Up front, the 2020 model runs the same turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine as its predecessor – the EA888, to use its internal codename. Earlier signs suggested it was set to lift its reserves with 48V mild-hybrid electric boosting, but Volkswagen has decided to continue down the same conventional path as before without the additional power enhancement from the alternator seen in lesser versions of the new Golf.
The result? The standard model now develops the same 242bhp at 4700-6200rpm and 273lb ft between 1600rpm and 4300rpm as the Mk7 GTI’s Performance model, giving it a 15bhp and 15lb ft lift in reserves on the seventh-generation model it replaces.
It’s all channelled through a standard six-speed manual gearbox or, as is the case with the prototype we’re in, an optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel. As with the previous incarnation of the Golf GTI, there’s also an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, or XDS as Volkswagen likes to call it. It detects unloading of the inside wheel and uses individual braking application via the electronic stability control system to restore traction.
Volkswagen isn’t giving away much at all on performance just yet but Schebsdat, who has worked on developing such highly lauded cars as the original Ford Focus and the 911 GT3 RS 4.0 during a stint at Porsche Motorsport, suggests the standard Golf GTI is close to the old Golf GTI Performance for outright accelerative ability, with a 0-62mph time of around 6.2sec.
Following the strategy established with the seventh-generation model, Volkswagen plans a two-tier line-up for the latest Golf GTI. Gone is the Performance, which in effect will be supplanted by this new, more potent standard GTI, while the Clubsport, whose moniker was previously reserved for special track-based limited-production models, will replace the Golf GTI TCR. Details have yet to be officially revealed, although the Clubsport is claimed to run the same level of tune to the EA888 engine as the outgoing GTI TCR, which develops 286bhp at 5400rpm and 273lb ft of torque between 1950rpm and 5300rpm.
Today isn’t about drivelines, though. It’s about exploring dynamic qualities. And Volkswagen’s EhraLessien is just the place to show us what the new Golf GTI can do. It has everything: endless straights, where you can run flat out for minutes on end; banked corners, where the centrifugal forces allow the driver to go hands-off above certain speeds; handling roads, featuring every kind of corner, camber and surface you could ever wish for and much more. It is torture for any car, but it also gives valuable insight into on-the-limit behaviour without having to venture out onto public roads.
So just how do you instil the dynamic qualities that have distinguished the Golf GTI since its introduction to the Volkswagen line-up in 1974 into the new model while also ensuring it meets its brief of appealing to a wider customer audience than ever before? “There is a lot of detailed tuning work,” says Schebsdat. “Every component has come under the spotlight. It is a process that was integrated into the development of the new Golf from the very beginning.”