South Africa

End of an era soon as Volkswagen drops first Golf 8.5 GTI images

Set to make its official debut later today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Volkswagen has released the first teaser images of the incoming Golf 8.5 in GTI guise.

Final changes for last combustion Golf

Teased by way of a silhouette outline by Volkswagen Passenger Vehicle Brand boss, Thomas Schäfer, last month, the final generation Golf to offer a combustion engine ahead of the arrival of the all-electric Golf 9 in 2026, sports an unsurprisingly evolutionarily design similar to the Mk 7 that become the updated Mk 7.5 before the arrival of the present day Mk 8 in 2019.

Despite the images not having any details, what is noticeable under the thin layers of multi-coloured disguise wrapping are new LED headlights, a restyled front bumper and a new lower air intake with L-shaped side elements originating from just above the lip spoiler.

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The latter replacing the LED fog lamps that move to light clusters themselves, the changes at the front relative to lights continue at the rear where the clusters are thinner and outwardly similar in design to that of the now discontinued Arteon.

A new bumper and diffuser rounds the visible changes off, together with a more prominent bootlid spoiler resembling that of the current Golf 8 R.

Radical change inside

The biggest change has, however, taken place where the centre console has been restyled and the dashboard redesigned to accommodate the new driver-angled 12.9-inch infotainment system from the Passat and Tiguan.

Volkswagen shows first images of incoming Golf 8.5 GTI
In addition to a new infotainment system with standard ChatGPT, the steering wheels has been altered to exclude to much lamented touch-sensitive buttons. Image: Volkswagen

Also visible is the new 10.4-inch digital instrument cluster and physical buttons on the equally new steering wheel following mounting criticism against the touch-sensitive switchgear on the Mk 8.

In revealing the infotainment system and illuminated touch sliders for the climate control, Volkswagen also confirmed the Golf Mk 8.5 and other models such as the Passat, Tiguan, ID.3, ID.4, ID.5 and ID.7 will have standard access to ChatGPT, as well as improved voice recognition to go with its latest software.

More power?

Up front, the final combustion engine GTI will retain the venerable 2.0 TSI engine, albeit with a rumoured uptake in power and torque from the current 180kW/400Nm to 195kW/407Nm without any form of electrical assistance.

Volkswagen shows first images of incoming Golf 8.5 GTI
Silhouette remains the same, but not the taillights or the new rear bumper and bootlid spoiler. Image: Volkswagen

All but certain to be paired solely to the seven-speed DSG as per Volkswagen dropping the manual gearbox entirely in preparation for its move towards complete electrification by 2030, the Mk 8.5 GTI’s likely performance boost will translate to a 0-100 km/h dash of less than six seconds, though the top speed will remain limited to 250 km/h.

The existing TSI, TDI, mild-hybrid eTSI and plug-in hybrid eHybrid mills from the Golf 8 are all expected to be carried over into the 8.5 without any significant changes.

Short spell

Also set to benefit from the Dynamic Chassis Control Pro system from the Passat and Tiguan, the Mk 8.5 GTI will live a short live as evident by the sketch drawing of the Mk 9 posted on social media last month by Volkswagen’s Head of Design, Andreas Mindt, which confirms 2026 as the date of reveal.

It, therefore, means that the Mk 8.5 will have a shorter lifecycle than originally planned, as prior reports have alleged the Mk 9 as only going on-sale in 2028, which no longer seems to be the case.

South Africa likely get it

What is expected to continue though is the GTI’s availability in South Africa alongside the Golf R that has so far attracted no attention of becoming the Golf 8.5 R at any stage.

As is stands, complete information will only be made once the disguise comes off fully within the coming months.

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