The next VW Golf GTI will be faster and notably lighter and more sophisticated than the one they build now. And that’s hardly shabby. This will be the seventh generation of the dynastic hot hatch, and it’s due in 2012.
Part of its secret is that it will be more different from the base Golf 7s than today’s GTI is from the basic Mk6s.
The current Mk6 is of course not much more than a heavily facelifted Mk5. But the Mk7 is all-new, sitting on an entirely fresh and highly configurable VW Group platform called MQB.
Model for model, new Golfs will be at least 70kg lighter than the ones they replace. Savings come from extra high-strength steel in the shell, optimised suspensions, and lighter engines and ancillaries.
But there’s more to it than that. Volkswagen has patented a special welding process that means it can build GTI bodyshells with aluminium roofs, mixed up along the production line with steel-roofed regular Golfs. This means the weight drop for the GTI will be about 100kg compared with now, because it will have aluminium welded into the shell as well as in bolt-ons like the bonnet.
That’s enough to be felt. The car will be more agile, and with less weight to pull the engine it will have an easier time of it. We understand that the motor won’t go much beyond about 230bhp, but by switching to the Audi Valvelift system, it will be torquier than today – up to nearly 260lb ft.
There is lots of progress that will make the handling even sharper than now. For a start the new shell will help both weight reduction and weight distribution. Also the front wheels of all Golfs will be 40mm further forward than now, so the car should feel less nose-heavy. Traction will be better, thanks to a new type of electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip diff, rather than the brake-based traction control the Mk6 currently uses.
The suspension uses all-new parts, though the principles are similar to today. And there’s a new steering rack that gets more direct on lock – unusual in an electric system.
And the notion of a decent diesel GTI gets closer, too. Today’s 170bhp GTD TDI isn’t bad for sure. But the new one will have an engine from a brand-new diesel family, making 190bhp and 280lb ft, and using balancer shafts for smoothness.
Electronic options take a step ahead, too: forward cameras for lane-keeping and auto-braking, and radar cruise (mind you, there’s some on the Ford Focus already). There will also be a new Audi-developed top-end hi-fi/nav/connectivity system that uses an eight-inch capacitive touchscreen – as per an iPad – for far more accurate control and higher definition. It also has a proximity sensor, so it can show an uncluttered map, say, but when your finger gets close it’ll switch to showing buttons.
All of which sounds pretty juicy. But there’s one more thing. The new MQB is a colossal project. It spans and integrates every transverse-front-engined model from a Polo to a Passat, including all the brands and several crossovers. It includes components, systems, design processes and factories far more than ever before. So VW’s engineering chief Ulrich Hackenberg says the parts cost will be 20 percent less than now, and the development and tooling cost for each model will be 30 percent less than now, and the manufacturing cost will be 30 percent less than now.
Simply put, this new GTI should be a whole lot better value.
The car with which reigning world champions Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull will defend their titles was revealed to the world on Monday. The Adrian Newey-designed RB8 is the eighth Formula One car produced by the team.
Its predecessor, the RB7, dominated the 2011 season, winning 12 Grands Prix in the hands of Vettel and team mate Mark Webber, and powering the Milton Keynes-based squad to their second championship double in as many years.
“I think Formula One is set for an exciting year and at Red Bull Racing our goals and objectives are to try and stay ahead of our rivals and build on the success that we have (had) and build on the lessons that we’ve learned in 2011,” said team principal Christian Horner.
Red Bull’s recent success owed a lot to their perfection of the exhaust-blown diffuser. With that technology effectively banned for 2012 thanks to new, tighter restrictions on exhaust positioning, Newey admits it could mean the team losing out relative to rivals this season.
“That led to a big rethink over the winter,” he said. “Whether that will affect us more than other people is difficult to know of course. We designed the RB7, last year’s car, around that exhaust position and were probably the only people to do so, so it may be that we’ve lost more than other people through that. Only time will tell.
“Probably one of the key things there is the rear ride height. The exhaust allowed us to run a high rear ride height, it’s much more difficult without that to sustain a high rear height so we have to go back down and have to redevelop the car around that lower ride height.”
The other obvious visual change on the RB8 is the stepped nose already seen on other 2012 cars, designed to meet new requirements on chassis height. Unlike those other cars, the Red Bull features some kind of vent in the step, though Newey was giving nothing away about its function.
“We’ve kept more or less the same chassis shape, but had to drop the nose just in front of the front bulkhead, which, in common with many other teams, has led us to I think I’d probably say a slightly ugly looking nose,” he said. “We’ve tried to style it as best we can, but it’s not a feature you would choose to put in were it not for the regulation.”
“This year’s car build has gone fantastically well, and I think it’s the epitome of continuity, continuity across all areas,” added Horner. “I think we’ve designed and built this car in a record amount of time, in a ridiculously short amount of time. Adrian’s never famous for his drawings being early, but the design team, the production teams, all the associated departments that go into producing these cars, have delivered, and delivered in a fantastic way.”
The RB8 begins its pre-season testing programme at Jerez in Spain on Tuesday, with Webber at the wheel for the session’s opening two days and Vettel for the final two days.