While the new eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R debuted in their European specs in 2020 ahead of the COVID-canceled 2020 Geneva auto show, we’ve had to wait until the 2021 Chicago Auto Show for the U.S.-specific versions to make their debuts, both as 2022 models. VW pulled the wraps off the pair in the Windy City, and we were there to check them out.
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On paper, the performance upgrades to both hot hatches should help them make up ground, as rivals like Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai Veloster N have arrived in the years since the previous-generation GTI and R debuted as 2015 models. The rest of the updates are more of a mixed bag, however, as both models see more advanced tech but also an outbreak of capacitive-touch controls.
The Good News
Both the GTI and Golf R use updated versions of Volkswagen’s EA888 turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The GTI now makes 243 horsepower (up from 228) and 273 pounds-feet of torque (up from 258) on premium gas. The hotter Golf R finally crests 300 hp, up 27 from the seventh-generation R, for a total of 315 ponies. Torque is transmission-dependent with the R (both the Golf R and GTI are available with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic), with the manual producing 285 pounds-feet and the dual-clutch making 295. The R’s 315 hp makes it the current most powerful hot hatch available in the U.S., besting the Civic Type R’s 306.