MK8 TECH SECRETS
VW GOLF GTI Mk8 is sounding seriously enticing
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” –
“CAR DESIGN IS SO COMPLICATED NOW ON THE TECHNICAL SIDE IT CAN’T BE DONE BY ONE DESIGNER”
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.
“WE WANTED TO KEEP THE EVERYDAY PRACTICAL ABILITY AND RIDE COMFORT OF THE MK7, AND INCREASE DRIVING FUN”
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!