They say the worst day of your life starts normally. Today, it started with Volkswagen announcing that the manual transmission in the Golf GTI and Golf R will be officially dead after 2024, with one last special edition called the Golf GTI 380 due to cap off the legacy.
It goes without saying that the manual GTI is an automotive institution. It is one of the legends, one of the cars everyone has a story with, that carries an indescribable cool factor. And it has seldom missed, with nearly every GTI having a great manual gearbox. Us Dubbers (read: Extreme Volkswagen Enthusiasts) don’t talk about the Mk4 manual, of course, but all other GTIs have been a pleasure to use. While our Reviews Editor Chris Tsui said good riddance to manual BMWs—and I concur with that sentiment—I think a goodbye is in order here.
In a previous life, before I owned my 2019 Civic Type R, I had a manual 2010 GTI that I called Six Iron. I had a lot of cars before it, and just one car after it. It still sticks with me today as a singularly great vehicle that did everything effortlessly well. It was the best $50,000 driving experience you could buy for $6,000; a great date night car that could still be an oversteering hooligan at the track; and one of a very few cars that transcends class and wealth to be seen as almost universally refined and elegant. All of that, with a sweet six-speed manual gearbox that was a true pleasure to operate.
While VW’s dual-clutch is excellent, it is no manual. It doesn’t have the charm and engagement that is a classically GTI experience. It's technically better and certainly a great choice, but I think the essence of a good GTI always includes a row-your-own transmission. To be clear, this was always going to be the path for the GTI. It was destined to become an EV, succumb to ever-tighter emissions regulations and VW’s push for electrification. But we all hoped the manual would live to see the end.
The GTI 380, which borrows its name from the internal model code for the Mk8 GTI, is the last chance to own an automotive institution. Volkswagen describes it as "a special equipment set standard on every 2024 manual-transmission GTI," adding touches including black wheels wrapped in summer performance tires, a black roof, and Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive damping. It'll hit dealers this fall, starting at $32,485 before destination. While there are other, greater cars out there, this is the end of the line for the manual VW GTI. We’ll miss you.
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