Volkswagen’s electric GTI concept teases the future of hot hatches

How do you tweak a classic hot hatch for the electric era? If you’re Volkswagen, you simply announce that the “I” in GTI now stands for “intelligence” instead of “injection” and call it a day.

Just kidding. Obviously, VW went much further in unveiling the new GTI concept, or ID.GTI, which had its official debut at IAA Mobility in Munich this weekend. The reinterpretation of the 1976 original GTI has a lot more state-of-the-art tech and an electrified powertrain. But moreover, it could signal the future of this particular form of quick-footed hatchback.

The VW ID.GTI is just a concept, but a production version will be coming to Europe at some future date. The US market may be part of the mix as well, but time will tell.

The VW ID.GTI is just a concept, but a production version will be coming to Europe at some future date

Most importantly, the ID.GTI is based on the ID.2all, VW’s 25,000 euro ($26,600) concept released earlier this year. In fact, an electric GTI was firmly in mind when VW’s design team was sketching out the ID.2all, leaving us with an intriguing chicken-and-egg conundrum to puzzle over.

With front-wheel drive, the ID.GTI is designed to leap off the line with plenty of power. Just like the current generation of the gas-powered GTI, this electrified concept is built with an electronically controlled Vehicle Dynamics Manager for intelligent front traction control — representing the first time a VW EV will come with this system.

This system also enables the ID.GTI to be a bit of a time machine, enabling drivers to cycle through a series of drive modes meant to emulate GTI’s driving styles of yore. The sound, steering style, and “simulated shift points” are designed to mimic such classic GTI models as the original 1976 Golf GTI, the first 16-valve Golf GTI Mark 2 from 1986, or the 2001 Golf GTI Mark 4.

VW provided the dimensions of the ID.GTI, including a 161.6-inch overall length and a long 102.4-inch wheelbase framed by large 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels with 245/35 Pirelli performance tires. But powertrain specs, battery capacity, and range figures were noticeably absent from the press materials. That’s smaller than the existing GTI and more in line with the VW Polo than the Golf, according to Car and Driver.

This system also enables the ID.GTI to be a bit of a time machine

We’ll have to wait for more granular details, but if it’s based on the ID.2all, we can likely expect a range of 450 kilometers (279 miles) and a choice of two battery packs: 38kWh or 56kWh — though it’s more likely that VW will go with the larger of the two.

Another interesting question is whether the ID.GTI will come with an intelligent speed limiter; VW limits the speed of the ID.3 to 99mph in Europe and has said it would do the same for the ID.2all.

There are a bunch of quirky designs, like a 10.9-inch instrument display that can be transformed into the instrumentation of a Mark 2 Golf GTI when in Vintage mode. There’s also a rather large and alarmingly distracting heads-up display that projects performance data all over the windshield (which hardly seems legal or safe, but it’s a concept, so we’ll let it slide).

As a hatchback, the ID.GTI and ID.2all concepts will be fighting an uphill battle, both in the US and Europe. The era of the “hot hatch” has come and gone, with most automakers shifting focus to crossovers, SUVs, and trucks. There is still a passionate community of enthusiasts who mourn when their favorite high-performance hatchback gets retired.

To be sure, VW has its Scout brand set to introduce a new lineup of adventure-themed electric trucks and SUVs. But a plug-in hatchback, even one as affordable as the ID.2all, will be pushing against the current when it eventually goes on sale.

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