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VW Is Cooking Up a Special GTI for the Hot Hatch’s 50th Birthday

Will this be the gas-engine GTI’s final hurrah?

byAdam Ismail|
Volkswagen News photo
Volkswagen, The Drive
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The Volkswagen GTI is in a strange spot these days, it must be said. On one hand, the name is iconic for good reason—one that VW itself realized just recently it shouldn't jettison in favor of whatever "GTX" is supposed to mean. On the other, the automaker no longer offers the prototypical hot hatch with a six-speed, and it's hard to predict what, if anything, the model has in store before VW ditches internal combustion engines entirely. It's very possible we've seen the GTI's best, on the eve of the nameplate's 50th birthday. Then again, a new teaser from the brand indicates that may not be the case.

VW CEO Thomas Schäfer has teased what appears to be a new special-edition GTI via—and this pains me as much as it will you—LinkedIn, of all places. A deliberately glitched-out video shows a white GTI, blurred with a type of mosaic filter like it's not safe for work or something, rounding the Nürburgring's Karussell. The model will premiere on May 31 at 10:30 a.m. Eastern, alongside the upcoming 24-hour endurance race taking place that same weekend at the Green Hell. A "50 Years of Golf" logo and the words "concept car" in small text appear in the clip, for good measure.

It's unclear whether that text refers to the vehicle we see in the teaser or what we're due to see at the end of the month. If it's the car in the footage, then it doesn't look very concept-y at least in the traditional sense, taking the appearance of a typical GTI with a unique front fascia.

Rather, the going theory on the internet is that Volkswagen is celebrating a half-century of the GTI with a new production Clubsport model, in the vein of those the company launched for the GTI's 40th and 45th anniversaries. The earlier Clubsport traded its backseat for additional power—among other track-minded weight-saving tweaks— whereas the more recent Clubsport 45 received an uprated exhaust system and bespoke trim. Neither is to be confused with North America's comparatively lame 40th Anniversary GTI (marking 40 years since the Rabbit GTI's U.S. debut, rather than the Golf GTI's global debut) that VW introduced for the 2023 model year, which mostly consisted of bonus exterior flair and adaptive dampers.

Bearing that in mind, as well as the significance of this milestone, it's not out of the question to expect some notable upgrades in Volkswagen's next hotted-up hot hatch. What is likely out of the question, however, is U.S. sale. As much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, neither of those Clubsport cars made it to our shores. Hell—we're still waiting for a release date for the 2025 GTI, which our friends across the pond can pre-order beginning today. It's alright; we've always known which customers VW likes best, anyway.

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