2021 Volkswagen Mk8 GTI – The Good, The Bad, and The Disappointing

After almost a half decade of the Mk7 generation, which is arguably the most popular hot hatch ever, the time for Volkswagen to move on has arrived. Before we hop right into this, not all the details for the US spec 2021 VW GTI has been released, however we know enough that both excites and disappoints us at the same time. Knowing this day would come on the horizon, we had a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of design; but the performance, available trims, tech features, and pricing remains a mystery for the time being.

With the Geneva Motor Show now cancelled, it’s likely the new GTI will make it’s official world debut in New York this April, unless the coronavirus claims another international auto show. The renderings we’ve received over the last handful of days hasn’t caught anyone by surprise, as there’s very minimal design cues that set it apart from the Mk8 Golf. If you spend enough time looking at the revamped front fascia, overall dimensions, and the C Pillar design, you could make the argument that it’s a full body refresh rather than a complete overhaul. As some people have put it, the Mk8 is evolutionary instead of being revolutionary, and this transition pales in comparison to what we saw with the Mk6 to Mk7 generations.

Just like with the 2015-2020 GTI, the Mk8 is built on Volkswagen’s MQB platform, explaining the very similar road presence if you were to remove the headlights and taillights. Looks in the automotive industry can often be subjective, however there’s a few new esthetic changes that’s grabbing the attentions of VW enthusiasts. First off the new foglights and lower portion of the front fascia is probably the more significant differences from the Golf, with five point LED lights being the topic of discussion. The VW/Audi group has become enamored with four point LED headlights and rear turn signal indicators on Porsche models, and now for the GTI, that same futuristic styling has made it’s way onto the hot hatch.

2021 Volkswagen GTI
2021 Volkswagen GTI

As a Mk7.5 GTI owner, I’d argue that this new design is far less masculine, however the more aggressive honeycomb grille certainly enhances the appearance of the GTI over the Golf. Then moving around back, the Tiguan inspired taillights, which many enthusiasts aren’t too happy about, will dominate the rear fascia along with the GTI badging being placed below the VW emblem rather than to the side like on the Mk7. Personally I think it’s tacky, but having the name of the vehicle spelled out in the center of the rear end has become a growing trend in the automotive industry.

With all that being said, the real issue people should be focusing on is the performance for the price. It’s already been confirmed that we’ll be paying more for the Mk8 GTI thanks to some new tech features found inside, but while the interior improves, the horsepower increase leaves much to be desired. A few months back there was speculation that we’d see a 250+ hp GTI with the possibility of a performance package like the earlier Mk7 models offered. Sadly with each passing day that seems to be less likely, as the European model will get 245 hp, and VW North America has already told us that the US spec GTI will slightly be underpowered. If that’s the case, a boost of 8-12 hp just isn’t enough to draw in current GTI buyers to upgrade.

The interior really is the redeeming aspect for the GTI, as the US spec will finally receive a digital instrument display from the factory. The only question remaining now is, “Does that come standard across all trims?”. I was hoping we’d receive answers in the upcoming week, however with Geneva being cancelled, we may have to wait a little longer before we get specifics on trims, available packages, and pricing.

2021 Volkswagen GTI
2021 Volkswagen GTI

An all new dashboard and center console design gives the Mk8 a futuristic and slightly more premium look than the Mk7. With the infotainment system now being closer to eye level, the layout now resembles Mazda and BMW, while also being more user friendly for the driver. Then for the center console, the same gear shift lever found in the Porsche 911 finds its way into the GTI, confirming once again the parts sharing amongst the brands in the VW/Audi family.

Lastly are the cloth plaid seats we’ve seen in the photos we’ve received this week. They seem far more supportive and better suited for drivers who autocross or like having fun on backroads. Obviously we’ll have to wait until the end of the year to see if they truly are better than what we’re given in the Mk7. I’m leaning towards the idea that these sporty seats are optional, and that more traditional front seats will come standard. Either way, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that VW offers them for the US market.

2021 Volkswagen GTI
2021 Volkswagen GTI

At the end of the day there’s a lot to like and dislike, but without specifics on pricing, trim levels, and the possibility of a performance package, we can’t jump to conclusions. Now with the Mk8’s official debut likely to occur in New York, hopefully we get some clarity on this car to truly understand what sets it apart from the Mk7 generation.

Consumer Reports Has Buick In Top 10 Brands, Regal Best Sports Sedan

To most car owners, Consumer Reports’ findings are always suspect and are never truly accurate. Because they base part of their reports on the reviews of their subscribers, the findings can be a bit distorted. While they do test these cars themselves, they’re also using other forms of secondary statistics to decide which vehicles and brands are worthy to be put into the top 10. Shockingly, the Buick Regal gets best in the sports sedan class while the Buick Brand gets places in 7th behind Porsche, Subaru, and Audi in the top 10 auto brands.

