2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn at Lightning Lap 2022

2022 volkswagen golf gti autobahn

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

Lap Time: 3:12.1

Class: LL2 | Base: $39,790 | As Tested: $40,185
Power and Weight:
241 hp • 3311 lb • 13.7 lb/hp
Hankook Ventus S1 Evo3, 235/35R-19 91Y

The eighth-gen GTI’s performance this year reconfirmed what we’ve known for some time: Its handling is a marvel. Officially, it was 2.5 seconds per lap quicker than the seventh-gen GTI we ran here in 2015. Unofficially, it is even quicker. We’ll explain what happened in a minute.

We drove the Autobahn version, which has 21 more horses than the 2015 car and is the only GTI that comes from the factory with summer rubber. Autobahns also have adaptive dampers, and ours was fitted with the optional seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. But the new GTI in this trim is 235 pounds heavier, which negates some of its power advantage. The new car still has a slightly better pounds-per-horsepower ratio, and at 127.1 mph on the front straight, it’s 4.0 mph faster.

2022 volkswagen golf gti autobahn

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

The new car’s real edge is in its chassis. We’ve never driven a GTI that was so poised and planted; understeer at the limit is minimal, more like what you’d expect in a rear-driver. The electronically controlled limited-slip differential eliminates time-wasting wheelspin while exiting the tight Oak Tree corner, and there is no need for stability control, which can now be turned fully off. The GTI feels so good and trusty that it averaged 118.5 mph through the daunting Climbing Esses, a mere 1.1 mph slower than the M3 Competition xDrive.

Unfortunately, the GTI’s lap time doesn’t represent how far it’s come. The driver, who shall remain nameless, claims to have seen a 3:10.6 on the VBox readout—but the VBox rookie forgot to slide a memory card into the unit, so there’s no proof. The official time is the quickest lap for which there is data. That unofficial lap, some four seconds quicker than the previous GTI’s, indicates the true potential of the new one. We’ll just have to bring it back next year to make it official.

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