Technically dubbed the Volkswagen GTI Concept, this one-off shown at the 2012 Paris Auto Show is pretty much a dead ringer for the production GTI that will go on sale in Europe throughout 2013. A suitably federalized version of this front-drive hatch is set to arrive in the U.S. early the following year, at the same time the new Golf VII hits the showrooms here. Benefitting from the numerous baked-in design enhancements found in the Golf VII, the upcoming GTI also is a bit larger, a lot lighter, even safer and decidedly more sophisticated than the current model offering feature like upgraded infotainment/navi packages, a Pre-Crash system and adaptive cruise control. But it's the distinctive styling flourishes and hard-core performance enhancements that stand to make it even more capable of retaining its legion of true believers while reaching out to an even broader group of buyers.
Unique visual touches on the next-gen GTI Concept include a honeycomb grille with double red stripe detail, smoked LED rear lights, LED license plate illumination, 3.2-inch chrome exhaust finishers and red brake calipers. Inside, a link to the past is maintained by tartan inserts in the sport buckets, a GTI golf ball shift knob, red ambient lighting and a flat-bottom steering wheel.
European versions of the new Volkswagen GTI will be fitted with a new variation of the existing turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that will offer two levels of output. The base version will make 217 horsepower and a stout 258 lb-ft of torque, enough to drop the 0-62 mph time to 6.6 seconds and provide for a 153 mph top speed. Those with a greater need for speed can step up the VW's first-ever factory-installed Performance Pack for the GTI that raises the pony count to 227, drops the benchmark sprint interval to 6.5 ticks and pushes maximum velocity to 155 mph. The Performance Pack also brings larger-diameter front brakes and a front-axle differential lock that cuts power-related wheelspin.
All GTI's will come standard with an efficiency-enhancing Start/Stop system, and VW anticipates that overall fuel economy numbers will be significantly better than today's GTI whether equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission or optional 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic. A new variable-ratio power steering system also is part of the universal GTI mix, a feature that promises to ease maneuvering in confined areas while improving feel and feedback when the car is pushed hard into a challenging corner.
Exactly how much of the Euro-spec GTI kit - including the Performance Pack -- makes in onto the 2014 Volkswagen GTI that turns up here remains an open question. But there's no doubt the coming iteration will be even more fun and more frugal to drive.