Meet the Mk8: Volkswagen Launches Next GTI, Golf R at 2021 Chicago Auto Show

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Volkswagen’s base Golf may be dead, at least in America, but the performance-oriented GTI and Golf R are on their way to pick up the slack.

The 2022 Volkswagen GTI and Golf R have been unveiled in the flesh (or sheetmetal, as it were) at the 2021 Chicago Auto Show.

The Mk8 cars look promising on paper. The GTI is priced from $29,545 and comes in S, SE, and Autobahn trims while the Golf R will be available in just one trim — one that VW claims is “fully loaded” — and start at $43,645.

Both cars use a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, and it makes 241 horsepower (an increase of 13) and 273 lb-ft of torque in the GTI, when run on premium fuel. The Golf R has 315 horsepower, an increase of 27, and 295 lb-ft of torque (280 with the standard manual transmission). Both cars are available with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed DSG automatic. All-wheel drive remains standard on the Golf R.

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The cars are slightly longer than before, with sharper hood raking, LED headlights, and an available light bar for the grille. The GTI gets X-shaped fog lamps and new wheel designs, a red grille line, red brake calipers, and dual exhaust tips. Plaid seats remain standard, and the manual transmission’s shift knob remains golf-ball style.

VW GTI. Tim Healey/TTAC

The Golf R gets a blue grille line and blue brake calipers, a new wheel design, front and rear bumpers and diffusers that are more aggressive than that of the GTI, a two-piece rear spoiler, body-colored side sill extensions, and a quad-tipped exhaust system.

Although each car gains a bit in length, wheelbases remain the same as before for each.

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Adaptive damping is available, and the GTI is standard with an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. VW claims its system can vary intervention to avoid “steering corruption” (read: Torque steer) and can also work to reduce understeer.

VW Golf R. Tim Healey/TTAC

The Golf R gets rear-axle torque vectoring, and the car’s rear differential has dual multi-plate clutches as part of a system that can distribute 100 percent of the rear torque to either individual rear wheel. Distributing power to the outer rear wheel while cornering can reduce the cornering radius.

Inside, a digital cockpit is standard, and some of the controls are operated via “touch panels” (we believe this is PR-speak for haptic touch). If you opt for navigation, the map can be displayed in the cluster. Available features include navigation, infotainment, sunroof, and head-up display.

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Driver-assistance tech includes the ability for semi-autonomous driving using radar, ultrasound sensors, and cameras. Other driver-assistance tech includes travel assist (semi-automated driving assist), front assist (forward-collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist monitoring), blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, rear-traffic alert, lane assist (lane-keeping assist), emergency assist, high-beam assist, park assist with park-distance control, adaptive front lighting, and road-sign display.

VW Golf R. Tim Healey/TTAC

Other available features on GTI include push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, USB ports, keyless entry, leather seats, satellite radio, heated front seats, cooled front seats, heated rear seats, premium audio, tri-zone climate control, and 18- or 19-inch wheels.

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Available features on the Golf R not already mentioned include cross-drilled brake rotors, sunroof, keyless entry and starting, stop/start, heated steering wheel, leather seats, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, tri-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, premium audio, navigation, satellite radio, wireless device charging, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

The Mk8 cars arrive in the fourth quarter of this year.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC, Volkswagen]

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