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Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8.5 ready to ring the changes

VW is hoping to claw back ground against hot hatch rivals with a new and improved Mk8.5 GTI

Volkswagen is hoping to regain some lost ground in the hot hatchback class with its updated Mk8.5 GTI which is due alongside the Golf’s range-wide update next year. Spied on the Nurburgring wearing only a thin veil of disguise, it’s hoped that the updated hot hatch will bring back some of the magic lost when the current generation Mk8 Golf was introduced. 

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Key changes to the prototype in our images are likely to be shared with the standard Golf, including subtly re-shaped headlights, new bumpers and a new interior user-interface we’ve already seen in the new Passat and Tiguan. But it’s VW’s potential changes to the Golf’s chassis that will be of most interest to the GTI crowd.

Under the bonnet we expect the same EA888 turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine powering the front wheels. As it stands, the existing GTI produces 242bhp and 370Nm of torque, with the more powerful Clubsport raising these to 296bhp and 400Nm – we’ll have to wait to see if VW has made any improvements in this area, but it's worth noting that this prototype is a base GTI, made obvious by its relatively subdued front brakes. 

Another area of potential change are the transmissions, as we expect the six-speed manual to remain off-sale due to low demand and tightening emissions regulations. Instead, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission will be offered across the range, with an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential helping with traction out of tight corners. 

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Volkswagen has been making noises about a new DCC Pro adaptive suspension system in its other models, and there’s lots of potential for this new chassis technology to be applied here. DCC Pro features a new type of dual-valve adaptive damper that allows engineers to control both the compression and rebound within its parameters of adjustability. This works in the same fashion as the single-valve DCC dampers do now, only with more precision and control. 

Each driver mode features a different calibration, and there’s further ability to adjust the dampers in an additional 16 increments – the issue has been accessibility. But insiders from VW have suggested that VW’s new rotary controller, as found in the new Tiguan, is able to be connected to the new tech, giving you much faster ‘on-the-fly’ access to the system. 

We expect the GTI to be launched around the same time as the wider Golf 8.5 update due early next year, when the iconic hatchback will also be celebrating its 50 year anniversary. While this does call for a celebration, and perhaps a special edition, it’s also likely that this updated Golf GTI will be the last petrol-powered model before moving to an all-electric powertrain for the next generation. 

Can't wait for the updated GTI? These are the best hot hatchbacks to buy right now...

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Senior staff writer

Senior staff writer at Auto Express, Jordan joined the team after six years at evo magazine where he specialised in news and reviews of cars at the high performance end of the car market. 

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