Infotainment screen gives an early look at redesigned Golf GTI
‘Mk8.5’ Golf previewed in Las Vegas with physical steering-wheel buttons and new infotainment screen
The facelifted Golf has been previewed with a camouflaged prototype in hot GTI guise at CES in Las Vegas, and a display in the overhauled infotainment system has revealed the look of the redesigned front end.
As suggested by lightly camouflaged prototypes in recent weeks, the changes are not extensive, but a new treatment for the lower grille, reshaped air intakes and new light designs mark it out obviously from the current car. These animations only show the front end, but the rear is expected to bear a similar overhaul, too.
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.
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.
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.
Integrating ChatGPT allows drivers and passengers to communicate with the car in a “more natural and conversational way,” according to Iqbal Archad, chief technology officer at American software firm Cerence.
Users can give specific prompts such as “Hey Ida, turn the temperature up” or “direct me to the nearest charger,” but the new generative AI technology means that the car can also respond to more general inputs such as: “Hey Ida, I’m cold”, or “I need to buy a new phone charger”.
The upgraded Ida system can even respond to such inputs as “I fancy butter chicken”, responding with a recipe sourced online by ChatGPT.
This new software will be rolled out over-the-air to all Volkswagen cars equipped with the latest-generation infotainment system, and will be fitted to all new cars going forwards, beginning with the ID 7 and upcoming Golf. Vehicles from Cupra, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles will follow suit. Audi was not named.
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.
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.
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 will 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.
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.
There will no longer be a manual gearbox on offer, Volkswagen has confirmed. Technical development boss Kai Grünitz said “it didn’t make sense” to do a new manual, as when development of the facelifted car began, there was a lack of clarity about what Euro 7 emissions regulations would look like, and VW took the decision to continue with just the lower-emission DSG gearbox to avoid falling foul of any potentially punitive new emissions caps.
“I think that’s ok,” said Grünitz, pointing to the fact that roughly 95% of current GTI models are specified with the auto box.
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. Removing the manual gearbox from the Golf line-up could push prices up by an average of around £2000 for each variant.