Volkswagen is less than two weeks away from unveiling its crucial facelifted Golf.
The reworked version of Europeâ€™s best-selling car is set to be revealed in early November in Wolfsburg, Germany, with UK sales starting early next year. The Golfâ€™s mid-life upgrades are designed to help keep the model fresh until the launch of a heavily re-engineered, new Mk8 Golf in 2019.
Visually, the facelifted Golf departs little from todayâ€™s four-year-old model. Subtle styling changes on prototype versions of the new hatchback include a lightly altered front bumper, new headlight graphics with integrated day-time running lights, reworked LED tail-lights graphics and new alloy wheel designs.
The main focus of the facelift is the interior, which VW has upgraded to include the optional virtual cockpit display offered on the Passat. The 12.5in high-definition monitor can be ordered in place of the new Golfâ€™s analogue instruments. It offers differing digital layouts at the press of a button on the multi-function steering wheel.
More significant are the changes to the Golfâ€™s infotainment system. In a bid to make the new car more appealing, VW will offer a top-of-the-line system with a 9.5in centre display in 16:9 format, as previewed by the Golf R Touch concept at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. Buyers will also be able to operate it using a range of gesture and proximity control functions.
The same driver assist systems as the Passat will be offered, including a new traffic jam assist function, which allows semi-autonomous driving at speeds of up to 23mph.
Earlier plans to provide the facelifted Golf with a new range of turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol and diesel engines have been delayed, according to VW insiders. They say extra engineering activity placed on the company in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal has led to changes in the introduction of a number of driveline developments.
The range will feature VWâ€™s new turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, as seen in the recently facelifted Up and soon to be replaced Polo. It is set to replace various versions of
the existing turbo 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol unit. Further up the range will be lightly reworked versions of todayâ€™s turbo 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine.
The facelifted Golf GTI will retain the same turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine as the outgoing model, albeit with a moderate lift in power beyond the standard 217bhp and 227bhp available today.
At the top of the petrol line-up will be a more powerful version of the four-wheel-drive Golf R, whose turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder motor is said to develop the same 414bhp as the R400 concept first wheeled out at the 2014 Beijing motor show.
As for diesels, the Golf will retain the recently controversial and revised turbo 1.6 and 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines.
VW is using the facelift to upgrade to the driveline of the Golf GTE. It is set to receive the same power output as the petrol-electric system used by the Passat, with reserves rising from a combined 201bhp to 215bhp.
At the recent Paris motor show, VW also made official the changes to the facelifted e-Golf, which is set to make its world debut at AutoMobility LA (formerly LA motor show) next month. It swaps its existing 24.2kWh lithium ion battery for a larger 38.5kWh one. This is claimed to boost its range beyond 186 miles.
Audi is set to open the order books for the new TT RS later this month, allowing customers to buy the most powerful TT ever. The new TT RS will be available in Coupe and Roadster bodystyles, both offering staggering pace, and prices will start from Â£51,800. The TT RS was first shown off at events in Beijing and London before UK motorists got a chance to see the car in the flesh at the Goodwood festival of Speed earlier this year.
The TT RS has enough pace to rival some supercars, with a 0-62mph sprint of 3.7 seconds, with a top speed of 174mph - although that's limited to 155mph unless an optional Dynamic Package is specified. Even Audi's own supercar, the R8, only manages 3.2 seconds for the same 0-62mph sprint.
All this power comes from a reworked five-cylinder turbo engine which pushes out a staggering 394bhp despite being 26kg lighter than its predecessor. With its 1-2-4-5-3 firing order, Audi insists it has retained the engineâ€™s unique deep, enthusiastic, rich sound while improving its performance, reducing its fuel consumption and lowering its weight. It's mated to a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox which sends power to all four wheels via a new quattro system.
A huge diffuser is built into the rear bodywork with two elliptical tailpipes. The vast wing can be deleted at no extra cost if you prefer a more understated look. The TT RS will also introduce Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) as an option for the tail-lamps.
Dominating the front end is a hexagon-filled single-frame grille, flanked by optional Matrix LED headlights, while inside, the RS follows the regular TT. Taking pride of place is the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit, and itâ€™s complemented by lightweight sports seats.
Under the skin, the TT RS retains the electronic differential, with suspension lowered by 10mm. It will use a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and enormous 370mm disc brakes. There is an optional RS Sports suspension system, which delivers adaptive magnetic control damping to govern its steel springs.
A set of lighter, forged alloy wheels and carbon-ceramic brakes are optional. The Roadster â€“ which is 90kg heavier than the coupe â€“ features a folding fabric roof which can be lowered electrically in 10 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph.
The new Audi TT RS will start from Â£51,800 for the Coupe model, or Â£53,550 for the convertible Roadster. It will be available to order at the end of September.
