One of the things we like most about the multi-10Best-winning Volkswagen GTI is its ability to balance conflicting priorities of sportiness and comfort for daily livability. But we’re always intrigued when a company claims to improve on the former without sacrificing the latter, and that’s exactly what VW says about the new, eighth-generation 2022 GTI.
Like many generations of GTIs before, the latest model is an iteration of the previous car. The exterior dimensions, in fact, haven’t changed a bit. But VW made a number of chassis tweaks, with the spring rates slightly higher front and rear, bushing changes, and adaptive shocks that can now react more quickly. We bet they’ve also added more rear anti-roll bar to alter the balance, but VW didn’t confirm just how much.
The electronically controlled limited-slip front differential is the same unit as before, but the big difference is new, comprehensive control software—VW calls it Vehicle Dynamics Manager—that optimizes all of the electronically controllable bits.
To test out VW’s claim that understeer has been eliminated—a bold claim for any front-drive, front-heavy, front-wheel-drive car—the company invited us to the M1 Concourse country-club track in southeast Michigan to drive seventh-gen and new, Euro-spec GTIs back to back.
Our takeaway: It’s remarkable just how different and improved the new GTI is at the limit, given how similar the hardware is. It turns in far better, holds its line, and has dramatically improved the handling balance at the limit. The new car is also far quicker and grippier, closing in on 1 g of cornering stick on our skidpad during previous testing. Although we wouldn’t go as far as to say that understeer has been eliminated, it’s dramatically reduced from a car that already didn’t suffer excessively from it. VW has indeed taken one of our favorites and improved its dynamics substantially.
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