Preview and photos by Paul Williams

For Volkswagen, the main event at the 2013 New York International Auto Show was surely winning the coveted World Car of the Year Award for its new seventh-generation Golf. But for enthusiasts, it was the presence of the upcoming GTI version that caught their attention.

2015 Volkswagen GTI
2015 Volkswagen GTI
2015 Volkswagen GTI
2015 Volkswagen GTI
2015 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

Already seen at Geneva, we still have only limited information about this car as it pertains to the Canadian market. What we do know is that it will arrive in the first half of 2014, likely as a 2015 model.

Introduced originally in 1976, the GTI is the archetypal “hot hatch.” Its upcoming replacement will be based on the new Golf, and Volkswagen of America is estimating final output at 210 hp and 258 lb-ft. This is a revised version of the existing GTI powerplant, which will be mated to the six-speed manual or six-speed, dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission.

In Europe, the GTI will be equipped with stop/start technology and will offer an 18-percent improvement in fuel economy compared with its lower-powered predecessor. It’s possible we’ll see this technology here; Porsche uses stop/start and it’s becoming more prevalent in North America.

But while some GTI fans will certainly be conscious of fuel consumption, most will likely be focused on its superior driving dynamics and distinctive looks.

We don’t know the exact power rating we’ll receive in North America, but VW has indicated that we’ll eventually receive something similar to the Performance pack that gains European market GTIs an extra 10 hp. In standard form, the new GTI will accelerate from 0–100 km/h in 6.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 246 km/h, should you find somewhere to appreciate this potential. It’ll also scoot from 80–120 km/h in 5.0 seconds.

Euro models equipped with the Performance pack also receive an increase in brake size from 312 to 340 mm in front, and up from 300 to 310 and switching from solid to vented (with GTI badges on the calipers) and an electronically controlled front differential lock (VAQ). The differential lock affects driving dynamics and safety by reducing power-related understeer that can occur on high-powered, front-drive cars. Basically, the system brakes the wheel on the inside of a curve, allowing more power to the outside wheel and optimizing the vehicle’s speed through bends. Traction is also improved in wet conditions and on loose surfaces.

The new GTI will introduce progressive steering that can turn the car through a desired radius with fewer adjustments of the steering wheel. Volkswagen points out that conventional steering systems utilize a constant gear ratio, whereas the progressive system is variable, reducing steering work when maneuvering in close quarters or when parking. On twisting roads, the driver is expected to experience improved dynamics through the corners. This sounds like a form of “active steering,” although it is presumably a simpler technology than the expensive options found on some luxury cars.

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