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2025 VW GTI Brings Buttons, Gains 20 HP, Ditches the Manual

Once again, the GTI and Golf R are the only Volkswagen hatches we'll get in the U.S.

Like a German train schedule, Volkswagen is right on time with its mid-cycle facelift for its Mk8 Golf and GTI. With that facelift comes predictably tweaked looks, some improved interior ergonomics, and new technology across the board. Typical of Volkswagen, though, the United States isn’t getting the whole range, as only the GTI version will be making it to U.S. shores for now. The Golf R is due in the States eventually, and VW says we can expect more details on its arrival later this year.

Updates to the new GTI include slightly refreshed LED headlights and taillights, as well as a new horizontal LED light strip in the grille. European models will be getting Volkswagen’s new IQ.Matrix front beams, but it’s unclear if U.S.-market cars will get them as well since adaptive headlights have been only recently permitted by lawmakers. Europeans also get an illuminated “VW” badge on their hot hatches.

The most welcome changes come inside, though. When Volkswagen switched from the near-perfect Mk7 GTI to the Mk8, the newer interior design and ergonomics were almost universally panned. The biggest complaints were levied at the unintuitive infotainment system, lack of illuminated dashboard buttons, and obnoxious steering wheel touch buttons. Now, VW has remedied some of these issues by giving the steering wheel physical buttons once again, drastically updating the infotainment system with a bigger screen and a simpler user interface, and backlighting the temperature sliders, so they’re findable in the dark. It still looks similar but these small updates should make daily driving a little more pleasant than before.

For the GTI, the powertrain remains familiar: a 2.0-liter turbo-four. In Europe, it makes 262 horsepower. At the moment, there’s no telling whether U.S. cars will get the same boost to output, considering the current car makes 241 horses. However, the GTI is losing its manual transmission in all markets, leaving the seven-speed “DSG” dual-clutch transmission as its only option.

Unfortunately, once again Americans will miss out on the GTE hybrid hot-hatch. With its 1.5-liter turbocharged engine and hybrid assistance, the GTE makes 268 horsepower, sent through the GTI’s DSG to the front wheels. Accessible hybrid sports cars still aren’t as common as they arguably should be, and Volkswagen is passing on an opportunity here to prove their worth to a wider public.

For now, we’ll just have to make do with a refreshed GTI that fixes many of the old car’s interior issues but also ditches the beloved manual transmission. It’ll be the same way for the next Golf R, too. Would you rather have a third pedal or a less frustrating commute? Unfortunately in this case, “all of the above” isn’t an option.

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