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There are two letters guaranteed to get fast Ford fans excited: RS. They stand for Rallye Sport, and after the famous badge debuted on 1970â€™s Escort RS1600, it has been reserved for the hottest Fords ever since.
The latest addition to the family is the new Focus RS. This go-faster family hatchback is the most powerful ever, thanks to a thumping 345bhp turbocharged 2.3-litre engine. Itâ€™s also the first RS since the rally-bred Escort RS Cosworth to feature a four-wheel-drive system, although this trick transmission has been designed to boost driver fun, not just to improve grip and traction.
Yet despite the incredible power and hi-tech hardware, the new Focus RS hasnâ€™t forgotten its blue-collar roots. With a price thatâ€™s a whisker under Â£30,000, it promises plenty of performance per pound.
Here, it faces two fierce rivals. The Audi RS3 was used as a benchmark by Fordâ€™s engineers when developing the Focus, and its 362bhp looks good on paper. It also has plenty of upmarket appeal, albeit with a price to match.
The Volkswagen Golf R doesnâ€™t shout nearly as loudly as its rivals here, plus itâ€™s a little down on outright power. However, itâ€™s competitively priced and is recognised as the handling benchmark for four-wheel-drive hot hatches. Until this point, at least.
So which of our heavy-hitting pocket rockets will land the knock-out punch? We hit the tortuous mountain roads above Barcelona in Spain to find out.
Head to head
The Ford and VW borrow their engines from other models. So the 2.3-litre in the Focus is also used in the Mustang, but tweaks to the internals and turbo boost power to 345bhp. Under the Golfâ€™s bonnet is a GTI engine, with power increased from 217bhp to 296bhp.
The Audiâ€™s engine appeared in the old-shape TT RS, and also features in the RS Q3 crossover.
Ford has toned down the Focusâ€™s styling in an attempt to rival the premium brands, but there are still plenty of RS cues, including the gaping grille and large tailgate spoiler. The Audiâ€™s potential is equally obvious, but its additions arenâ€™t as aggressive. By comparison, the Volkswagen is low key and could be confused with a cheaper R-Line model.
The Golf comes with a choice of either a six-speed manual gearbox or a Â£1,415 twin-clutch DSG automatic. All RS3s feature Audiâ€™s seven-speed twin-clutch S tronic, while the Focus is only offered with a six-speed manual â€“ although Ford hasnâ€™t ruled out introducing its PowerShift auto box to the RS at a later date.
1st place: Ford Focus RS
With its eye-catching price tag and blistering performance, the Focus RS is a fast Ford in the finest tradition. Yet itâ€™s the carâ€™s trick four-wheel-drive system and honed suspension that star, giving the Focus incredible agility and delivering more than enough driver involvement. It also looks and sounds the part. The only black marks are reserved for the small boot and firm low-speed ride.
2nd place: Volkswagen Golf R
The Golf misses out by the narrowest of margins in this encounter. Itâ€™s faster than its power deficit would suggest and it attacks twisting back roads with incredible composure. Itâ€™s also the easiest car to live with day to day and has the most versatile interior. Yet it just lacks the excitement and involvement of the Focus â€“ and in this class, that counts for a lot.
3rd place: Audi RS3
If this test was based purely on engine sound and straight-line performance, then the Audi RS3 would carry off the spoils. It also benefits from having easily the best cabin here and comes with most standard equipment. However, its handling feels a little lead-footed in this company, and thereâ€™s no getting away from that hefty price tag.
VWâ€™s head of powertrain development, Dr. Heinz-Jakob NeuÃŸer, has confirmed that the facelifted Volkswagen Golf will feature gesture control technology when it arrives at the end of 2016. This is a first for the family hatchback segment and part of a growing trend for advanced connectivity and control technology making its way into more affordable cars.
NeuÃŸer confirmed the news at CES in Shanghai, where the German manufacturer also rolled out its VW Golf R Touch concept. The gesture control technology that will be used on the facelifted Golf will be borrowed from the concept.
â€œThe interior features a preview of future VW interior technologies, with smartphone applications redefined for automotive use,â€ NeuÃŸer told Auto Express. â€œThe gesture control will become reality in the Golf at the end of next year.â€
The new infotainment and gesture control system which will make its way into the Golf is likely to be made up of three digital displays and 5 in-car sensors. A larger 13-inch hi-res colour display will replace the conventional screen housed in the dash of the current Golf. A smaller 8-inch screen will replace the traditional instrument cluster, with gesture control being used to operate the volume settings, temperature controls and sunroof operation instead of traditional controls.
The cabin will become largely â€œbutton-lessâ€, with the functions not able to be operated via gesture control being accessed on the new digital displays which will feature haptic feedback.
