Geneva Motor Show 2020

Volkswagen reveals three versions of the 8th-generation 2021 Golf GTI

The Golf adopts a more aerodynamic and modern appearance for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The first time the public will see the eighth-generation 2021 Volkswagen GTI in person will be at the Geneva International Motor Show in early March. Ahead of its public unveiling, Volkswagen has let slip the details of the model along with some pictures.

The fresh model is an evolution of the famed Golf GTI Mark 1 that came to market in 1976. This eighth generation features the debut of three models: the Golf GTI, GTD, and GTE.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI The front bottom of the car is where a cluster of fog lights is located.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

On the outside, the new Golf features a natural design evolution of the previous model. There are standard LED headlights and daytime running lights that sit low on the front end atop the grille, which has its own LED light strip for the first time. Towards the top of the hood, a narrow line spans the front end—red in the case of the GTI, blue for the GTE and silver for the GTD. The available fog lights form an X-shape in the lower honeycomb of the grille.

The GTI rides on unique standard 17-inch Richmond aluminum-alloy wheels and has red brake calipers. Rims that are 18- and 19-inches are available.

On the exterior, the equipment is supplemented by the 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, the rear diffuser, roof spoiler, individualized tail pipes, red brake calipers and sill extensions. The GTI and GTD have a 0.6-inch lower sport suspension than a standard Golf.At the back are LED taillight clusters. Badging has been shifted around the model and appears in new locations on the front, side, and rear. The GTI has one tailpipe on the left while the GTD has dual left tailpipes. on tailpipe is visible on the GTE.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI The rear of the car features standard LED taillights.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Under the hood of the GTI is a turbocharged 2.-liter four-cylinder engine that achieves 245 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque and is paired with a standard six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is available.

The Golf GTE is powered by a 150-horsepower 1.4-liter turbo-four engine that is paired with a 114-horsepower electric motor and six-speed gearbox. It delivers 245 horsepower and 295 pound-feet combined and has an all-electric range of 37 miles.

Volkswagen has given the Golf GTD a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged Diesel engine that achieves 200 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It comes standard with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI The tori-spoke wheel features multi-function buttons.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Undnerpinnning the Golf is a new strut-type front and multi-link rear suspension. They work in connection with the driving dynamics control system (Vehicle Dynamics Manager), which reacts to the road surface and driving conditions with active damping at the rate of a fraction of a second. Drivers have the option of Individual, Comfort, Eco, and Sport drive modes.

The cabin is filled with nods to fresh innovation as well as classic car design. There's a sport steering wheel with three silver double spokes and recessed Wolfsburg emblem, the golf ball shifter knob, and tartan GTI sport seats.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Plaid returns to the model's seats.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

On the steering wheel, there's a Travel Assist button which helps drivers reach 130 mph while Travel Assist is engaged.

Volkswagen has updated the plaid in the Golf to a new checked design called Scalepepper.

Each of the Golf models has interior accents according to their assigned color motif. GTI has black, gray, and red; GTE gets blue; and GTD is gray.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Different models get different colored accents.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Buyers can get up to a 10.25-inch digital coconut and 10-inch navigation system. The standard features list includes LED reading lights, two USB-C ports, single-zone automatic climate control, stainless steel pedals, and push-button start.

Spirited driving and safety are both priorities in the model, which comes standard with lane keeping assist, forward collision alert with assist and pedestrian monitoring, and Car2X (local communication with other vehicles and the traffic infrastructure).

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New Golf GTI and Golf R

The New VW Hot Hatches Do Almost Everything Well

The eight-gen Golf is coming soon.

Victoria Scott

It's undeniable that the Volkswagen GTI has always held an outsize spot in enthusiast culture despite its diminutive size. No other car near its price point has ever been able to so deftly blend the raucous fun of a turbocharged sports car and ironclad build quality in quite the same way as VW's halo hatchback, and the incredibly long and successful production run of the nameplate has meant that every generation has offered something desirable to buyers. From a young age, they were my aspirational car; when I got my first copy of Need For Speed: Underground as a ten-year-old, I excitedly chose the fourth-generation GTI as my starter car. It offered good looks, an incredible engine note, and even on my Playstation it was a joy to fling through the rain-soaked city streets of the Underground map. What other car could offer all that for twenty thousand "credits"?

Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R Western NC was the perfect playground for the hot hatches.Victoria Scott

Fast-forward fifteen years and three generations, and ten-year-old me would still be vindicated. Despite an onslaught of ever-tougher competition from Southeast Asia, the Teutonic GTI is still the standard-bearer of hot hatches. For good reason, as well - the outgoing MK7 GTI and Golf R still offer competitive specs, a fun driving experience, and a fantastic interior for their price, even six years after the generation debuted. So when Volkswagen announced the new MK8, they not only had a chance to improve upon their masterpiece decades in the making, but elevate the entire hot hatchback market, and the excitement I felt back at age ten was rekindled all over again when I had the chance to test it for myself.

Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R Trick handling tech makes any driver feel like a superhero.Victoria Scott

And on paper, the MK8's formula is familiar from the past three generations of GTI: mild revisions to a winning formula. The GTI gains a mild bump in power over the outgoing model, now offering 241 HP and a hefty 273 ft-lbs of torque from the 2.0L turbocharged EA888 four-cylinder. The differential gets an upgrade as well, with the innovative VAQ front diff now standard on all GTIs. The story for the rest of the GTI is more incremental improvements in typical VW fashion; standard heated seats and wireless charging, as well as stock 18" wheels, make the eighth generation base GTI a slightly more posh offering than its outgoing ancestor, while still coming in at just under $30K for a base model, at $29,545.

The MK8 platform Golf R is a bit more revised, but the underlying recipe is still the same that the Volkswagen halo car has always been known for: A damn fast AWD hatchback. The newest generation gets a 23 horsepower hp bump over its outgoing model, up to an impressive 315 HP and 295 ft-lbs of torque. Volkswagen was apparently worried about stopping all that power, so front brake rotors are now a whopping 14" in diameter, and front calipers are now twin-piston, instead of single. Most noticeably, the rear Haldex differential has been dropped in favor of a fully electronic diff in the back that can send 100% of the rear's power (so up to 50% of the car's total power) to a single rear wheel. With this new differential comes a special Drift mode, so those of us who aren't Tanner Foust can still feel like him. The standard features list is lengthier than ever, too, because all trims have been axed except the very top of the line, so if you want the newest Golf R, it'll set you back a stiff $43,645.

Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R VW gently massaged the Golf's appearance for the new generation.Victoria Scott

Aesthetically, revisions are minor; VW hasn't been too keen on messing with the form of their halo hatches since the late aughts. The sheet metal is a little cleaner, the available colors are great, and it looks buttoned up with a mild dose of aggression. In short, it's true to form for the restrained presentation of the Golf platform. Both cars are offered in the US with the option of either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic; international markets will have to make do with only the DSG-equipped Golf R, because Americans seem to be the ones craziest for three pedals. Because I am an American and crazy for three pedals, I asked for the manual transmission equipped test cars. The dirty secret of the VW hot hatches has always been that while the DSG is a perfected science, the manual transmissions have always left something to be desired, so I was excited to see if perhaps they'd finally dialed it in a bit more.

For my test loop, I was presented with one of the best roads East of the Mississippi: The Rattler, a 290-curve, 24-mile segment of North Carolina road that winds through the hills surrounding the Blue Ridge parkway, replete with both high-speed corners and treacherous downhill switchbacks. With its imperfect paving but incredible vistas and variety of corners, it was a perfect example of a spirited driving road that any sports car should come alive on.

Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R The new GTI isn't quite as engaging as its predecessor.Victoria Scott

The GTI certainly performed well on it, with a ceiling of performance that nearly outstripped my abilities. Chassis and suspension tuning has become even more precise than its predecessor; the top trim of the GTI now offers electronic adaptive-suspension, which my test car was equipped with, and it shone on the old rural roads of NC-209. The cabin was never jarringly rough even on the worst pavement, but there was no slop or body roll to be found when hard on the brakes and throwing the car directly into a hairpin. Turbo lag was virtually nonexistent - stomp on the pedal in any gear of your choice and torque will surge through the drivetrain to pull you out of it.

The manual transmission is improved over the outgoing model's, although the shifter throw was still long and a bit numb when tossing it through the gears. Steering was communicative and easy to judge right up until a fraction before the limit; I wished it would have understeered with a little more warning, but finding the outer limits of performance on the GTI takes a Herculean effort best not attempted on the streets, so I doubt it'll be a dealbreaker for most owners. Overall, the newest iteration of the GTI is fun to fling down sports-car roads, but I found it less engaging than the outgoing MK7. It's gotten quieter and less raucous overall; I enjoyed the slightly less precise but more communicative feel of the last generation, if only because it made the corners more engaging for the driver. The MK8 is certainly faster but it feels less fun on the whole, even if your lap times will improve by a few tenths.


