Mk8 Golf will have a 240bhp GTI and an R with more than 350bhp – both hybrids
The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf will be revealed at the 2019 Geneva motor show and promises a revolution in interior technology, as well as greater performance than ever for the flagship GTI and R performance models.
The new Golf, design work of which is complete and chassis development at an advanced stage, will also introduce the next generation of the VW Group’s versatile MQB platform, understood to be called MQB/W.
In the next generation of the Golf, the interior and technology will be the central focus of development, to bring the car into the digital era.
However, VW is also determined to build on the rich history of performance Golfs, which make up 30% of sales in the UK. To that end, it has prioritised the launch of a 240bhp GTI model soon after the initial line-up in the middle of 2019 as well as, intriguingly, a GTD performance diesel version, which will be carried forward into the launch line-up.
VW will be looking to drop the new Golf R’s 0-62mph time below 4.5sec
The next Golf GTI will be the most powerful iteration yet – with 240bhp in standard form from its 2.0 TSI petrol engine and as much as 270bhp being mooted in the more focused GTI Performance version. The new Golf GTI will also use hybrid technology for the first time through the adoption of a 48V mild-hybrid system, something that will be standard across all petrol Golfs.
In 2020, the range will again be crowned by an all-wheel-drive Golf R, which will be the most powerful series-production Golf yet. VW sources have remained tight-lipped about its powertrain, but Autocar understands it will benefit from 48V hybrid tech and produce upwards of 350bhp to allow it to keep pace with the rapidly increasing power outputs of rival hot hatches.
Whereas the GTI mirrors the wider Golf range in always marking a subtle evolution of a long-standing formula, the R version has allowed for greater experimentation so long as it keeps its place as the most powerful model in the line-up.
VW has several available options to take the new Golf R towards its desired power output and flagship status. The most straightforward is a simple boost of its existing 2.0 TSI engine to around 340bhp, with extra assistance from a small 48V mild-hybrid system, including a lithium ion battery and 11bhp electric motor, which is set to feature alongside the 2.0 TSI engine in whichever set-up VW opts for.
VW knows the engine can handle extra power, as demonstrated in the previous 395bhp R400 concept. This system is understood to be favourite because it is the most cost-efficient, allowing the Golf R to keep its reputation for being good value, remaining around £33,000, and not too big a leap up from the GTI.
A further option, given that the electrified performance Golf will no longer be the sole preserve of the GTE, would be for the new Golf R to use the GTE’s set-up and have an electric motor mounted within a next-generation seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox for an even greater performance boost, but this would add cost.
VW will be looking to drop the new Golf R’s 0-62mph time below 4.5sec, with the top speed likely to be capped at 155mph. Its power and performance stats will again place it in direct competition with the next-generation Ford Focus RS, also due around 2020 and set to adopt 48V mild-hybrid technology.
The rest of the Golf R’s make-up will be a continuation of the formula VW has had such success with in recent years. That means understated styling and a real push to daily usability with a still-comfortable ride, achievable through the tuning of its adaptive chassis technology.
The Golf R will cap a greater prominence of petrol engines in the wider Golf range as VW reacts to growing pressure on diesel sales. Indeed, this is likely to be the last generation to feature diesel engines, as the cost of hybrid technology comes down as a more cost-effective way of reducing CO2 emissions.
Each petrol model will be 48V and the TSI engines are set to include updated 1.0-, 1.5- and 2.0-litre petrol versions, with the 1.5 the staple of the range and introducing variable geometry turbocharger technology.
Each petrol engine will use a particulate filter. As VW looks to cut the CO2 emissions of its petrol engines below 100g/km as much as possible and towards the strict 95g/km industry fleet target set for 2021, a big step towards achieving that will be the use of mild-hybrid tech.
This mixes an 11bhp belt-integrated starter/generator (BISG), giving fast stop-start, boosting engine torque and recouping energy to store in a 48V lithium ion battery.