We did think the VW Golf would get a facelift towards the end of 2016, but it seems like its arriving somewhat earlier and will debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March.
The facelift wonâ€™t be a huge one cosmetically â€“ probably the usual bumpers, lights, colour and trim options â€“ but it will be a bit more extensive on the technology front.
Auto Bild reports the 2016 Golf will be getting LED headlights across the range, digital instruments on the higher end models and a heads-up display too.
Other changes include the adoption of the electric powertrain in the Passat GTE for the Golf GTE, which will see an improvement for the Golf in both power and torque, and more three-cylinder engines to improve economy and emissions.
It also seems the early arrival of the facelifted Golf will mean an early arrival for the Golf R420 too.
It was reported last summer that the Volkswagen Golf R420 was due to arrive as a production take on the R400 Concept â€“ becoming the quickest production Golf ever â€“ by 2017, but it seems it will now arrive this year instead.
All of which may help shine a slightly more positive light on VW at Geneva. Unless we have any more damaging dieselgate news in the meantime!!
Each and every Volkswagen Golf to date has been flanked by a hot GTI version, with the current car pumping out as much as 286bhp in flagship Clubsport form. The Mk8 will be no different, and the GTI is likely to feature a new 2.0 TSI engine with as much as 325bhp.
The new hot Golf, which is due shortly after the standard car, in 2019, will get a significant power hike, with even the entry-level model producing in the region of 260bhp. There will be a more powerful Performance Pack car with 300bhp, as well as an evolution of the Clubsport version with 325bhp.
â€¢ Best hot hatchbacks to buy
Our exclusive images reveal how the GTI could look, although itâ€™s likely to be subject to subtle changes given the new details portrayed in our pictures. Yet expect all the usual sporty styling cues â€“ like the beefed-up bumpers and red detailing, along with the trademark tartan seats.
This being a GTI, all versions will be front-wheel drive, and with a choice of six-speed manual or DSG auto boxes. However, the DSG wonâ€™t be a rehash of the old six or seven-speed units, but the worldâ€™s first 10-speed twin-clutch set-up.
Itâ€™s a similar size and weight as the current seven-speed DSG, and designed to work with the Golfâ€™s MQB architecture, and is being engineered not only for snappy shifts and a sporty feel, but to cut fuel consumption significantly. Capable of handling up to 550Nm of torque, itâ€™s set to be used in the Mk8 Golf GTI, Golf GTD and Golf R; lesser models will make do with the more cost-effective seven-speeder.
VW has been dropping hints about the look of future sporty Golfs, and the common thread is more aggression, while retaining classic GTI cues. In 2013, the Golf Design Vision GTI Concept wowed the WÃ¶rthersee tuning show in Austria with its bigger wheels, sculpted body and sharp, exaggerated nose.
And we may not have to wait long before VW shows its cards. Rumours abound that it will present a new concept at Januaryâ€™s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This technology demonstrator, possibly with a full electric powertrain, could also give a big clue towards the styling of the Golf Mk8
So the various versions of the new GTI will look sharper, be faster and use far less fuel â€“ and thatâ€™s not entirely down to the more powerful engines. VW is expected to use innovative new steel-polymer sandwich tech for selected body panels, cutting weight for those components by as much as 30 per cent. By sticking thin sheets of steel either side of a polymer core, the weight of the Golfâ€™s bonnet, for example, can be reduced by 2kg or so. Carbon fibre is still much lighter and more rigid, of course, but costs much more.
â€¢ VW Golf GTE Sport concept
With the GTI family covering so much more of the hot hatch market than before, the big question is where this leaves the even hotter and traditionally four-wheel-drive Golf R. The word from Wolfsburg is that there are several options, all explored in recent concept cars.
The most obvious option, and current front runner, is to use a version of the highly strung 395bhp 2.0 TSI engine from 2014â€™s R400 concept, with four-wheel drive and a 10-speed DSG box. An R400 version (spotted below) of the current Golf is expected to go on sale in 2016, so the next Golf R could take things even further, extracting around 420bhp from the turbocharged four-cylinder.
Other alternatives include fitting the new twin-turbo 3.0-litre VR6 engine, showcased in 496bhp form in 2013â€™s Golf Design Vision GTI concept. It would be a popular move with US customers who still value cylinder count and cubic capacity, but could be seen as a regressive step by bosses in Germany.
â€¢ VW Golf R Touch concept revealed at CES 2015
The third and most radical idea is to use the plug-in hybrid powertrain from the Golf GTE Sport concept. This combines a 295bhp 1.6 TSI engine derived from the Polo WRC rally car with two electric motors on the rear axle for a total of 395bhp and 670Nm of torque, and gave the concept 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds and 141mpg economy.
