New Volkswagen Golf at CES with big cabin improvements

Volkswagen Golf GTI 8.5 camo CES front

Exterior changes are minimal but bring more angular look

‘Mk8.5’ Golf previewed in Las Vegas with physical steering-wheel buttons and new infotainment screen

Volkswagen is “just a few weeks away” from unwrapping the long-awaited ‘Mk8.5’ Golf hatchback, which promises high-profile usability improvements, upgraded powertrains and a host of new technology.

Previewed with a camouflaged prototype – in hot GTI guise – at CES in Las Vegas, the updated Golf will be available for pre-order in the spring, around four years after the current car arrived in dealerships.

Importantly, 2024 also marks 50 years since the Golf replaced the Beetle as Volkswagen’s core model.

Since then, more than 37 million examples have been sold globally, making it comfortably the 86-year-old company’s – and Europe’s – best-selling car of all time.

This latest iteration, while not radically different in its overall design, is charged with renewing and sustaining the appeal of the eighth-generation Golf until it is replaced by the electric-only Mk9 at the end of the decade.

Mk8.5 Volkswagen Golf GTI rear three quarter

Chief among the upgrades for 2024 will be a revised interior, which majors on improvements to ergonomics, quality and functionality – areas in which VW has admitted its current cars fall short.

Volkswagen CEO Thomas Schäfer told Autocar last year that widespread criticism of the interiors of its current cars – including the Golf – “definitely did a lot of damage” to the brand, which the firm is looking to rectify with a new approach to cockpit design.

To that end, the new Golf features a redesigned dashboard, which now houses a larger, 12.9in central infotainment display, working in tandem with a 10.4in digital instrument cluster and running the latest generation of VW’s MIB infotainment platform.

The new MIB system, first introduced on the ID 3 and ID 7 EVs, brings improved menu structures, faster processing speeds and higher-resolution displays in response to criticisms that the outgoing system was slow to wake up and difficult to use on the move.

Mk8.5 Volkswagen Golf GTI interior

It also adds an enhanced version of the IDA voice assistant, underpinned by the ChatGPT artificial intelligence model. It can be used to control functions such as the infotainment, sat-nav and air conditioning by a greater variety of voice commands than was previously possible.

Volkswagen’s quest for greater usability also means the Golf’s much-derided haptic steering wheel controls have been swapped for more traditional physical buttons – an arrangement that is visually familiar from the previous, seventh-generation Golf, often regarded as a high point in the model line’s history.

The new Golf will seek to re-establish its reputation for quality construction with an array of more upmarket materials throughout the interior, including one called Atrilur, a recycled material similar to Alcantara, in upper-end variants.

Mk8.5 Volkswagen Golf front quarter

But perhaps the most obvious and useful of all the changes to the new Golf’s cabin is that the touch-sensitive slider bars for the climate control now light up, meaning they can be operated much more easily and safely when driving at night.

Revisions to the hatchback’s exterior are less obvious, with the camouflage still in place, but Volkswagen promises the Golf will be “visually refined” for 2024, no doubt by virtue of reshaped bumpers, tweaked air intakes and new-look lights at each end, which will use VW’s latest IQ matrix LED technology.

New wheel options and paint schemes are expected to be added to the options list for 2024, too, and it seems all but certain that Volkswagen will mark the 50th anniversary of the Golf with a highly bespoke commemorative edition of the GTI hot hatch.

As for powertrains, the new Golf is expected to broadly match the current car in offering a range of pure-combustion, mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid options, but with revisions made across the line-up in pursuit of improved efficiency and performance.

Mk8.5 Volkswagen Golf rear quarter

The eHybrid and GTE PHEVs, for example, are set to swap their 1.4-litre petrol engines for a newer, cleaner 1.5-litre unit, while their new electric motors will bring a power boost and a larger battery could increase their EV range to as much as 62 miles. The mild-hybrid petrol cars will become more efficient, too, and a new mild-hybrid diesel, badged eTDI, will be added to the roster.

VW has not yet confirmed whether the hot Golf models will be hybridised for their final combustion-powered outing, as sources at the company had earlier said was possible, and these new images of the GTI give no indication that its engine is electrically assisted.

Further details will be given imminently at a full public unveiling of the new Golf, when VW will also give an idea of changes to the Golf’s pricing structure. The Golf Life opens the current line-up at £26,945, with the GTI bumping the price to £39,815 and the R to £44,550. Aside from any increases made in line with market trends and inflation, if Volkswagen removes the manual gearbox from the Golf line-up as it earlier suggested it would, prices could climb by nearly £2000 for each variant.

Source: Autocar

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