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Thursday, September 25, 2008

2010 VW Golf GTI

Both cars are planned to go on sale simultaneously in North America in October 2009. The GTI is part of an intensive new-model thrust aimed at netting Volkswagen significant sales growth. The automaker's ambitious 10-year business plan aims to achieve 800,000 sales per year in the U.S. by 2018.

The Golf GTI to be revealed in Paris is described as a concept. Sources at Volkswagen's Wolfsburg headquarters tell Inside Line it is highly representative of the production version that is due to reach European showrooms next April. It's an unwritten law among German carmakers that any car displayed more than six months prior to market introduction is billed as a concept — or studie, as Volkswagen prefers.

Powering the latest incarnation of the GTI is VW's new EA888 four-cylinder engine in turbocharged 2.0-liter form. Developed by Audi as part of a world engine program, the transversely mounted unit kicks out 210 horsepower, which is 10 hp more than the current GTI. Torque, however, remains the same, rising to a peak of 206 pound-feet at just 1,800 rpm.

As before, drive goes to the front wheels via either a standard six-speed manual or an optional six-speed double-clutch gearbox that has steering-wheel-mounted paddles and a full automatic mode.

The 2010 GTI gets an electronic differential for the first time, called XDS, that operates through an enhanced electronic stability program to help power get to the road cleanly and efficiently.

Volkswagen claims the new car will sprint from zero to 60 mph in under 7.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 149 mph. Combined fuel consumption averages better than 30 mpg on the European cycle. CO2 emissions, on which some European markets base road tax, have dropped to 178g/km.

The underpinnings are a development of those used in the old GTI with a combination of MacPherson struts at the front and multilinks at the rear. It sits 0.8 inch closer to the ground than the standard Golf and rolls on unique 18-inch wheels shod with 225/40ZR18 Michelin Pilot Sport tires.

The new GTI also gets adaptive damping as on the Scirocco. Known under the name DCC (dynamic chassis control), it provides three levels of suspension stiffness: normal, comfort and sport. The system also alters mapping of the steering and throttle for sharper and more immediate responses in sport mode.

The GTI will be available in three- and five-door body styles and gets a distinctive body kit. Visual cues include a deep new front bumper with gaping central air duct and vertically stacked foglamps, as well as an altered grille with classic GTI touches. All are design elements that first emerged on the wild midengine W12 650 concept car. Other changes include wider sills underneath the doors, a prominent spoiler atop the hatch and a new rear bumper carrying an altered valance cover bookmarked by twin chromed tailpipes.

The sporty theme continues inside with the traditional checkered cloth seats, unique dashboard trim, leather-hooded gearlever and aluminum-finish pedals. The classy instrument graphics and three-spoke multifunction flat-bottom steering wheel are shared with the recently introduced Passat CC and add some upmarket flair. The rest of the cabin is brought over from the standard Golf, including the extensive options list with such high-end items as radar-controlled collision avoidance, a touchscreen navigation system supported by a 30GB hard disk, reverse-view camera and parallel parking assistant.

The GTI is not likely to be the last of the hot Golfs headed to North America. Volkswagen is also said to be preparing another new model with an upgraded version of its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with Audi's new valve lift system as a possible replacement for the four-wheel-drive 250-hp 3.2-liter V6-powered R32. The new engine, which is also found in the Audi S3, delivers 265 hp — enough to give the new Golf real kick, as one Volkswagen insider enthuses.

What this means to you: Armed with a more powerful engine and a host of technical innovations, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is back with a vengeance