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Entry-level VW Golf GTI, R confirmed

Par five: VW is moving the Golf range into a more sporting space, thanks to the addition of a raft of new and coming cars – and there’s more to come.

Stripped-out R and retro GTI to bolster Volkswagen Golf line-up

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Volkswagen logo15 Aug 2017

By TIM ROBSON

VOLKSWAGEN Australia has confirmed it will introduce a new entry-level three-door Golf GTI variant – dubbed Original – in early 2018, along with a pared-back version of the R hatch and wagon, called Grid Edition, that arrives later this year.

The Original will be offered in only red or white – in homage to the first Golf GTI of 1975 – and will start at less than $40,000 before on-road costs, while the Grid Edition will bring the price of the R down to below $50,000 for the first time.

Both of the new range-openers will be special-edition models, unlike the GTI Performance Edition 1 and R Wolfsburg variants that are limited in number.

Exact specification and pricing for the Golf GTI Original and R Grid Edition are yet to be announced, but they will share the 169kW/350Nm and 213kW/380Nm engine tunes of the revised GTI and R respectively.

“These cars really do define our brands,” Volkswagen Australia general manager of marketing and product Ben Wilks told GoAuto at the launch of the Golf 7.5 GTI and R range in NSW this week.

“It’s what a lot of its excitement is built on. We see a lot more potential to get people involved and a lot more opportunity.”

Mr Wilks said he believed that there were gains to be made at both ends of the price spectrum, which will span from the high $30,000 mark to about $60,000 once all the GTI and R variants are rolled out.

“The entry car is a classic, simple, attainable sportscar, but there’s also opportunity at the top end with the Wolfsburg, where we see a huge amount of demand, from people out of the (2008-2011 Passat) R36, or even people new to the brand,” he said.

Mr Wilks denied that Volkswagen was reacting to competitor activity in the hot hatch space, spurred on by the impending arrival of the more powerful Hyundai i30 N performance hatch range.

“The thing with being the benchmark is that you’ll always be benchmarked, and that’s something that Volkswagen’s done well over many generations of these sportscar,” said Mr Wilks. “I think we make a product that is incredibly practical, quite stylish but allows you to have that performance edge.

“It’s got a wide appeal, and that’s what appeals to our customers. It doesn’t have to be all about raw performance.”

The GTI Original will be offered in three-door guise initially, and Mr Wilks said that it would strike a chord in the market.

“It’s a car that our enthusiast customers are crying out for,” he said. “There’s a real opportunity for a simple, back-to-basics GTI, particularly with a manual transmission and a three-door body shape at a price that’s very attainable. I think it’s a huge opportunity.”

The GTI Original is slated as a special-edition model at this stage, with Mr Wilks telling GoAuto that final volumes will be revealed in coming weeks.

“We have the ability to react to customer demand,” he said. “I think it’s an exciting car to have in the market, and it should be a niche our customers can get into, too.”

The R Grid Edition is powered by the same engine as the standard R, meaning a 213kW/380Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol unit drives all four wheels via VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system and a six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission.

Meanwhile, the GTI Original uses the updated Golf GTI 7.5’s 169kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo four-pot, driving the front wheels via a six-speed manual or DSG transmission.

Mr Wilks also suggested that another Golf variant may be close to approval for Australian sale the petrol-electric GTE plug-in hybrid.

“We’ll talk more about it (soon), but it’s definitely a car with opportunity in Australia,” he said.

“We have had some inquiry – it’s a concept that’s different to what everyone else is doing. It takes hybrid and creates a package that is a pleasure to drive and a pleasure to look at, and we reckon there’s a really nice slot in the market there.

“We’ll keep talking about that, and hopefully have some news at some point in the near future.”

As previously reported, the limited-edition 180kW/370Nm three-door GTI Performance 1 joins the regular five-door GTI in the line-up, while the updated 213kW Golf R will be complemented by a one-off return of the popular Wolfsburg Edition in hatch and wagon form.

The front-wheel-drive Performance 1 is limited to just 150 examples, which are all fitted with Volkswagen’s new seven-speed wet dual-clutch transmission as the only option. The five-door Performance is not currently offered in 7.5 spec.

Only 300 units in each body style will be available for the R Wolfsburg Edition, which is also a seven-speed DSG-only proposition.

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