The New VW Hot Hatches Do Almost Everything Well

New Golf GTI and Golf R

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

From Your Site Articles
Volkswagen

The 2022 VW Golf GTI gets new handling tech

Improved hot hatch

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is one of the most recognizable and popular cars the automaker sells. After a bumpy few years that ended with the standard Golf model being nixed from VW's U.S catalog, we're starting to see concrete details on the upcoming performance variants of the car, which will thankfully end up heading our way. The eighth-generation Golf GTI and Golf R will make landfall in the United States as 2022 models, and will both feature a load of new tech and refinements. VW just announced the changes that are being made to the GTI's handling and performance systems, and they are extensive, to say the least.


2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI VW is offering the 8th-gen Golf only in high-performance GTI and R configurations.Volkswagen


Volkswagen is giving the legendary hot hatch a host of improvements, which the automaker says will give the car more precise, stable handling at its limit. The GTI's front suspension has been reconfigured with new wishbone bearings and damping hydraulics. VW says that the car's springs and buffer stops have also been revised, which will give the font axle spring rate that is five percent higher than its predecessor. A new aluminum subframe is also in place, which will reduce weight by seven pounds over the previous car.

The eighth-generation Golf brought a new VW Vehicle Dynamics Manager system which will also benefit the upcoming GTI. The system integrates the car's electronic stability control with its electronic differentials, and in GTI models equipped with the optional DCC adaptive damping system, the system adjusts individual wheel damping up to 200 times per second. The differential itself will now come standard with all GTI models. It's an electronically-controlled torque-sensing limited-slip unit, which varies the levels of its intervention based on how the car is being driven and on how the other traction control functions are being used.


2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI The GTI's steering is now more responsive.Volkswagen


The GTI's steering system has also been revised to now include an enhanced progressive steering function that uses software to help turn the vehicle with less steering effort, depending on speed. Volkswagen says that the GTI's steering takes just 2.1 turns of the steering wheel to go from lock to lock when it's equipped with 18-inch wheels.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The 1989 Volkswagen Montana concept had one problem - the public loved it

Concept Cars

The concept was rather simple - lift a Volkswagen Golf Mark 2 to a ridiculous height to intrigue Geneva Motor Show attendees and create some fun press. There was one problem, the public fell in love.

Volkswagen introduced the Montana concept at the 1989 Geneva Motor Show. Those who saw it, in print, on TV, or in person started heading to their dealerships requesting one like it. Volkswagen didn't anticipate this. They had no plans to bring the model to production.

The noise from consumers finally caused Volkswagen to take notice. The Golf Country was born.

Volkswagen Golf Country

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

In 1990 the Golf Country became an early foray into the crossover category, predating the Toyota RAV4's introduction by four years.

It wasn't just its origins that were unconventional. Production was as well. Pre-assembled all-wheel-drive Golf Syncro vehicles were shipped from Germany to Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Graz, Austria where the conversion from four-wheel drive Golf Syncro to Golf Country took place.

The frame was lifted 4.72 inches giving the model more than seven inches of ground clearance. It had 438 uninque parts that changed it from a Syncro to a Country including a revised suspension, front and rear bumper bars, a rear-mounted tire carrier, four additional auxiliary front lights, and underbody armor. Aftermarket parts like a Thule roof rack and PIAA light bar could be fitted.

Like the Syncro the front-wheel drive County was powered by a 97-horsepower, 1.8-liter engine.

Today, the Golf Country is rare. Just 7,735 vehicles produced in two years from 1990 to 1991. Rarer still is one of the few special editions that were offered, such as the "Chrome," which featured chrome trim on the retrofitted tubular steel bumpers and wheels, along with a better-appointed interior. Only 558 Golf Country Chrome editions were produced, and they were sold at a premium over the already expensive utility vehicles.

The specialty "Wolfsburg Edition" models, which came with the more powerful 16-valve GTI engine, were even rarer with just a handful making their way to the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

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

Geneva Motor Show 2020

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).

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

2023 Nissan Leaf pricing announced

Updated EV

Nissan is nearing the release of the Ariya, its first new EV in several years. Even so, the brand hasn't forgotten about its first mass-market EV, the Leaf. It was an early entrant in the space, and has been an efficient, affordable, commuter car for over a decade. The car got a mild facelift for 2023, with updated wheels and exterior styling accents. Today, Nissan announced pricing for the Leaf, which starts at just under $29,000.

2023 Nissan Leaf The Leaf feels lively, despite middling power numbers.Nissan

The base Leaf comes with a 40-kWh battery capable of delivering a 149-mile range. Its 110-kW electric motor produces 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The Leaf SV Plus features a 60-kWh battery for a range of 212 miles. It comes with a 160-kW motor that makes 214 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. Nissan backs all Leaf models with an eight-year/100,000-mile battery warranty.

