Volkswagen Golf GTI gets major overhaul for final petrol outing

Volkswagen Golf GTI front three quarter
Volkswagen Golf GTI front three quarter

The Mk8.5 Golf is due to be revealed early next year

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is being prepared for one final outing with petrol power as the firm begins laying the groundwork for the hallowed performance badge’s electric future.

After VW revealed the striking ID GTI concept as a near preview of its first EV hot hatchback, based on the upcoming ID 2, its petrol forebear is gearing up for upgrades that look set to bring more power alongside dramatic technological advances and a wide-reaching interior rethink.

Due to be revealed early next year as part of the facelifted Golf line-up, the ‘Mk8.5’ GTI is tipped to stick with pure-combustion power, even as Volkswagen ushers in new mild-hybrid and longer-range plug-in hybrid versions of the standard Golf.

The hot hatch’s EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 242bhp in the current car, giving it a 0-62mph time of 6.3sec and a governed 155mph top speed.

But that engine is tipped to be significantly updated for its final years in production, with the GTI Clubsport ramping output to 296bhp and the four-wheel-drive Golf R touting 326bhp in its most potent form.

The standard GTI’s focus on delivering ‘everyday performance’ means such lofty figures will remain the preserve of those range-toppers, but VW has confirmed the new Tiguan and Passat will be offered with a version of the petrol four-pot that lifts output to 262bhp.

Given the Golf uses the same MQB Evo architecture as those larger siblings, the possibility for that more potent motor to be used in the GTI is evident.

VW has yet to detail exact performance figures, but a 20bhp increase – along with an expected hike in torque to around 300lb ft – could drop the GTI’s 0-62mph time below 6.0sec and make it a closer match for the newer and faster Honda Civic Type R.

The power increase will come alongside revisions to the GTI’s chassis in pursuit of keener dynamics and enhanced rolling refinement. The latest iteration of the MQB platform, as used by the Tiguan and Passat, brings a stiffer rear axle carrier that’s claimed to improve rolling refinement and cornering performance, as well as a more advanced version of the DCC adaptive suspension system that made its debut underneath the current GTI.

Called DCC Pro, it allows for much more precise control of the compression and rebound of the two-valve dampers, which boosts isolation over rougher surfaces while allowing better absorption of road surface imperfections, even while cornering.

Also in the frame is a reprieve for the manual Golf GTI, in line with relaxations to the impending Euro 7 emission regulations that had previously threatened the stick-shift car’s viability.

Autocar previously revealed that the original plans for the new rules – initially set to be introduced in 2025 – would force the retirement of the six-speeder from the whole Golf line-up in a move to reduce VW’s fleet emissions.

But with the European Commission poised to relax the emissions testing requirements and delay their implementation, the route could be paved for a comeback.

Notably, though, the manual GTI is no longer on sale in the UK and the new US-market GTI 380 special edition was described by VW as marking the “final year of manual production”, so it seems more likely the uprated hot hatch will be equipped exclusively with a seven-speed DSG gearbox.

More certain is a wide-reaching revamp of the Golf’s cockpit and infotainment suite, aimed at rectifying the usability and reliability problems that have plagued the hatchback since its 2020 launch. Pictures from our spy photographers reveal that the Golf line-up will get the expansive new 12.9in touchscreen that has been introduced in its newer stablemates, together with a new-look 10.4in instrument display.

Both are expected to usher in simplified menu structures, quicker response times and improved functionality. As part of the overhaul, VW will also introduce light-up touch sliders for the climate controls, making them easier to operate at night.

The haptic controls on the steering wheel, another gripe, will be replaced by conventional switches and buttons, and the Golf will follow the recently refreshed ID 3 in adopting higher-quality materials throughout. The exterior revisions will be more subtle but massaged bumpers and reshaped headlights will be the key differentiators.

Looking further ahead, 2026 will mark the 50th anniversary of the GTI, which means one of the final entrants into the Mk8 family is highly likely to be a commemorative model to follow in the footsteps of the 2021 track-honed Clubsport 45 special edition.

The GTI ‘Edition 50’ will be conceived to showcase the GTI at its best, with bespoke styling, a power boost and an uprated chassis geared towards rapid lap times.

Two years later, in 2028, VW will reveal the ninth-generation Golf as an EV – the first in its line-up to use the new SSP architecture – complete with an uprated GTI hot hatch.