The 2015 Volkswagen GTI has officially found its way to the street for the first time in the south of France, as the car came into the hands of automotive journalists from Europe, where it goes on sale in May.
As anticipated at the car's debut at the 2013 Geneva auto show, the seventh-generation Volkswagen GTI represents a complete makeover of the model into a showcase of VW's latest technology. Of course, the Europeans will have to pay for it, as the price of the Volkswagen GTI in European-specification will begin at $36,818.
Fortunately, Americans can expect a price more in keeping with the GTI's current MSRP of $23,995, and details have emerged about the way Volkswagen of America expects to achieve this when the 2015 Volkswagen GT finally arrives here.
More Power for the U.S., Plus Tricks As expected, the GTI's turbocharged, 2.0-liter EA888 inline-4 engine will produce more power for 2015, as it's rated at 210 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. With a six-speed manual transmission, the 2015 Volkswagen GTI is expected to achieve an EPA-rated 24 mpg city/34 mpg highway/27 mpg combined.
Standard equipment for the U.S.-specification VW GTI will include plaid upholstery for the heated sport seats, ambient interior lighting, Bluetooth compatibility, MDI with an iPod adaptor, and 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels.
Available features will include satellite navigation, a premium Fender audio system, keyless access with push-button ignition, power-adjustable driver's seat, and park-distance sensors with a rear-view camera. Also available will be 18-inch summer performance tires.
Dial Up More Power Just as with the Euro-spec GTI, U.S. product planners expect the availability of the 2015 Volkswagen GTI Performance, a special trim model that features an engine with 10 hp more and an even broader range at which the 258 lb-ft of torque is available. The model will also get an upgraded brake system that includes 13.4-inch front rotors instead of the standard car's 12.4-inch rotors.
To make good use of the added power, the U.S.-spec version of the 2015 GTI Performance is also anticipated to get the same electronically controlled, torque-sensing mechanical limited-slip differential that the Euro-spec GTI Performance incorporates. It's complemented by a two-stage stability control that can be set to be less intrusive, but never fully defeated.
European Trickery The Europeans get a lot more stuff in their GTI, although of course they'll also be paying for it. This includes an electronic system that allows the chassis to be calibrated for Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Individual modes, and the system uses sensors and accelerometers to actively monitor and adjust the suspension, which can now independently vary compression and rebound damping.
Exterior enhancements present in the Euro model also include LED rear lights, adaptive radar-activated cruise control, highway- and city-calibrated emergency braking to avoid obstacles, real-time online information for the navigation system, headlights with active high-beam control and cornering capability, a high-end audio system, a uniquely engineered heated windshield and a panoramic sunroof.
In Your Driveway in Mid-2014 There are plenty of decisions that remain before the 2015 Volkswagen GTI is finalized for the U.S., but the on-sale date has been set for mid-2014.
The good news is, almost all the serious performance enhancements available in the European-spec GTI will make it into the 2015 GTI for the U.S. Naturally we'll be getting the new, more spacious bodyshell with independent rear suspension, plus the electric-assist steering that features a variable-ratio rack-and-pinion to reduce the number of turns that the steering wheel requires to go from lock to lock.
As Volkswagen of America reminds us, the U.S. sells more GTIs than any other country in the world -- some 16,314 during 2012 -- and the days of the U.S. being forced to settle for a lesser performance specification of the GTI are over.
- Michael Jordan, West Coast Editor