And its Golf R sibling is similar - excellent suspension, incredible brakes, hardly any turbo lag to be found, similarly improved manual transmission - but it dials all of the traits of its less powerful brethren all the way to absurd levels. Yes, with the new rear torque-vectoring diff and over three hundred horsepower, the MK8 Golf R is damn fast in a way few cars under $50,000 are, but it's also unexciting.


As I navigated the twisting roads of The Rattler behind the wheel of the Golf R, I continually dared myself: alright, brake later, accelerate earlier, it has more in it. But no matter how terrifyingly close to turn-in I'd brake or how early before the apex I'd mash the accelerator, the Golf R simply would tear through every corner without breaking a sweat; any mistakes I would make would be compensated seamlessly with the smart all wheel drive or the instant torque from the lagless turbo. I found myself purposely making more complicated downshifts just to feel like I was actually part of the driving experience, because even while pushing it to the absolute limits of what I could manage on the streets, it seemed bored with me, and it rapidly became a reciprocal feeling. There is very little at this price-point that offers this level of performance, but it comes at the cost of a sterile experience that left me feeling like an afterthought as the driver.

And unfortunately, the rest of the revised platform is downhill from here. The arc of progress is not always in the direction of improvement, and the MK8's interior is a massive step backwards for Volkswagen. It's shared with the rest of the refreshed VW lineup, and it is frustratingly unusable in every car they have introduced with it, including the Golf R and GTI. There is not a button or knob to be found in the entire car; every conceivable functionality is embedded in the infotainment system. Would you like to turn on your standard heated seats? That will be three touchscreen pushes on the laggy 8.5" tablet embedded at a slightly uncomfortable distance in the dash. Changing from sport mode to comfort? I hope you enjoy menus.

Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R VW offers great colors for the new GTI and Golf R.Victoria Scott



The rest of the climate control and radio functionality is also buried in the touchscreen, unless you feel like hunting for the unlit, untextured piano black capacitive touch buttons for the temperature and volume control. I couldn't find them in broad daylight; those buttons are completely unusable at night. On top of the dreadful infotainment system, the steering wheel on both cars is now the overly-cluttered capacitive-touch style that I previously discussed ruining the otherwise brilliant Arteon. Why a wheel with such easily triggered buttons would be used in a sports car where presumably the driver will be working the wheel with gusto is absolutely beyond all logic, because I would find myself turning on the steering wheel heater or turning off my soundtrack as I'd whip the GTI into a hairpin and actually needed to grip the wheel.

And so it's hard to celebrate the coming of the MK8 platform as a step in the right direction. Despite the higher performance ceilings of the newest offerings, I already miss the MK7 generation, with its vastly more usable interior and less inhibited, modest sounds and handling. The outgoing cars were fast enough to be fun, they made the driver feel like more of the experience, and they were overall less buttoned up. The Golf name has aged and grown up, sure. Neither of us are in our Need For Speed years anymore. But did it have to mature so much it forgot how to relax a little and have some fun?

Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R The new cars are more buttoned up and tech-forward.Victoria Scott

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2022 Nissan Rogue gets new VC Turbo engine

The Rogue was fully redesigned last year.

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Nissan refreshed its best-selling vehicle, the Rogue SUV, in 2021 with a grown-up new look and plenty of new tech. Changes the year after a major overhaul are usually minor, but for 2022 Nissan's giving the Rogue a new powertrain. A brand-new 1.5-liter variable compression (VC) Turbo engine is on board, producing 201 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque.

2022 Nissan Rogue The new VC engine can change its compression to adapt to driving conditions.Nissan

Power is up 11 percent and torque is up a staggering 24 percent with the new power plant. The variable compression engine is capable of adapting to changing driving conditions. When the driver needs more power, the engine shifts to higher compression, which delivers better acceleration at the expense of fuel economy. When efficiency is best, the engine changes its compression again. The VC engines made their debut in 2019 in both the Infiniti QX50 and Nissan Altima. It's trick engine technology, but it doesn't always deliver on its promise of efficiency gains. Nissan's continuously variable transmission is still in place, though it has been improved with 17 percent wider gear ratio coverage and 32 percent lower friction. The automaker says it helps deliver better acceleration and fuel economy.

2022 Nissan Rogue Top Rogue trims get upscale finishes and a handsome cabin.Nissan

Pricing for the 2022 Rogue S FWD starts at $27,875, including a $1,175 destination charge. Adding all-wheel drive pushes the price by $1,500. Nissan offers three packages for the SUV as well, including a $2,660 SV Premium Package, a $1,320 SL Premium Package, and a $400 10.8-inch head-up display for the top Platinum trim.

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