Volkswagen revealed the updated Golf to the world late Tuesday, marking the nameplate’s 50th anniversary with an overhauled (but not all-new) lineup that will come to our shores in the form of the 2025 GTI. Sadly, it’ll be packing light this year, as there’s no need to bring the manual gearbox along. Like the Golf itself in America, the manual GTI is but a memory. While its dual-clutch gearbox may be a downgrade in engagement from a real-deal manual, it’s still an excellent transmission that is equally at home on the street or track, so let’s not write off the GTI’s enthusiast credentials just yet. And there’s good news from a daily driving standpoint too, as VW has heard the criticisms of its touch-based infotainment system and not only updated the underlying tech, but brought back some key physical controls to boot.
As the great philosopher John Dorian once said, little victories count for a lot around here, and if you can look past the departure of the manual transmission, the Mk8.5 GTI is littered with them. Power is up from 241 horses to 262 (VW says this spec is for European models, but we don’t expect much to change); that’s six horsepower less than the plug-in hybrid (and not-for-America) GTE, which continues to strike us as deliberate. No torque figure was available at publication time, but with power still coming from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, it’s unlikely we’ll see much increase from the 273 pound-feet offered in the outgoing GTI.
Then there’s the cabin. We’ve bemoaned the current (above left) GTI’s over-reliance on touch tech since release, and while the return of physical wheel controls (above right) is certainly fantastic to see, perhaps the biggest news here is that we’re getting a new version of the software suite underpinning it all. It would be easier to live with VW’s tech if it worked as intended, but the existing infotainment system has a reputation for simply not booting up at times (or crashing with uncommon frequency even if it does). And due to its integration with the rest of the car’s computers, issues with a modern infotainment system can rapidly escalate to show-stoppers. VW says it’s MIB4 infotainment system should address the complaints leveled at the previous tech and offer more features to boot. As an added bonus, with the new floating infotainment screen, we get a redesigned center stack featuring illuminated climate controls that VW says should be more ergonomically friendly. Those are small wins, sure, but surely they’ll improve the GTI’s day-to-day livability.
Apart from the updated cabin and tweaked powertrain, there’s not a ton more to the Mk 8.5 GTI. VW’s release detailed the rest of its European-market variants less three — the GTI Clubsport, Golf R and Golf R wagon. Those three will be revealed later in 2024 and will likely hit European showrooms in time for 2025. Of the models revealed Tuesday, only the GTI is due to come stateside; it and the Golf R were the only models not discontinued in the U.S. after 2021. Look for more on the R when it launches in Europe, at which point we should learn about VW’s plans to bring it here.