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2022 Volkswagen GTI

There’s big news for the Volkswagen formerly known as Golf for 2022, as all versions except the high-performance GTI have been dropped, while the Golf R returns to the lineup.

The more costly Golf R distances itself from the GTI for 2022, with more performance. In this the eighth generation, both models get updated technology inside and out, most notably more power, along with more features.

Their appearance hasn’t changed that much. They’re more wedge-like in front, and there’s an available bar of colorful lighting on the grille (GTI red or R blue), with five LED fog lights under each headlight. The Golf R goes on, with bigger intakes, and at the rear there’s a diffuser and spoiler.

Both cars use a 2.0-liter turbo-4, but the engines are far from the same. The GTI, with front-wheel drive, brings 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque; the AWD Golf R has 315 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The standard transmission for both is a 6-speed manual gearbox, but a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic manual with paddle shifters is available, for not that much more money.

The GTI’s suspension is tighter than before, and its springs stiffer, changes that team with others to quicken the steering. There’s also a limited-slip differential for grip in corners.

The all-wheel-drive system in the Golf R will balance the torque and power up to 50 percent rear and 50 percent front. There’s a new driving mode for the track.

The GTI cabin gets a new 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster, an 8.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, and comfort and convenience upgrades–a head-up display is optional. The whole instrument panel has been redesigned; it’s now minimal, with buttons and switches replaced by touch controls.

The VW 2.0 turbo is an efficient engine, as the GTI with the 7-speed dual-clutch is rated by the EPA at 25 mpg city, 24 highway, 28 combined, while the 6-speed manual gets the same 28 mpg combined. Naturally the AWD Golf R with more power gets less, 23/30/26 mpg with the twin-clutch and 20/28/23 mpg with the manual.

The GTI and Golf R haven’t been crashed by the NHTSA or the IIHS, but the list of safety equipment is impressive, with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and parking sensors front and back.

Model Lineup

The GTI comes as S, SE, and Autobahn. The Golf R is just the R, and adding to its increased performance, it’s equipped like the Autobahn.

The GTI S starts at $30,540 and comes with plaid-patterned cloth heated seats, a 10.3-inch digital display, LED headlights, 18-inch wheels, and an 8.3-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The transmission is the 6-speed manual gearbox, but the 7-speed twin clutch is only $800.

The SE for $35,290 adds a 10.0-inch touchscreen, a Harmon Kardon sound system, a power sunroof, a front light bar, and keyless entry.

For $38,990 the Autobahn adds adaptive dampers, 19-inch wheels with summer tires, leather seats, a power driver’s seat, a head-up display, park assist and automatic high beams. The standard transmission is still the manual 6-speed.

The Golf R at $44,640 is equipped like the Autobahn.

The Volkswagen warranty is strong, at 4 years/50,000 miles, and include 2 years/20,000 miles of scheduled maintenance.

Exterior

The GTI continues to look basically like it has for 30 years or more, with a shape that’s boxy but classic. For 2022 its face gets brightened, but a hood that has more sculpting to be a bit angular, with LED fog lights and the bar of lights across the front that beams either red or blue, for the GTI and Golf R, respectively.

Interior

The GTI’s new instrument panel is stripped of knobs and dials, with a few haptic controls for climate and other functions below the touchscreen. The minimalist design has lost efficiency.

The standard front seats come in a rugged plaid cloth, and are comfortable, with good bolstering that isn’t too tight. The pedal positions require a set-back driver seat, which cuts into leg room in back. That still leaves 35.0 inches of rear leg room, which is barely enough for a 6-foot-tall rider. However there’s enough head room, thanks to the upright roof.

Cargo capacity has shrunk a bit, but there’s still 19.9 cubic feet that grows to 34.5 cubic feet when the rear seatback is lowered.

Driving Impressions

The 2.0-liter turbo-4 in the GTI delivers 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, which is a gain of 14 hp and 15 lb-ft from last year. With the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, it seems to hesitate in first gear, but after that the acceleration is quick.

The handling is as wonderful as it’s always been. The feel at the steering wheel is excellent. The new electronic limited slip differential uses software that controls how much lock is applied. Still, there is more torque steer than before.

The ride has also taken a step backward, on the suspension that’s stiffer. The Autobahn adds adaptive dampers, but they don’t erase the sensitivity to bumps that’s felt by the occupants.

The ride in the Golf R is just as stiff, but in that car you expect it, and there’s all that power to make it feel better. The same 2.0-liter turbo-4 is further tuned to make 315 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. So it bursts off the line, further launched by its standard all-wheel drive.

In addition to shifting 50 percent of the torque to the rear wheels, that sophisticated system can move all the rear power to the outside rear wheel for the best grip in a corner. It’s exhilarating the way the R can drive off a corner; the driver can hammer the throttle without fear of the tail sliding out. And even with much more power, the Golf R doesn’t have as much torque steer as the GTI.

The Golf R has a couple driving modes for the track–not just any track, but one mode for the Nürburgring, and another for drifting. Choose your adventure, wisely.

Final Word

The 2022 VW Golf deserves praise as either the GTI or as the Golf R. It’s either a hot hatch, or an exceptionally quick and stable performance car. For our money, the Golf R stands out as something truly special.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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