A ‘Plus’ version could also be added to the Golf range, which incorporates an additional, 35bhp electric motor driving either the front or rear axle. This feeds extra torque to the driveline and recovers energy through regenerative braking, with the engine shut down to save fuel. If the motor is sited on the rear axle, it aids traction and improves cornering balance in slippery conditions.
But diesel engines will still appear in the next Golf range in the form of a new 1.5 and a carried-over 2.0 TDI unit. The 2.0 will be used to power a return for the GTD.
It is understood the e-Golf will not be replaced, with that role being taken by the ID hatchback. The GTE is likely to reappear because it has been a success for VW and its plug-in hybrid drivetrain has been useful in both cutting fleet CO2 and acting as a wider marketing tool for the technology.
The Golf Mk8 is set to mirror both the size and weight of today’s model. As ever, the design will be an evolution of the current car, in keeping with Golf tradition, with a more dynamic, muscular look promised by insiders to provide greater distance between the Golf and the electric ID hatchback. It will be a five-door only.
“Every Golf has a focus – be it safety, sporty, luxury, premium, quality,” said Frank Welsch, the VW R&D boss who has led development of the Golf Mk8. “In one year, next year at Geneva, you will see the pre-series of the next Golf.
“With Golf 8, there are big steps with the human-machine interface, connectivity and user experience of the interior. The exterior, of course, is a next step. But like every generation, you see it’s a Golf but you see it as a new one. You take care: a Golf is a Golf. You can’t throw it away and do a new one.”
The new MQB/W architecture is built around the same modular structure as that of the current MQB, which has underpinned everything from small Seat superminis to large Skoda estates. Many of the upgrades have been centred on equipping it with the kind of electrical hardware that will allow for the adoption of advanced electrified powertrains and give it a big leap forward in terms of connectivity and safety systems, as well as preparation for Level 3 autonomous driving in the future.
“The MQB has changed so much that I think it’s not MQB any more,” said Welsch, describing how different the new MQB/W architecture is from the current MQB, from which it is derived. “We’ve changed the engines, the electrical systems.” he said. “We need more data traffic and power in the car to send more data for the extra connectivity.”
The interior is set to be the revolution in the Golf, with no carried-over parts and a completely new look developed under a theme understood to be called ‘digital cockpit’.
Plenty of companies recently have launched stand-alone performance brands, such as Volvo and its Polestar, Seat and its Cupra. But it’s not in the plan for VW. Why? Boss Herbert Diess believes GTI and R are stronger under VW. He said: “For Seat [also owned by the VW Group], it might make sense, but you want to strengthen your core brand with these kind of performance products and I think it works better if you call it Volkswagen R or GTI. We wouldn’t separate them.”
The key difference between, say, VW and Seat is the value of the brand. Despite lots of bad press in recent years, the VW brand still has prestige.
By comparison, Seat boss Luca de Meo admitted recently that Cupra (pictured) has already intrigued people who wouldn’t consider Seat: “In a lot of countries, we can have the best car in the world but, because of the Seat brand, people will not buy it.”
Instead, de Meo intends to entice people with Cupra – something VW doesn’t need to do with GTI and R.
WHAT CHANCE A HOT RUN-OUT SPECIAL FOR TODAY’S GOLF GTI?
Volkswagen has no current plans to follow up its limited-run Golf GTI Clubsport S with another limited-run special. Instead, its focus has shifted to the next-generation Golf GTI model.
When asked if there will be a follow-up to that car with a run-out version for this generation of Golf GTI, R&D boss Frank Welsch said: “Probably not. It’s better just to plan next GTI; give it even more performance and make it even more GTI.”
However, VW brand boss Herbert Diess has not ruled out more such cars in the future. “We have very, very eager people in our development who love race cars,” he said. “They’re always trying to get the car faster and will want to do something with the GTI. We lost a bit of ground against Civic Type R [which took VW’s Nürburgring record for a front-wheel-drive hot hatch] and I don’t like that.”