2024 marks the 50th anniversary of Volkswagen's beloved Golf compact, so the brand is celebrating with a major update to its existing Mk. 8 models. Since the U.S. only receives the Golf in GTI trim levels and up, all of those new updates, unveiled by VW on Tuesday evening, will only come here on the brand's hottest hatchbacks.
Europe gets a new range of powertrains for all Golf models, but the U.S. does not get the affected models. The GTI relevant to the American markets gets a moderate power boost of 15 hp from its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in Europe, bringing output up to 262 hp. Potential power increases for the U.S. market have not been announced yet. As the brand announced in 2023, the updated GTI is no longer offered with a manual transmission.
On the outside, the updated Mk. 8 GTI looks a lot like it did in camouflage when VW first shared photos of the car at CES. Two versions of a new headlight package are offered, including a powerful optional LED main bean that Volkswagen calls an IQ.LIGHT LED matrix. Those highlight a modernized front end with body-colored elements in the grille that accentuate a race car-like splitter at the front.
The center of the fascia is also accented by a new full-length LED bar and a light-up central bar, which sits below a narrow and less prominent version of the GTI line's signature red-colored grille stripe. Lighting changes continue on the rear of the car, where new tail lights highlight a largely similar shape.
Inside, the headline is the much-anticipated return of real buttons on a Volkswagen steering wheel. The buttons may seem like a small luxury, but they are a huge upgrade over the frustrating touch-capacitive selectors on the pre-facelift Mk. 8 Golf. The buttons pair with a massive new central screen and a handy bottom navigation bar, which ensures that climate controls are always available without diving through a touchscreen. Volkswagen announced earlier this month that the new Golf will be one of a handful of cars to receive ChatGPT integration through its IDA voice assistant, although that feature was still "being considered" for the U.S. market when it was announced.
VW has once again decided to sell only GTIs and up in America, meaning that the U.S. will not get a base model of the updated Mk. 8. The faster variants of the GTI were not shown today, but the automaker has confirmed that an updated version of the all-out Golf R will be coming to the American market eventually.
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