This has been a long time coming, hasn’t it? Due to the train wreck that has been the past year or so, the launch of the new Golf 8 GTI in South Africa was delayed, but finally it is here! And I could not be more thrilled. You see, the GTI is such an icon in this country. I don’t think you will find a more passionate community than that of our GTI fans. I am no where near as passionate about it, but it has always held a special place in my heart…which is something I think most South Africans can say. Whether your favourite GTI is still the Mk1 or like me, the Golf 3, these three magic letters will forever be a huge part of our culture, a bit like boerewors, biltong and braais.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
I had no idea that the original GTI wasn’t actually a part of Volkswagen’s mandate and that a few staff members went ahead with it before presenting it to the big boss. It was obviously approved, but only 5 000 were to be made. That number took on a new life and in the end more than 461 000 were manufactured. And so a cult classic was born.
The new Golf 8 has undergone more of an evolution than a revolution. It is sharper in design, yet still as clean and understated as ever…something I love about the GTI. At the front, the wide air intakes, low-positioned standard LED headlights and unmistakable signature light on the radiator grille are particularly distinctive. The latter is illuminated for the first time by a narrow LED strip, which flows on the left and right into the headlight modules. The LED headlights feature 22 individual LEDs per headlight matrix signal. Drivers can customise their cars with the optional and sliding turn indicators. 18-inch Richmond alloy wheels are standard with the option of 19-inch Adelaide alloy wheels.
SUPER SLICK INTERIOR
I said to my friends over at VW that I could not picture how they would make the interior of the new GTI pop. It has been pretty great inside for most generations, albeit a bit boring perhaps. But now, oh let me tell you, it is anything but boring. It is almost futuristic. This is the first generation of Golf GTI to have a completely digitalised interior landscape of displays and controls. I love, love, love it. And this is coming from someone who loves a traditional button. But there are four buttons that act as shortcuts which I do appreciate. Even if the infotainment system takes some getting used to. I still could not figure out how to increase the fan speed for the air con. I wasn’t the only one to struggle with this system, but I think that once you have familiarised yourself with it, you will have no probs whatsoever.
It is also boasts a new multi-function leather sports steering wheel, a smaller gear knob and a swiping action is required to change the volume and temperature. Ambient lighting is also a standard feature which gives drivers 30 interior colours to choose from. The Golf 8 GTI will be the second model in the Volkswagen range to come available with the optional Harmon Kardon sound system with a 12-channel amplifier with 480W output as well as eight speakers, one centre speaker and a subwoofer.
Standard features on the new GTI include Lights and Vision Package including high-beam control light assist, Climatronic air conditioning, heated leather-wrapped multi-function sports steering wheel with touch control and shifting paddles, GTI Vienna leather seats, keyless locking and starting system, Composition Media Radio, multi-colour InnoVision Cockpit, App-Connect, Cruise Control with speed limiter, Park Distance Control, mobile phone interface with inductive charging function and the lighting system I mentioned earlier.
THE POWER OF LOVE
The same 2.0-litre front-wheel drive engine powers the new GTI, but it now adds 11 kW more power to develop 180 kW. The torque is set at 370Nm. The four-cylinder engine is mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission and it will take you 6.4 seconds to get to 100 km/h. What makes the GTI the perfect hot hatch is the fact that it is the perfect combination of performance, practicality, comfort and safety. It is the car you can live with every day, even with a family. And it remains fun to drive! And something I have always loved about the GTI is its confidence-inspiring moves. I know how fast I can throw this in to a corner and come out the other side unscathed (hopefully). It does what it does so well, almost regardless of driver.
PRICING OF THE NEW GTI
This new bad boy will cost you R669 300 and if you are a GTI fan, you will want to get your hands on one as fast as possible because, as always, Volkswagen has delivered up the recipe that has worked for the past 45 years and counting.