The next VW Golf GTI will be faster and notably lighter and more sophisticated than the one they build now. And that's hardly shabby. This will be the seventh generation of the dynastic hot hatch, and it's due in 2012.
Part of its secret is that it will be more different from the base Golf 7s than today's GTI is from the basic Mk6s.
The current Mk6 is of course not much more than a heavily facelifted Mk5. But the Mk7 is all-new, sitting on an entirely fresh and highly configurable VW Group platform called MQB.
Model for model, new Golfs will be at least 70kg lighter than the ones they replace. Savings come from extra high-strength steel in the shell, optimised suspensions, and lighter engines and ancillaries.
But there's more to it than that. Volkswagen has patented a special welding process that means it can build GTI bodyshells with aluminium roofs, mixed up along the production line with steel-roofed regular Golfs. This means the weight drop for the GTI will be about 100kg compared with now, because it will have aluminium welded into the shell as well as in bolt-ons like the bonnet.
That's enough to be felt. The car will be more agile, and with less weight to pull the engine it will have an easier time of it. We understand that the motor won't go much beyond about 230bhp, but by switching to the Audi Valvelift system, it will be torquier than today - up to nearly 260lb ft.
There is lots of progress that will make the handling even sharper than now. For a start the new shell will help both weight reduction and weight distribution. Also the front wheels of all Golfs will be 40mm further forward than now, so the car should feel less nose-heavy. Traction will be better, thanks to a new type of electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip diff, rather than the brake-based traction control the Mk6 currently uses.
The suspension uses all-new parts, though the principles are similar to today. And there's a new steering rack that gets more direct on lock - unusual in an electric system.
And the notion of a decent diesel GTI gets closer, too. Today's 170bhp GTD TDI isn't bad for sure. But the new one will have an engine from a brand-new diesel family, making 190bhp and 280lb ft, and using balancer shafts for smoothness.
Electronic options take a step ahead, too: forward cameras for lane-keeping and auto-braking, and radar cruise (mind you, there's some on the Ford Focus already). There will also be a new Audi-developed top-end hi-fi/nav/connectivity system that uses an eight-inch capacitive touchscreen - as per an iPad - for far more accurate control and higher definition. It also has a proximity sensor, so it can show an uncluttered map, say, but when your finger gets close it'll switch to showing buttons.
All of which sounds pretty juicy. But there's one more thing. The new MQB is a colossal project. It spans and integrates every transverse-front-engined model from a Polo to a Passat, including all the brands and several crossovers. It includes components, systems, design processes and factories far more than ever before. So VW's engineering chief Ulrich Hackenberg says the parts cost will be 20 percent less than now, and the development and tooling cost for each model will be 30 percent less than now, and the manufacturing cost will be 30 percent less than now.
Simply put, this new GTI should be a whole lot better value.