VW GOLF GTI Mk8 is sound­ing se­ri­ously en­tic­ing

Motor (Australia) - - FRONT END | PACE NOTES -

SHARPER, SPORTIER, stronger but still recog­nis­ably a GTI – that’s the vis­ual take­away when you first clap eyes on Volk­swa­gen’s eighth-gen Golf GTI, and it’s ex­actly what the chas­sis dy­nam­ics team wants you to feel at the wheel. Dif­fer­ent ball games, same goal, and this month we’re get­ting the low­down from the peo­ple who made it pos­si­ble.

Design has be­come in­creas­ingly digi­tised over the last decade, as com­plex­ity has in­creased and VW Group design teams have ex­panded glob­ally. Design boss Klaus Bischoff es­ti­mates there are now some 415 Group de­sign­ers world­wide. “Car design is so com­pli­cated now on the tech­ni­cal side that it can’t be done by one de­signer, it is al­ways a col­lab­o­ra­tion,” he says.

The Mk6 and Mk7 Golfs in­creas­ingly em­braced dig­i­tal design over the last decade, but only five years ago did VW gain ac­cess to “a toolset that al­lows us to de­scribe all surfaces dig­i­tally”, says Bischoff. It’s why the Mk8 and GTI are the first Golfs to be de­signed en­tirely dig­i­tally (save for one cru­cial step).

The lat­est GTI’s a design that Bischoff describes as hav­ing more wedge, and a more sculp­tural, en­er­getic pres­ence, in large part due to the lower bon­net, slim­mer glasshouse and more dy­namic C-pil­lar of all Mk8s, over which the GTI sprin­kles sporty if rel­a­tively re­strained star­dust. “Our task was to cre­ate some­thing stun­ning and new [for the GTI], but we don’t go so far as the com­pe­ti­tion,” says Bischoff, with­out ac­tu­ally name-check­ing any­thing.

Com­puter mod­el­ling ex­tends to small de­tails, in­clud­ing the new GTI’s roof spoiler that elon­gates the roof pro­file and en­hances aero, trade­mark wheel­bar­row ex­hausts (since the Mk6) that are now larger and pushed fur­ther out­board to add vis­ual width, and dis­tinc­tive hon­ey­comb mesh that fills a more pro­nounced lower grille than the base car, its width em­pha­sised by 10-point LED fog­lights.

With the design tak­ing shape, it is dig­i­tally trans­formed into a 3D rep­re­sen­ta­tion that can be viewed from all an­gles thanks to “cloud mod­el­ling” –


vir­tual-re­al­ity soft­ware that the design team in­ter­acts with wear­ing VR gog­gles and gloves.

Still, while raw com­put­ing power has enhanced the design process, a phys­i­cal clay model is still a cru­cial com­po­nent. The same can be said for the dy­nam­ics team; they too have ben­e­fited from com­puter mod­el­ling tak­ing chunks from the developmen­t time, but still need to pound out miles on test tracks for fine-tun­ing.

Head of driv­ing dy­nam­ics Karsten Scheb­s­dat led Mk8 GTI developmen­t.

He was the brains be­hind the GTI Club­sport S – the two-seat peak of Mk7 GTI – and a man whose CV in­cludes Porsche’s 911 GT3 and GT2 mod­els dur­ing the 997 days.

True to Volk­swa­gen form, the Mk8 Golf GTI gen­tly evolves its pre­de­ces­sor’s foun­da­tions: 2.0-litre turbo four, choice of six-speed man­ual or seven-speed dual-clutch gear­box, front sus­pen­sion by MacPher­son strut, rear by multi-link. Out­put re­mains mod­est com­pared with ri­vals at 180kW, but Scheb­s­dat says the Mk8 chas­sis is more trans­for­ma­tive to drive, an en­tic­ing prospect given the Mk7 lacked dy­namic en­ergy.

“We wanted to keep the ev­ery­day prac­ti­cal abil­ity and ride com­fort of the Mk7, and in­crease driv­ing fun with more agility, more neu­tral steer­ing and bet­ter han­dling, with more cor­ner­ing grip, greater driv­ing sta­bil­ity and pre­ci­sion,” he de­tails.

Tyre sizes carry over for 17- and 18-inch al­loys, but the 19s are half an inch wider (with fit­ment up from 225/35 to 235/35) and op­tion­ally avail­able – at least over­seas – with su­per-ag­gres­sive Miche­lin Pi­lot Sport Cup 2s, a GTI first.

But soft­ware is also key to the new GTI’s han­dling, chiefly Ve­hi­cle Dy­nam­ics Man­ager, an elec­tronic brain to co-ordinate and ac­ti­vate the lock­ing dif­fer­en­tial, adap­tive damp­ing and steer­ing. It also lets you en­tirely de­ac­ti­vate the sta­bil­ity con­trol in set­ting 15, the most ag­gres­sive avail­able. Videos cap­ture World Tour­ing Car hot­shoe Ben­jamin Leuchter test­ing the Mk8 at the Ehra-Lessien test fa­cil­ity, and its play­ful be­hav­iour is ob­vi­ous: not al­ways a forte of the Mk7. Leuchter says he en­joyed the ESC-off slides it per­mit­ted. But even the WTCC ace is faster in ESC Sport set­ting – tes­ta­ment to the elec­tron­ics.

Leuchter describes the Mk8 as hav­ing a sta­ble rear on fast tracks like the Nür­bur­gring, but also with agility and ad­justa­bil­ity through hair­pins and slaloms. “It helps you ro­tate the rear of the car,” he says. “At the be­gin­ning of the test, I hit the slalom cones be­cause the rear ro­tates so fast – I wasn’t ex­pect­ing that!” Leuchter has ap­par­ently shaved 3.9 sec­onds off the Mk7.5’s EhraLessie­n 2.1-mile lap, and that’s with­out the stick­ier Cup 2s.

The design team’s years of graft on the Mk8 are al­ready laid bare, and next is­sue we will know if the Mk8 is as sharp to drive as it looks. It’s due in Aus­tralia in the fourth quar­ter of 2020, with pric­ing an­nounced closer to that time.


TOP Design boss Klaus Bischoff not only over­sees all VW prod­ucts, but was re­cently pro­moted to Head of Group Design for the en­tire VAG ABOVE Badges are an im­por­tant and muchloved part of car design, and for Mk8 the Golf has done what Porsche did with the 992 911 – gone retro

ABOVE Brand new in­te­rior bris­tles with tech; DSG gear se­lec­tor now a nub like that of Porsche PDK, but ‘golf ball’ knob ex­pected to be re­tained for man­ual. Huz­zah!

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