Newly appointed Volkswagen chief technology officer Matthias Rabe knows plenty about how to develop hot hatches from previous roles within the Volkswagen Group that include an eight-year stint heading research and development at Seat.
While Rabe's return to Volkswagen last year, initially leading the technical development team, came near the end of the new Golf's development, he's still a key figure in the ongoing development of the long-running family car – and its hot hatch offshoot. We asked Rabe about the Golf GTI's development, and the firm's commitment to hot hatches.
How important is it for the Golf GTI to be a true driver’s car?
“It’s important to get the car to reach the fans. We can talk very openly: looking back four Volkswagen Golf generations ago, the GTI was like a trim line, and then Volkswagen decided to get it back to the GTI. The GTI is a special car that makes your heart beat faster. I can promise that you will love this car.”
Why did you rule out a hybrid powertrain for the GTI?
“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.”
Why upgrade the power output of the GTE?
“It’s important that the GTE feels more like a GTI. With the new model, the handling distance to the GTI is pretty small and the acceleration and braking are similar.
“The GTE has a very smooth electric powertrain. For me, it’s on the next level in terms of driving, handling and agility. I’m a GTI fan and I really think for the first time this GTE is an option for the GTI driver. I think there will be some movement from the GTI to the GTE in future.”
Does the hot hatch have a future?
“With electrification, we will see some other possibilities for compact sporty cars. We are launching the ID [electric vehicle] family and for sure in that we will see sporty versions, but in a different way. I believe that we will have the internal combustion engine in parallel with plug-in hybrid cars for a long time. Therefore the hot hatch will continue.”