PONTIAC, Mich. — Head sock on. Helmet on. Belt buckled. Easy sufficient, now the difficult bit: diving 4 menus deep into the touchscreen to fettle with the traction management and stability management settings. Sure, Volkswagen eliminated the age-old “TCS” exhausting button from the Mk eight GTI’s inside. Turning traction management and stability management off within the 2022 VW GTI requires that you simply first enter the “Car” menu within the touchscreen, swipe one web page over, faucet the “Brakes” part, open a dropdown menu, and solely then you’re allowed to place ESC in Sport Mode, or flip it utterly off.
After you full this jig (which takes about 10 seconds even after you get good at it), VW dutifully rewards you with track-friendly digital compliance that may’t be had within the Mk 7 GTI. You see, the one method to be utterly rid of these digital nannies within the previous-generation GTI is to go to the aftermarket coders, as Volkswagen doesn’t allow you to defeat stability management from the manufacturing unit. Why’s that matter a lot? On the street, it’s no massive deal. On the racetrack, having the ability to flip off stability management might be the distinction between a cheerful or irritating day. And the racetrack is the place we’re at: M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Mich., to be actual.
Volkswagen introduced us out right here to allow us to confirm that the Mk eight GTI is nonetheless a elegant do-it-all front-drive hatchback. We already drove it on the street and located it to be as splendid as ever, so now it’s time to search out out if VW’s updates assist it across the observe. Each the brand new automotive and previous Mk 7 GTI are available to make comparisons all that a lot simpler, however there’s an enormous asterisk on any and all comparability speak.
The entire Mk eight GTIs made obtainable to us had been fitted with supremely sticky Bridgestone RE-71R summer time tires (a tire you’ll see used at observe days in all places) in entrance and the manufacturing unit Bridgestone Potenza S005 summer time tires in again. The issue right here is that you simply received’t have the ability to spec these RE-71Rs from the manufacturing unit. We requested Volkswagen, and the one method to get these excessive high-performance tires is to move to a tire retailer. If the Mk 7 GTIs available had been additionally fitted with better-than-factory rubber, we’d’ve had a good comparability. However they weren’t.
After driving the Mk 7 GTI for just a few laps, it took all of 1 nook within the Mk eight to know that almost all comparisons between the 2 of them can be rendered moot on account of the ridiculous front-end grip afforded by the RE-71Rs. To place this further grip in racing phrases, Volkswagen launched us journalists with 20-second gaps between us, and it took all of three laps across the 1.5-mile observe for the Mk eight to totally meet up with the Mk 7 between roughly equally expert drivers.
All that mentioned, there are professional explanation why the brand new automotive can be faster out on observe in addition to the tires. The newest technology of VW’s 2.Zero-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is as much as 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, will increase of 13 and 15, respectively. Each the entrance and rear suspensions are labored over. VW says the spring price is successfully 5% increased in entrance and 15% increased within the rear. It has a brand new aluminum subframe that saves 7 kilos, new wheel mounts, wishbone bearings and damping bearings. All of it combines to make the GTI deal with with extra precision and stability.
The adaptive dampers are re-tuned and built-in into the brand new “Car Dynamics Supervisor.” Volkswagen touts this new system of electronics as one of the vital impactful modifications to the Mk eight. It basically ties all the electrical and adaptive techniques collectively such that they’re now speaking and dealing as a workforce to get you spherical corners faster. The steadiness management system now talks to the electrical limited-slip differential and the adaptive dampers, making every part function seamlessly within the background.
It’s tough to place your thumb on most of those modifications, however the 2022 GTI is undeniably smoother and extra at house on observe in locations the place the electronics really feel disjointed and at odds with each other within the Mk 7. The most important distinction from the motive force’s seat is its new ESC Sport mode. The place we’d be preventing the Mk 7 GTI round some corners, the brand new GTI arcs by way of effortlessly with out chopping throttle or altering our trajectory. We hardly felt the necessity to even flip stability management off, because it scarcely bothered us. There’s little doubt that a few of this may be attributed to the ultra-grippy tires, however the way in which during which the techniques intervene is way extra pure and fewer irksome than earlier than. This conclusion was solely amplified by time in each on a decent autocross course. In brief, the electronics don’t get in the way in which of your throttle inputs anymore, letting you steer your approach by way of corners with the throttle to a higher extent. Nonetheless, within the realm of annoying electronics, there have been a pair cases of dinging notifications about a number of the emergency techniques being off as we neared 100 mph on the backstretch. Not ideally suited.
The 2022 GTI’s extra thrust is barely noticeable versus the earlier technology. VW’s fabulous dual-clutch seven-speed transmission is one other totally carried-over bit that we’re completely satisfied to see return. It was flawless on observe. You may pull the paddles your self, however there’s no purpose to take action should you don’t need to. The handbook is a barely completely different story. VW went away from its beautiful golf ball-style shift knob to an enormous, chunky sq. knob, and it’s a downgrade. The previous shift knob was mild and exact, whereas this one is a contact unwieldy and annoyingly massive as compared. We additionally most popular the clutch really feel within the Mk 7, because the Mk eight’s clutch is tremendous numb.
Again to these tires, although. On the very least, we’ve decided that you simply’re going to love these Bridgestone RE-71Rs in your GTI. The front-end grip is great and allows you to carry extra velocity than you assume you possibly can by way of each a part of the nook. It’s all a lot that the sheer grip might simply be sugarcoating and amplifying how a lot better all the opposite techniques are. Parsing out how a lot of the improved dealing with is due to the improved suspension versus the tires is tough — each the entrance and rear of the brand new GTI really feel a bit tauter and extra reactive to steering inputs, however solely barely so. The limited-slip differential is clearly doing nice work at eliminating any inside wheel slip on tight corners, however it’s additionally being helped by these gumball tires.
Your expertise on manufacturing unit rubber in ESC Sport mode might even be considerably completely different than ours, because the sheer degree of grip might be accountable for inflicting fewer electrical intrusions. The place the Mk 7 GTI’s tires begin to really feel squirmy on the restrict, the Mk eight simply plods on unaffected. Each automobiles are superbly balanced, toeing the road between understeer and oversteer. If you happen to’re coming by way of an extended nook a contact scorching, simply calmly ease up on the throttle, and also you’ll really feel the rear safely loosen up and support your line. It doesn’t make any jarring strikes, and the automotive rewards your exact changes as a driver’s car ought to.
One final noticeable improve from Mk 7 to Mk eight we appreciated on observe was the upgraded brake system. VW says the Mk eight will get a bigger brake grasp cylinder to bolster pedal efficiency and braking stability beneath exhausting stress, and it really works wonders. The Mk 7 GTI will get slightly swimmy and unsightly while you brake from excessive speeds, whereas the Mk eight is solely a reassuring rock coming to a halt. It’s way more confidence inspiring. VW did this with out even altering the brake setup — every part is identical dimension because it was earlier than.
There’s little doubt that as a complete the Mk eight GTI is an improve over the earlier technology on observe. Simply how a lot of an improve is what’s so tough to find out on account of these stinking tires. The brand new ESC packages are appreciated, and the complicated Car Dynamics Supervisor works wonders. However comparable tires can be needed for a real apples-to-apples comparability to see precisely what the suspension upgrades carry to the desk. One conclusion we will safely come to: the brand new 2022 VW GTI is no doubt essentially the most track-ready GTI we’ve seen in the US but.