ProPilot Assist comes standard for the Leaf SV Plus, and brings a full suite of advanced driver aids that include adaptive cruise control, driver alertness features, and a surround-view monitor. All Leaf models get Nissan Safety Shield 360, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, automatic high beams, and rear automatic braking.

2023 Nissan Leaf The Leaf SV Plus offers up to 212 miles of range.Nissan

The new Leaf starts at $28,895, which includes a $1,095 destination charge. The Leaf SV Plus starts at $36,895. The 2023 Nissan Leaf is on sale now, and may be eligible for federal tax credits of up to $7,500. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to receive a state tax credit or other incentives.

2022 Nissan Altima: Three things to know

Comfortable midsize sedan

The Nissan Altima may not get the attention or the praise that the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord get, but it's a solid entry in an ultra-competitive segment. It's also one of few options in its class with available all-wheel drive. We spent a week with the 2022 Nissan Altima SR Midnight Edition with AWD and came away from the experience impressed. Here are three things to know about the car.

The 2022 Nissan Altima is a Good Value

With a starting price in the mid-$20,000 range and available all-wheel drive, it's hard to complain about value here. The Altima is still reasonably priced at the top end, where it maxes out at around $35,000 before options and fees. That's a great value for a spacious, comfortable car like the Altima, and with all-wheel drive it's a great all-weather commuter.

2022 Nissan Altima Nissan offers the Altima in several configurations.Nissan

2022 Altima Interior Space and Comfort are Generous

It's easy to ignore Nissan's Zero Gravity seats as another marketing buzzword, but they are legitimately comfortable and supportive in a way that not many others are. Available leather upholstery and contrast stitching give the interior an upscale feel, but even lower trims' cloth upholstery feels nice and works well from a visual standpoint. Up front, there's room for both passengers to stretch out, and the driver won't feel cramped on leg or headroom. Back-seat passengers get a similar treatment, as there's plenty of space for adults and kids. Parents will find an easy time loading and unloading car seats as well.

2023 Nissan Altima The Altima gets an update for 2023 with fresh styling and more tech.Nissan

The 2023 Nissan Altima Gets an Update

Nissan is refreshing the Altima for 2023 with a facelift, new tech, and better safety features. The new car will go on sale in the fall of 2022 and will come in several trims, including one with Nissan's truck VC-Turbo engine. The Altima's most noticeable update will be its front fascia, which is all-new for 2023. Nissan gives the car a fresh grille design that varies depending on the trim, and LED headlights will be standard. Nissan Safety Shield 360 is standard, and the Altima is available with all-wheel drive, ProPilot Assist, and more.

2023 Hyundai Palisade pricing announced

Three-row SUV

Earlier this year, Hyundai announced changes to the Palisade for 2023. The list includes a new front fascia, an updated grille with new headlights and daytime running lights, a 12-inch touchscreen with navigation, and more. A new XRT trim joined the lineup as well, bringing brawny off-road styling and dar exterior trim. Today, Hyundai announced pricing for the SUV, which starts at a little more than $32,000.

2023 Hyundai Palisade A new XRT trim adds rugged styling. Hyundai

The Palisade's powertrain carries over from 2022, which includes a 3.8-liter V6 that makes 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. Inside, the SUV got several new and updated technology features, including a more powerful wireless device charging pad, an updated digital key system, and a larger infotainment display.

As Hyundai's flagship SUV, the Palisade edges on luxury territory, with plush leather upholstery and a serene cabin that offers excellent noise cancellation and comfort. Captain's chairs and seven-passenger seating are available, but a second-row bench comes standard and brings eight-passenger capacity to the SUV.

Muscular SUVs are more popular than ever before, so Hyundai gave the posh Palisade an outdoorsy treatment with its XRT trim. The new Palisade XRT builds on the SEL trim with 20-inch wheels, a more rugged bumper and lower body cladding, a sunroof, and leatherette upholstery. To be clear, XRT is an appearance package that does not improve off-road capability to a large degree.

2023 Hyundai Palisade Top trims border on the quality and design of some luxury brands. Hyundai

Standard safety equipment is generous, and includes forward collision warnings with avoidance, lane keep assist, lane following assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, driver attention warnings, high beam assist, and adaptive cruise control.

Pricing for the base Palisade SE starts at $36,245, which includes a $1,295 destination charge. The top Calligraphy AWD model starts at $52,095 after destination. All-wheel drive is available for all trims as an added-cost option.