By Mauricio Lezcano / carsntravel.com / Photos VW US Media Newsroom
The car that defined the term hot hatch. In 2018 the Golf GTI returns with a host of enhancements that continue the tradition of affordable performance it has built since its U.S. debut in 1983.
The seventh-generation car is wrapped in sheet metal that is modern, yet equally unmistakable as a Volkswagen Golf GTI. The shape and design elements remain as defined as ever, with a distinctive C-pillar, roofline framing, and classic Golf GTI side windows, but the striking new front end and steeply sloped hood leave no doubt this is different from previous generations.
For 2018, the look gains new sharpness with standard LED Daytime Running Lights and, on SE and Autobahn models, LED headlights with the Adaptive Front-lighting System. A bright-red horizontal strip visually connects the headlights to a revised grille and bumper. Those reworked fascia’s carry a strong character line that travels along the side and all the way back to the taillight clusters, only breaking for the wheel-arches. Just above, another body line can be traced from the rear side window all the way back up to the headlights. These subtle body lines help create a poised yet elegant appearance.
In addition to the red horizontal highlight on the grille, the 2018 Golf GTI has several other visual differences from its conventional Golf brethren. The lower front fascia incorporates standard LED fog lights housed within a series of horizontal strakes on either side of a unique mesh pattern grille. Red-painted brake calipers peek behind bespoke GTI wheels and subtle side skirts help to give the GTI a more planted appearance. Around back, bright exhaust tips sit on either side of a unique rear diffuser, while a roof spoiler and LED taillights further differentiate the car.
The large, mature cabin has an emphasis on comfort and a substantial features list. There is 93.5 cubic feet of interior room, along with 16.5 cubic feet up of luggage space up to the parcel shelf and 22.8 cu ft to the roof space that rivals even the largest midsize sedan. The versatility of the load space is enhanced by a trunk floor that can be raised or lowered, while the 60:40 split backrest can be folded to give an almost flat cargo area that can easily accommodate a full-size bicycle. With the rear seats folded, the Golf GTI has 52.7 cu ft of cargo capacity.
In addition to the spacious interior, the driver controls are positioned to help optimize ergonomics and usability. The seat position, height of the shifter and the spacing between the pedals are fine-tuned for increased driver comfort. This new driver-centric design focus is evident from the center stack, which is angled towards the driver a trait frequently seen in premium luxury or performance vehicles.
The Golf GTI’s premium performance personality is further accentuated from the regular Golf model by the red ambient lighting and illuminated door sills; black headliner and trim inserts; buttons and switches that are backlit in white; and the use of premium materials and soft-touch plastics throughout. A GTI-specific instrument cluster, sporty aluminum-look pedals, the unique shifter knob, and the flat-bottomed sport steering wheel also ensure differentiation from its less-sporty siblings.
An equal amount of attention has been paid to helping maximize comfort and convenience. The standard front sport seats, with classic GTI “Clark” plaid seating surfaces, can be heated, and there are six cup holders. Cruise control switches and media controls are housed on the leather-wrapped and red-stitched multifunction steering wheel.
MIB II Infotainment
As standard equipment across the Golf GTI line, the MIB II infotainment system not only creates the foundation for the next generation of Volkswagen’s Car-Net connected vehicle services platform, but also offers one of the most comprehensive suites of connected vehicle services and features available in the automotive industry today.
The GTI S is equipped with the Composition Color unit, which features a new 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen display. The infotainment system also offers SD card and USB multimedia interfaces, as well as a rearview camera and standard Bluetooth technology for compatible devices.
All other GTI models are equipped with a glass-covered 8.0-inch capacitive touchscreen display, SE models with the Composition Media unit; Autobahn models with the Discover Media system with navigation. The new 8.0-inch display is not only brighter than previous generation of MIB II, it also offers better color reproduction, response time and improved viewing angles due to the switch to In-plane Switching technology.
Both units feature one USB port, a JPEG viewer, SiriusXM Satellite Radio for a three-month trial period, HD Radio, and support for lossless audio file format. Both units also can send and receive SMS text messages with Bluetooth with compatible phones and pair two phones simultaneously. The Discover Media unit offers 2.5D navigation, featuring one-shot voice destination entry, destination entry with quick search and auto-complete, and predicts possible destinations based on often used routes.
In classic Volkswagen style, the Golf GTI is powered by a compact turbocharged engine. The 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged and direct-injection unit that powers the Golf GTI is a member of the latest, third-generation EA888 engine family. The EA888 engine line is a masterpiece of modern engine design that provides high levels of performance, efficiency, and drivability in a lightweight, compact package.
The EA888 engine has been retuned for the 2018 model year and produces 220 horsepower at 4,700 rpm, and torque peaks at 258 lb-ft, beginning at just 1,500 rpm and lasting until 4,500 rpm. It can be paired with either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed DSG automatic transmission. The DSG transmission also incorporates a launch control feature and a new Start-Stop System designed to save fuel.
When equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, the Golf GTI achieves an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. When equipped with the optional six-speed DSG automatic transmission, EPA-estimated fuel economy of 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.
The 2018 Golf GTI is available in three trims S, SE and Autobahn. All models now come with 220 horsepower standard, a 10-horsepower increase from previous years, and larger touchscreen infotainment displays. Every Golf GTI features LED Daytime Running Lights and taillights, with LED headlights standard on SE and Autobahn trims.
SE and Autobahn trims also include the brakes from the Golf R and an electronically controlled, torque sensing, limited-slip VAQ differential. Infotainment systems receive larger screens throughout the range, and SE models now include a sunroof as standard equipment.
Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring is now standard on SE and Autobahn trims. Autobahn models also offer standard Park Distance Control, upgraded for 2018 with a new Maneuver Braking feature, Parking Steering Assistant, Lane Departure Warning, and High Beam Control. When activated, this latter feature automatically turns on the high beams above 40 mph, if it detects that there is a low likelihood of dazzling oncoming traffic.
Pricing for the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI with a standard six-speed manual transmission starts at $26,415. The six-speed DSG automatic transmission with Tiptronic starts at $27,515. The destination charge for all Golf GTI models is an additional $850.