They say that when a car looks good in white, then it will look good in any color. In my opinion, the upcoming 2014 Volkswagen GTI is one of those cars. It has that understated and disciplined German design that stays true to the generations before it, yet ages well in its own right. But I digress. The real question is – does the 7th generation VW GTI retain the soul of the original hot hatch?
When the original Mk1 GTI was introduced in 1976, that car’s mission was to combine the practicality of a small hatchback with a sporty and fun character. The Mk1 accomplished it with small size, low weight (just 1,785 lbs), and a new powerful fuel injected motor (1.6 liter 110 HP). Thus the VW Grand Tourer Injection (GTI) was born.
First, the latest GTI and the Golf on which it is based continues to grow in dimensions. Also, the GTI continues to get more sophisticated and luxurious. Perhaps, the GTI is the trend setter in its class. When the GTI changes, others take notice.
Fast forward almost four decades, at the Mk7 VW GTI formula is the same, albeit on a bigger and more luxurious scale. Take the practical VW Golf as the foundation and spice it up with extra performance. What ingredients does the latest GTI use to accomplish this goal? Well, the biggest enemy of sporty performance is weight, and the Mk7 fights back by loosing nearly 200 lbs compared to the Mk6. It does not weigh anywhere close to 1,785 lbs of the original, but approximately 2,850 lbs for a 2-door with a manual transmission is pretty good by today’s standards. This weight saving is primarily delivered by Volkswagen’s latest MQB modular platform. The MQB also allows the latest model to grow the overall and interior dimensions by a couple of inches. (Does it mean – more room for a racing cage?!)
What motor motivates this latest iteration? It’s still the familiar 2.0 liter direct injected turbocharged 4-cylinder that now makes 217 hp in its base form. Lets hope that the factory certified Performance Pack boost of 10 hp that debuts on this concept makes its way as an option to the American market. The torque is up to 258 lb-ft in both tunes. This allows the new GTI to sprint from 0-60 mph in the low 6 second range (or nearly 3 seconds faster than the Mk1).
The Mk7 keeps getting smarter with a new electronically controlled differential locking system. This system improves the cornering speeds by allowing more power to go to the outside driving wheel. It also makes the car more neutral by improving understeer and oversteer. This diff lock has already been tested at Nurburgring and showed an 8 second lap improvement. The Mk7 also debuts a variable ratio “progressive” electro-mechanical steering rack. It requires fewer turns of the wheel during slow speed maneuvers, and also becomes more direct in high speed turns. We cannot wait to sample this new system, and we hope that these new tricks actually improve the steering feel and cornering performance instead of numbing it down.
The 2014 Volkswagen GTI looks to be on the right track. It addresses the weight problem, adds more power, and works on the handling characteristics. It also becomes a little roomier and more comfortable than ever before. I can still see the spirit of the original hot hatch in this one. Can’t wait to drive it!
Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, writer, and software engineer. On the weekends – you may find him at a car show, an auction, watching a race, or tinkering with a car in the garage. When not working or spending time with the family – he often scours the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.