New, unique, powerful – when the Golf GTI was presented to the world’s public at the IAA International Motor Show in Frankfurt in 1975 and launched one year later, it was a sensation. Visually, it differs from the original Volkswagen Golf only in a few details, but behind its discreet exterior hides a real racing machine – powered by a new, lively 110 PS engine. Half a dozen like-minded people, including the then Volkswagen press officer Anton Konrad, had forged the secret plan at Volkswagen in 1974 to develop a “Golf sport”. They succeeded in transforming a compact car into a sports car that remained affordable and also proved its worth in everyday life. To this day, the Golf GTI is a sports car for everyone. After the initially planned production run of 5,000 units, more than two million units have been delivered worldwide after eight generations and various special models. This makes it one of the most successful compact sports cars in the world.
Fascination in just three letters
With the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Volkswagen launched a sports car for everyone in 1976, hitting the pulse of the time. We look back and show how the sports car from Wolfsburg has developed from generation to generation.
Golf I GTI (1976 - 1983) – The classic one
Der Golf GTI im Motorsport
The Golf GTI also celebrated its first successes in motor sports, especially on the rallying circuit, shortly after its launch. Thus, the Golf GTI competed as a new championship car for six years from 1977. At the “Rabbit Cup” in the USA, Volkswagen quickly advanced to a record winner and multiple champion with the Golf GTI and its racing driver Paul Hacker. There were also records at the “VW Golf GTI Cup” in Germany. In the 1978 season, Walter Struckmann from Hanover won all ten races in a row with his Golf GTI. And Berthold Bermel from Krefeld took part in all Golf GTI Cup races from the premiere on Sylt in 1977 to the final in 1982 at the Nürburgring. The Golf GTI also won a world championship and two German titles in rallying. The Golf GTI also shone at the famous 24-hour race at the Nürburgring with almost 50 class and numerous group victories in the race held since 1970.
Golf II GTI (1984 - 1991) – A stroke of genius with up to 160 PS
Golf III GTI (1991 - 1997) – The discreet power pack with up to 150 PS
Golf IV GTI (1998 - 2003) – Cult with 180 PS
Golf V GTI (2004 - 2008) – The comeback with up to 230 PS
Golf VI GTI (2009 – 2012) Low power-to-weight ratio with up to 235 PS
Golf VII GTI (2013 - 2020) – In top form with up to 310 PS
The seventh GTI generation is launched in two performance levels in spring 2013. Volkswagen presents the seventh generation of the new Golf GTI in two power stages: 162 kW / 220 PS is offered from the basic version, 169 kW / 230 PS by the Golf GTI Performance. For the first time it is equipped with a differential lock for the driven front axle. Also a debut for the Golf GTI, it is now based on the Modular Transverse Construction Kit (MQB). This new technical platform makes the GTI up to 42 kg lighter than its predecessor and thus even more dynamic. The 230 PS version with manual transmission is the first Golf GTI with a speed of 250 km/h.
In November 2015, the Golf GTI Clubsport, which is powered by a boost of up to 213 kW / 290 hp, is also presented. It is launched on the market in 2016 and blurs the boundaries to motorsport. Only 5.9 seconds is all it takes to sprint to 100 km/h. One year later, the 228 kW / 310 PS Golf GTI Clubsport S then completely dissolves the motor sport boundaries. A highlight for GTI fans is also the Golf GTI TCR. The road version of the successful TCR racing car, which will be produced until 2019, impresses with 213 kW/290 PS and optionally with a top speed of up to 260 km/h. On board: particularly sporty standard equipment and a high-performance brake package.
Der Golf GTI TCR als Rennwagen
The Golf GTI TCR was developed especially for customer racing in the same named Touring Car Championship (Rennserien) racing series and participated in the TCR International Series and, from 2018, the FIA WTCR. The Golf GTI TCR with the team around Sébastien Loeb Racing (SLR), Volkswagen factory drivers Rob Huff (GB), Mehdi Bennani (MA), Benjamin Leuchter (D) and Johan Kristoffersson (S) competed around the world, for over five years, achieving more than 150 victories and over 500 podium results. Production of the Golf GTI TCR was discontinued at the end of 2019.
Golf VIII GTI (since 2020) – The legend lives
With the eighth generation of the Golf GTI, the legend of the world’s most successful compact sports car lives on in 2020 – setting new standards in the process. The new model is more networked, has a sharper cut and is more attractive to drive than ever before. The turbo engine now develops 180 kW/245 PS, with a maximum torque of 370 Nm, allowing the car to go from 0 to 100 km/h in just 6.3 seconds (with optional 7-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox). The maximum speed is 250 km/h. In addition, the new networked Driving Dynamics Manager ensures even greater agility and sportiness. The system coordinates the electromechanical chassis functions centrally and at a higher level.
At the same time, however, typical GTI details are retained in the new generation. The classic check pattern has been refreshed and now adorns the likewise newly developed sports seats. There is no longer a traditional ignition system in the new Golf; it has been replaced by the standard “Engine/Start/Stop” button. An interesting detail here is that once the doors are opened, it pulses red until the engine is started. The three-spoke sports steering wheel of yesteryear has been transformed into a new multifunction sports leather steering wheel with touch controls and an optionally integrated “Travel Assist” button to assist driving the Golf at speeds of up to 210 km/h. The new Golf GTI Clubsport brings even more power and sound to the track. With 221 kW (300 PS) and 400 Nm torque, it is the new top model of the eighth Golf GTI generation and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.6 seconds. It is regulated to a top speed of 250 km/h.