No, VW, the Mk. 8 GTI does not need more screen
Spy photographers recently nabbed a Volkswagen Golf mule out and about, lacking the usual covering over its interior, and lordy, that’s a big screen. Rumor holds that VW is experimenting with shorter product cycles, meaning that a facelift for the Golf Mk. 8—the U.S. only gets the GTI—may arrive as early as the 2024 model year. That’s only 3 years after the (somewhat-) new generation debuted.
A massive center screen now floats on the center of the dashboard. The touchscreen on the current Mk. 8 Golf is merely a lateral extension of the digital dashboard found ahead of the steering wheel. This iPad-style display juts outward, protruding above the dashboard line. It’s not the prettiest way to add more pixels, but we’ll give VW the benefit of a doubt and hope that execution in the production-spec model is a bit tidier.
We’re skeptical that this screen is an improvement. We’ve driven the Mk. 8 GTI a few times—on the track, through mountain roads, and over a week-long test through the geometric and largely uninspiring roads in and around our Ann Arbor, Michigan, office. Each time, the new Golf’s interior proved disappointing. Though it was spacious, the materials felt cost-cut. Worst of all, the two-in-one screens, which absorbed nearly every imaginable button or knob, felt like a choice of technology for technology’s sake. The presence of the fussiest controls, like the touch-sensitive temperature sliders placed in the “chin” of that giant screen, is frustrating.
We spared no syllable in praising the GTI’s superb visibility, a hallmark of the Golf for decades that’s only more remarkable as the average automobile’s beltline climbs. Why obstruct that superb sightline with a distracting screen, VW?
A pause from the doom and digitized gloom: This mule appears to be neither a real GTI nor one spotted in the States, judging by its modest wheel diameter, large sidewalls, and European-style license plates. This tablet-esque display could be unique to the European model. Unfortunately, that’s likely wishful thinking. The U.S. is a low-volume market for the Golf, since it only gets the enthusiast-oriented GTI and Golf R, so VW has little reason to spend extra money by configuring two separate dashboard units. Since the GTI is now shipped to the States from a German factory, we expect this tablet will appear on Golf models on both sides of the pond.
Win some, lose some.