle. That newly stiffened rear axle – the way in which it’s mounted in addition to tuned – is plainly the principle trigger; a lot because it’s additionally an enormous consider delivering the automotive’s dealing with positive aspects.
So, are they price it? Properly, I drove the automotive for many of a day, round cities and on trunk roads simply getting from A to B to start with; and at first it didn’t really feel so completely different. A bit leaner and keener in its low-speed responses, sure, however nonetheless usually linear-feeling reasonably than hyperactive in its dealing with, and predictably mild, slick and simple to function by way of the controls. The quicker I went and the tougher I regarded, the extra clearly the larger agility and tenacity of that chassis turned evident, but it surely didn’t appear character-changing. Not at first.
After which I went on the lookout for a ‘GTI’ street – one to throw bumps, crags, gradients, camber, slipperiness, coarseness and corners of various sorts on the automotive in testing combos – to search out out simply how a lot punishment it may filter out and absorb, however nonetheless hunker down and crack on in that usually composed, quick Golf approach. However actually, the automotive I used to be on the lookout for wasn’t there. And the one I regularly unearthed – compelling, quick, degree and eager although it was – appeared rather more like a generic trendy sizzling hatchback than an inimitable and distinct 44-year-old efficiency icon that had earned the correct to go its personal approach.
Ought to I purchase one?
You’ll be able to’t miss the additional vim, vigour, grip or incisiveness there may be about this automotive’s dealing with, any greater than you possibly can argue that these issues haven’t been to some extent lacking from the everyday Golf GTI for a very long time. They may be precisely what you need from a quick Golf; or, should you preferred the maturity and understatement this automotive has represented for thus lengthy, maybe they received’t.
They arrive packaged in a automotive that continues to be, in a lot of methods, a really full, elegant and usable each day driver. With its newest touchscreen controls, adaptable digital devices and the most recent V-to-X driver help and security methods on-board, the Golf has grow to be a completely paid-up member of the technological avant-garde the place hatchbacks are involved. It’s additionally as sensible and, broadly talking, as well-built as ever a Golf has been earlier than; some have claimed that its legendary perceived high quality has taken a knock on this newest era, but when it has, it’s not by sufficient to make a distinction to the automotive’s standing relative to its rivals.
However in supplying that further little bit of firmness, agility, angle and chew on this automotive, in altering what these three letters stand for on the bootlid of a sizzling hatchback, and in searching for to present us extra causes to purchase a GTI, I simply marvel if VW has truly given us fewer actually good causes. That is an altered animal – and it’s actually going to take some getting used to.
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