Buick finds themselves among some of the most well-known brands in the industry, and it’s rather interesting how Consumer Reports came up with the findings. The real question is, based on what? Price? Reliability? Performance? It should be noted that the Buick Regal is in fact a rebadged Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, so no matter what your take is on this report, apparently having your car built in Germany can make all the difference when it comes to quality.

The Regal is priced between $29,000 – $40,000 putting it in the price range of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Volvo S60, and Infiniti G37/Q40 to name a few. That’s some worthy competition to be up against and to beat out. The one factor that hasn’t been taken into consideration is long term reliability, and seeing as though they’re basing these findings on the 2015 models, we can’t tell if the Regal is better overall in the sports sedan category when it comes to reliability.

When it comes to the Buick brand itself, they are making better cars, but that might be due to the rebadging of Opel’s. Buick is certainly selling nicer cars than a few years ago, but to put them in the same sentence as Porsche, Subaru, Audi, and Lexus in the top 10 auto brands is far too early and very bold.

The other shocker from this report is the Chevy Impala’s rank as best in the large sedan class. Again, I want to know what it’s based on. I’ll respect the honors it’s receiving if I could understand why exactly this car is better than all the other large sedans on the market. Even when it comes to Buick, I just want an explanation as to why and not just a graph showing me that the Buick Regal is best in the sports sedan class.

What do you think? Cars are not one of Consumer Reports’ strong suits, but I do agree with Subaru’s dominance in the mid-sized sedan and compact car classes. Who do you think should have gotten the honors in the sports sedan and large sedan classes? Do you agree that the Buick Regal is the best sports sedan, or Buick is a top 10 auto brand?

Consumer reports also left out the hatchback class, but we all know the GTI would have gone home with that award.

More Car Buyers Are Leasing and That’s Good For You

The percentage of Americans leasing cars has boomed to 20% over the past few years. Rough economic times, better leasing offers, and car manufacturers creating better vehicles has helped spur the growing number of consumers leasing instead of buying new. Some car dealers may prefer that most consumers would much rather buy, and that leaves the opportunity for those who buy certified pre-owned vehicles with an endless array of quality cars at reasonable prices. As with most trends in the economy, there is always an opportunity for someone to walk away with a great deal, and right now it’s time to take advantage of the leasing craze that is growing across the country.

Tesla just unveiled a leasing program for their Model S, which will now make monthly payments cheaper for the consumer.

From the Wall Street Journal

With sales of its electric sedan declining in its home market, Tesla Motors Inc. this week launched U.S. incentives that cut its monthly lease price and aim to convince potential customers that buying the car is a safe financial bet.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said the Silicon Valley car maker is joining with U.S. Bank to cut monthly lease payments by as much as 25%. In a blog post on Saturday, he credited the bank’s lower cost of capital for the lease-rate cut. He also unveiled a “happiness guarantee,” promising to take back cars within the first 90 days of ownership “if you don’t like your car for any reason.” The return policy doesn’t allow a buyer to swap for another vehicle.

While some would say this is because of declining sales, this is happening across the board for most auto manufacturers. Leasing is becoming the new normal, especially with the uncertainty of the long term health of the economy. You might ask, “So where are the opportunities?”. Here are three cars that are under $25,000 and are from luxury brands that can be found on dealership lots. Best of all, they’re certified pre-owned and the mileage is below 31,000.

1) Volkswagen GTI/Wolfsburg Edition

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It’s not too uncommon to find Volkswagen Golfs, but to find multiple GTIs spanning from the years of 2011-2013 is very surprising. Even better for the consumer, there are a few Wolfsburg edition GTIs on the market that are under $25,000, one of which has only 5,000 miles on it. These are gems, and with the turbocharged engine that supplies 200 hp, you get performance and cargo room which is always a plus.

2) 2011 Lexus IS 250

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To see these under $25,000 with close to 20,000 miles is certainly an eye opener. A local Lexus dealer outside of Boston has a few of these, and even though they are the base models, they’re still fully equipped and in great condition. Navigation system and backup assist make you feel like you’re getting away with more than what you paid for, but these are the types of deals that are out there. Seeing a Lexus IS on the market in great condition and not overly driven, it makes you question why there are certified pre-owned Toyota Camry’s and Chevrolet Malibu’s in the same price range.

3) 2011 BMW 3 Series

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Just as the Lexus IS, the model year may be the only reason why these luxury cars have depreciated in value. There are BMW 328i X-drives that only have 25,000 – 30,000 miles on them and priced under or at $25,000. Once again, this is a luxury sedan that will make your mouth water because to see a BMW in unbelievable condition at that price was unheard of a few years ago.

When seeing offers and deals like this, it really makes you consider going the certified pre-owned route. The automotive market is evolving, and unlike 10-15 years ago, going used isn’t a bad thing, especially when you have three solid vehicles at reasonable prices. This is only the beginning though. Seeing that there is no reason to believe the leasing trend is going to slow down, there will be more opportunities down the road. Who knows what will be on the market a year or two from now, and maybe there will be better offers than there are right now.