Volkswagen Golf's 8th-Gen Model Is Finally Here and Thoroughly Modern

By Mike Duff, Car and Driver

  • The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf hatchback, known as the Mark 8, is making its Europe-market debut.
  • It remains based on the MQB platform and looks similar to its predecessor, but offers lots of new tech features.
  • Only the sportier Mark 8 Golf GTI and Golf R models are confirmed for the U.S. market so far, but we hope that this base Golf comes to our shores, too. 

The arrival of a new Volkswagen Golf never comes as a huge surprise. More than 35 million Golfs have been produced through seven generations since the first was launched in 1974. The dynasty also accounts for a disproportionate number of our all-time favorite Volkswagens. The new Mark 8 Golf has now arrived to replace the current Mark 7 Golf, and its gently evolved exterior styling make it obvious that a lot about the new car remains familiar.

Much is different, too, but let’s start with what stays the same. Like its predecessor, the Mark 8 Golf sits on Volkswagen Group's MQB platform. This is the automotive Swiss army knife architecture that underpins everything from the Europe-market Polo subcompact to the Atlas SUV. Dimensions are barely changed from those of the Mark 7, with a modest 1.0-inch increase in overall length and a 0.6-inch stretch in wheelbase, but fractional reductions in both width and height.

Volkswagen has released powertrain details for the Europe market, few (or none) of which are relevant to the U.S. market. We can certainly discount the entry-level 1.0-liter three-cylinder TSI that underpins the range in Europe; it will be sold in both 89-hp and 108-hp outputs. (We drove the engine in a Mark 7 back in 2017.) Similarly, there is zero chance that either of the TDI diesels (in 113-hp and 148-hp outputs) will come across the Atlantic, for what should remain a fairly obvious reason.

At the center of the range sit a pair of punchier 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engines, with 128 and 148 horsepower, respectively. If Volkswagen does decide to continue with the regular Golf in the States, then the punchier version of this would seem to be the obvious engine to act as the entry-level powerplant. 

In Europe, a six-speed manual gearbox will be standard, with some engines getting the option of a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox which brings 48-volt hybrid assistance through a belt-connected starter-generator. There will also be a pair of plug-in hybrids, both using a 1.4-liter gasoline engine and a 13.0-kWh battery pack, in 201-hp and 242-hp states of tune (the latter is branded a GTE). The e-Golf EV is also dead; VW reckons the new ID.3 has effectively replaced it. 

The only models currently confirmed for the States are the forthcoming GTI and Golf R. While we don't know the details yet, we're promised that the R will have more than the 295 horsepower of the current car, and that it will continue to have all-wheel drive. We believe that the GTI will use an updated version of the outgoing car’s 2.0-liter TSI engine, and we are cautiously optimistic the GTI will continue to offer a manual transmission in the States. 

Screens and Sliders Inside

While the exterior design is very similar to that of the current Golf, the interior marks a much more radical departure. The Mark 8 has a digital instrument cluster as standard, there's a large touchscreen in the center of the dashboard, and many functions will be handled with what Volkswagen is describing as "sliders." These touch-sensitive controls will operate things such as the climate-control temperature and the sunroof on the roof console. The new shift-by-wire DSG transmission means that automatic cars will have a far smaller gear selector to allow for more storage space in the center console. (VW also says that the new shifter allows the DSG to "engage reverse while still traveling forward at low speeds to make maneuvering easier.")

Cars fitted with the optional DCC active suspension will use these slider controls to allow for selection of intermediate positions between modes. We’re also promised that there will be an "additional adjustment range beyond Sport mode," which makes it sounds as though it will be possible to turn the Golf up to 11. 

Beyond the touch interface, the Golf will feature a voice control system that's said to recognize far more complicated instructions than existing systems. Reportedly, it will be smart enough to increase the cabin temperature if an occupant says "I'm cold." It will also offer integration with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant to allow items to be added to shopping lists, or even for instructions to be passed to connected home devices. 

Even more Big Brother is the arrival of car-to-X communication, a short-range data exchange system that allows equipped vehicles to swap information with each other or even with road infrastructure. This could mean warnings about accidents or broken-down vehicles ahead. Unlike existing data exchange systems, car-to-X can operate at ranges of up to half a mile without cellphone infrastructure and can relay data almost instantly. For instance, if a car slides on the surface of a frozen bridge, it could warn the one following to slow down.

Other technical highlights include standard LED headlights and the option of a Drive Assistant, an enhanced cruise-control system claimed to operate at speeds of up to 130 mph. That will be useful on the German autobahn, but not so much on a U.S. freeway. Volkswagen also says it will be possible for the Golf to be upgraded after purchase because it has software enabling pre-installed functions, including adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beams, and in-car navigation. We wonder how long before hackers try to access such features for free. 

Basic versions of the Golf will go on sale in Europe at the end of this year, with the GTI and Golf R set to follow next year. We look forward to telling you more about them once we have details, but we also hope that some of the regular Golfs make it here, too.


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Autos Magazine: Volkswagen Golf's 8th-Gen Model Is Finally Here and Thoroughly Modern
Volkswagen Golf's 8th-Gen Model Is Finally Here and Thoroughly Modern
VW calls it progressive, acknowledging that it doesn't look extremely different, but there have been big changes. What the all-new Golf has to offer.
Autos Magazine
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