Back in 2017, rumour had it that Volkswagen was going to start electrifying its Golf lineup by outfitting the Golf GTI with a hybrid motor. But with the release of the 2021 model, there’s something that isn’t there. A hybrid GTI. And Volkswagen has offered an explanation as to why it didn’t go the partially-electrified route.
The first point, maybe not the most obvious to Americans who are getting this model for the first time, is the 2021 Golf GTE. It’s a 1.4-litre ea211 turbo plug-in hybrid with the same power as the new GTI’s EA888 evo4 2.0-litre turbo (245 PS), but slightly more torque (295 lb-ft vs the GTI’s 273). The main difference aside from the silver badging versus the GTI’s red is that the GTE only comes with a six-speed DSG, whereas the GTI gets a six-speed manual or an optional seven-speed DSG, per VW’s press release.
But changes within VW’s rank changed the company’s game plan for its future releases—especially concerning the hybrid GTI. VW Group chairman Matthias Müller stepped back while VAG’s new boss Herbert Diess decided that hybrid tech wasn’t the way the company wanted to go. A follow-up with Volkswagen chief technology officer Matthias Rabe in Autocar explained why, exactly, that decision was made:
I like the Golf 1.5 TSI with the mild hybrid, and you feel the low-end torque. But it adds weight, and you don’t need the extra torque on the 2.0 TSI engine. It doesn’t give you much at the high end for a performance car. In the future, we will have lots of mild hybrids to lower fuel consumption, but on the sporty side you will see combustion engines with new refinements, or you go to plug-in hybrid or electric.
Basically when it comes to the GTI, VW is focusing more on performance here than it is on eco-friendly electric tech. That said, the VW is offering a Golf performance hybrid option: the GTE. And the GTE and GTI are becoming more congruous, VW’s press release notes:
Golf GTE with a system output of 180 kW (245 PS) it is now just as powerful as the Golf GTI. Its hybrid drive links electric sustainability and a zero-emissions range of around 60 km with great levels of dynamism.
It’s more about choosing your energy source than it is about deciding whether or not you want to compromise on power to be more eco-friendly. Which is honestly pretty neat on Volkswagen’s part.