Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8 review – engine and gearbox and technical highlights

A 242bhp figure is merely warm in 2022, but a slick DSG and eLSD make the most of those horses

Evo rating

The GTI's engine is the familiar VW EA888 four-cylinder turbo, now in ‘Evo4’ state of tune with a petrol particulate filter. In the base GTI it makes 242bhp at 5000rpm and 273lb ft of torque from just 1600rpm. If that power figure sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly the same as that produced by the previous 7.5 GTI as fitted with the Performance Pack. Given the extent to which the 888 can produce more power, you’ll note the torque figure is comparatively big, giving you some idea of how understressed the base GTI’s engine really is.

The GTI Clubsport has a corresponding uplift in power, sharing its state of tune with various Cupra models from the Leon, Formentor and Ateca ranges. Here, it’ll pack a more considerable 296bhp, with a less dramatic rise in torque to 295lb ft available between 2000 and 5200rpm. As with all Golf GTIs, a seven-speed DSG gearbox comes as standard (the six-speed manual is no more), with the Clubsport gaining a sophisticated electronically controlled limited-slip differential.

The structure is typical MQB, so there’s little in the way of chassis surprises. The front axle is a fairly standard MacPherson strut design and the rear is multi-link. VW has separated the  suspension tuning depending on the wheel size, as cars fitted with a larger 19-inch wheel option pick up a bespoke set-up. The same applies to cars fitted with the optional Dynamic Chassis Control, differing depending on the wheel size, but regardless both feature an excellent new capability that doesn’t just give the driver three options for the dampers, but a sliding scale of 15 different settings. Along with the uprated suspension, the GTI’s brakes are also given chunkier hardware compared to base Golfs.

Comparing the weight of the new car versus the previous Mk7.5 GTI isn’t the simplest of tasks given the multitude of models in recent years, but against the old GTI Performance five-door manual (the closest match) the Mk8 is just 4kg heavier. In this era, that has to go down as a win given the ever-increasing safety and kit count of modern cars.

> Click here for our full review of the Mk7 Golf GTI

The key area of progress with the Mk8 is its chassis and the way the driver interacts with the car. There’s an aluminium front subframe that saves 3kg, along with new bearings and springs front and rear whose rates have increased by five per cent and 15 per cent respectively. Damping is revised, too, and if you’ve ticked the DCC adaptive damping option they will now be monitoring the situation 200 times a second. That, and much more, is all tied into the central control for driving modes, which VW has christened the Vehicle Dynamics Manager. 

Your choices are Comfort, Eco, Sport and Individual, over all the usual parameters (steering weight, engine response, engine sound etc), which also affects elements such as the now-standard electronically controlled limited-slip diff as used on the previous Performance variant. The steering is quicker at 2.1 turns lock to lock, too.

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