How will Volkswagen pull off an electric GTI?

By topgear, 06 September 2023

How will VW pull off an electric GTI?

Volkswagen boss Thomas Schäfer says that the GTI badge was one of the dead certs to survive the electromobility cull, but how will the iconic badge sitting on an EV be able to match up to the reputation of combustion hot hatches of old?

Everyone at Volkswagen is agreed that the GTI should be approachable – Mindt says the typical driver is more blue collar than white collar, echoed by Schäfer’s assertion that “GTI looks good on everyone”. Kai Grünitz, VW’s head of technical development, describes a GTI as like “the sneakers you can wear to a restaurant or the cinema".

Mindt says that a team of 15 people worked on the design of the concept. “It really got everyone’s imagination going, it’s a great team effort.” Distilling the essence of GTIs was the aim of the ID.GTI concept.

“We wanted to make something iconic, gather all the best bits of GTI and put them in one car.” He did take particular inspiration from the 1976 original – he gets particularly excited talking about the alloys that pay homage to the steel wheels on the first Golf GTI, and spoiler detailing at the front that echoes the splitter from patient zero.

CEO Schäfer is adamant that the car has to perform properly – and as a front-wheel drive hot hatch with the right speed. “We’ve told the world what a GTI is, and if you put GTI on a car it has to drive like a GTI.”

As you’d hope, Grünitz’s team has already put a lot of thought into how the ID.GTI concept might drive. “It’s not just a design concept, we have a drivable prototype already. It looks less aggressive, but it has to feel agile and direct.” Ride, handling and rapid but smooth acceleration are Grünitz’s priorities for the car.

He also reveals that VW’s engineers are working on the right sound for what will become the ID.2 GTI in 2027, which will be put to an upcoming customer study to make sure that the company nails the brief.

We know from the ID.GTI concept that the car will have the right looks, but Mindt and the others will work hard to ensure it has the right performance to match up: “Sometimes cars look more aggressive than their horsepower, I think it looks cheesy.”

The big boss also knows where the GTI badge works and where it doesn’t – it’ll be reserved for hot hatches, with the R badge deployed on the racier four-wheel-drive performers and the GTX badge still in Volkswagen’s back pocket if it needs it.

Ultimately there will only be one way to find out whether the new generation of electric GTIs deserves the moniker, but we’ll have to wait until 2027 to drive the new car. Volkswagen’s making the right noises for now, even if they are coming from speakers rather than a combustion engine.

STORY Sam Burnett

Related Articles