Volkswagen brings two new 2022 Golf models to the Chicago Auto Show, each one an upgrade to the performance-minded Mk 7 that came before. The Mk 8 Golf GTI and the Mk 8 Golf R get an updated engine, a new interior interface and better performance.
What’s new for both?
The ’22 GTI and Golf R get a refreshed front end with new LED headlights, an available light bar and VW's sleek, updated logo. A new electronic architecture means better connectivity and features from the now-standard 10.25-in. (26-cm) Digital Cockpit Pro.
An optional Discover Pro infotainment system with navigation allows the driver to see a full-screen map in the digital cluster while another map is displayed on the center screen.
The new, digitized interior features touch controls that adjust the lighting, heating and cooling, audio entertainment and, if equipped, the available sunroof. A head-up display also is available, and 30-color ambient lighting is standard.
VW’s driver assistance technology with “hands-on semi-automated capability,” called IQ.Drive, is available on both models. This safety suite includes Travel Assist, which VW calls “semi-automated driving assistance” as well as forward collision warning and emergency braking, active blindspot monitor and medical emergency assist (on dual-clutch DSG-equipped models only). Available options include an adaptive front-lighting system, park assist and dynamic road sign display.
Both new Golfs can be ordered with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG automatic transmission, which should curb the “save the manual” message commonly heard from some critics.
VW's 2.0L EA888 turbocharged 4-cyl. powers both the new GTI and Golf R, but it has been tuned to produce 241 hp and 273 lb.-ft. (370 Nm) of torque (with premium fuel) in the GTI and 315 hp and 295 lb.-ft. [(400 Nm) (DSG)] or 280 lb.-ft. [(380 Nm) (manual)] in the R. Both of these Golfs have an electronically limited top track speed of 155 mph (249 km/h).
Based on the eighth-generation Golf, the GTI and Golf R have the same wheelbases as the seventh-gen models they replace. That means 103.6 ins. (2,630 mm) for the GTI and 103.5 ins. for the Golf R. Both models have 91.9 cu.-ft. (2,602 L) of interior space, including 34.5 cu.-ft. (977 L) of cargo space behind the front seats with the rear seats folded down.
The ’22 Golf GTI and Golf R (interior pictured above) are expected to reach U.S. dealers in Q4 2021.
VW will no longer produce the Golf in Puebla, Mexico, for the U.S. market, so the new Golf R and GTI will come from Wolfsburg, Germany. The Jetta sedan will continue to be manufactured in Puebla, along with the new Taos compact CUV.
VW product planners say the GTI outsold the standard Golf nearly threefold while the two were in the U.S. lineup together.
2022 Golf GTI
Performance aspects are where the GTI and Golf R start to diverge. The GTI is front-wheel drive while the R uses a new all-wheel-drive system. This means the GTI uses technology like a torque-sensing limited-slip VAQ differential to optimize “grip and handling in fast corners” by minimizing understeer.
From across the street, the GTI can be told apart from the Golf R in a few ways, including X-shaped fog lights, red brake calipers and dual exhaust tips.
Starting at $29,545 for the base S model with a manual transmission, the GTI also will offer SE and Autobahn trims. This is $850 more than the ’21 GTI, which started at $28,695.
“We feel this is a reasonable price uptick from its predecessor considering the fact that you get a great deal of new standard equipment on every single trim level of the GTI, power upgrades and big chassis and handling improvements,” says Megan Closset, Golf product manager for VW of America.
2022 Golf R
Where the GTI gets red accents, the ’22 Golf R has a blue grille line and blue brake calipers. Its front and rear bumpers and diffusers also appear more aggressive than those on the GTI, but the new 4Motion AWD with rear-axle torque vectoring is why you’d want to spend at least $14,000 more for the R.
The Mk 7 Golf R could send 50% of the power output to the rear axle, but the Mk 8 improves on that by being able to send all of this 50% to one rear wheel or the other, depending on the driving situation, using a rear differential with two multiplate clutches. That means tighter turns and better handling.
The ’22 Golf R will be available in just a single trim level that starts at $43,645 with the manual transmission. 2022 Golf prices listed do not include VW’s destination fee of $995
– with Tom Murphy