Whatever VW chooses, one thingâ€™s clear: a hot hatch power war is in full swing, and with its trio of GTIs, producing a minimum of 260bhp, plus a ballistic Golf R in the pipeline, the brand has all the firepower it needs to see off the competition.
Last summerâ€™s diesel emissions scandal rocked the motor industry and shook the VW Group. Damage to the brandâ€™s reputation and loss of customer confidence have been hard to quantify in recent months, but the consequences are set to be huge â€“ and theyâ€™re likely to impact on the next-generation Golf, revealed in exclusive images.
Volkswagen has hatched a masterplan to save 1billion Euros per year, while making a clear commitment to electromobility and a new generation of â€˜cleanâ€™ diesel engines.
Various all-electric VW projects are in the pipeline, with a new Phaeton and Microbus concepts spearheading the brandâ€™s emission-free future. On top of that, the German giant will now take a closer look at other areas of the business that it thinks can return significant savings â€“ both financially and environmentally.
Top of that list is the next Golf. The current Mk7 car is available in several shapes and sizes, with power ranging from small turbo petrols to hot diesels and plug-in hybrids. Thereâ€™s even an all-electric e-Golf, capable of up to 118 miles on battery power alone.
Although the Mk7 will get a mild facelift this year, the new car â€“ due in 2018 â€“ will build on this. Itâ€™ll be more practical, more powerful and, most importantly, more fuel efficient. VW will stick with its versatile MQB platform for the eighth-generation Golf, and despite the fact these underpinnings will be more than eight years old when the next model hits the market, the scalable platform is expected to live on until at least 2025.
We understand the new Golf will be between 35kg and 70kg lighter than the current car, and like the new Tiguan, will be both lower and wider. Plus, there will be more space inside thanks to more efficient packaging, as well as innovative features like gesture control and the Passatâ€™s TFT dash.
In terms of styling, the new Mk8 model is likely to follow VWâ€™s pattern of evolution rather than revolution. As always, itâ€™ll be immediately recognisable as a Golf, with smart LED headlamps and a sharper, more sculpted grille. Weâ€™re expecting to see some deeper creases in the bumper and bodywork, as well as a reprofiled rear end. Also set to appear is a more upmarket interior â€“ with plenty of brushed metals, leathers and high-quality plastics.
Under the bonnet, VW will introduce a series of super-efficient three-cylinder 1.5-litre TDI diesels â€“ ranging from 74bhp to 120bhp. These are likely to feature in the new Golf as well as numerous future models, and emit less than 85g/km of CO2. The engines will also be modular, meaning each cylinder of 500cc will make it more cost efficient for VW to develop larger and more powerful units such as 3.0-litre V6 diesels â€“ for cars like the next Touareg SUV â€“ at a later date.
The Golf Mk8 will, of course, arrive on the market as a hatchback first, but an Estate spin-off, as well as hotter GTI, GTD and R versions will follow. Weâ€™ve not heard about any plans for a Cabriolet model, though, and one is unlikely to arrive before at least 2020.
Elsewhere at the VW Group, bosses have outlined their intentions for an Audi Q6 SUV in 2018, followed by the Porsche Mission E saloon before the end of the decade â€“ both of which will adopt all-electric drivetrains.
The Groupâ€™s new electric MEB architecture to be employed by both the Audi and Porsche will also underpin the upcoming all-electric VW Phaeton limousine, which is due by 2020, too.
Volkswagen has used the 2016 CES platform to reveal an evolution of its gesture control functionality which was first shown at last yearâ€™s CES in the form of its Golf R Touch concept.
This time around, however, the German automaker is showing a near production-ready 9.2-inch infotainment system, a first for compact cars.VW says this technology, which is showcased via an â€œe-Golf Touchâ€ concept, will be incorporated in future mass-market models. The configurable modular infotainment system (MIB) has a high-resolution screen and 10 different functions like Music or Phone.
Itâ€™s not often that non-luxury automakers cater to the needs of rear-seat passengers, but Volkswagen introduced a series of features that make road trips better for those in the back.
The first is an â€œelectronic voice amplificationâ€ function to allow for better communication with back-seat passengers. This sounds highly practical when you consider all the times youâ€™ve had to strain to hear the front-seat occupantsâ€™ conversation. It could also mean Volkswagen is admitting to road and wind noise in its vehicle cabins, but letâ€™s give them the benefit of the doubt. The second addition is wireless charging for smartphones in the back seat via the rear armrests. Finally, the e-Golf Touch is equipped with a USB Type-C port for high-speed USB data transfer while charging the phone much faster than standard speeds.
Rounding out the tech. announcements is VWâ€™s â€œPersonalization 2.0,â€ allowing drivers to configure setting to be saved to a user account in the cloud via Volkswagen Car-Net ID. Then, when a driver hops into another VW model, they can download their settings and use them like in their own car.