In 1976 the Mk I Golf GTI was launched as a low volume addition to the Golf range.  Thirty two years, five generations and 1.7 million sales after that car established the breed, the sixth generation of the GTI has been unveiled in concept form ahead of its public debut next month at the Paris Motor Show.

The core attributes of the original GTI – sharp dynamics, style and practicality – remain in the new GTI concept.  Yet the new car uses the latest advances in drivetrain and chassis technology designed to enhance rather than detract from the purity of the driving experience.

The strut-type front and multi-link rear suspension architecture from the conventional Golf are adopted in modified form on the GTI.  Specially tuned springs, dampers and anti-roll bars are joined, for the first time on the GTI, by the option of Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) which comprises adjustable pneumatic dampers.  With three settings ranging from ‘comfort' to ‘normal' and ‘sport' the ACC system also remaps the steering and throttle response to give a vehicle that can strike a balance between sharp dynamics and body control and comfort while driving in urban areas or on motorways.

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For the first time the new GTI features an electronic limited slip differential (XDS) linked to a sophisticated ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Programme) system in order to maximise traction and improve responses.

Powering the GTI concept is a 2.0-litre four cylinder TSI engine developing 210 PS – a gain of 10 PS over the Mk V GTI.  Despite this gain the new engine is both more efficient, returning 37.6 mpg on the combined cycle while emitting 178 g/km of CO2 compared to 189 g/km for the outgoing car.  Installed in the new Golf GTI concept the 2.0-litre TSI engine allows the vehicle to accelerate from standstill to 62 mph in 7.2 seconds before reaching a top speed of 148 mph making it the fastest standard production GTI yet produced.

A team of three designers are responsible for the new GTI concept: Walter de Silva (Director, Group Design), Klaus Bischoff (Director, Brand Design) and Marc Lichte (Director, Exterior Design).  The new car bears clear visual links with the original. ‘We wanted a consistently clear GTI design, a car that has power, but style as well,' commented Walter de Silva.

This is apparent in the red grille surround that echoes the original, along with the horizontal grille fins and elegant yet purposeful new headlights featuring individual lamp pods behind a translucent cover.  In profile the side skirts of the Mk V Golf that extended the length of the sill are replaced by subtle wraparound versions that extend only partially along the lower edge of the vehicle.  At the rear a set of GTI smoked rear light lenses are joined by a rear diffuser channelling air from beneath the vehicle that's in turn framed by a pair of chrome tailpipes.

The distinctive 18-inch ‘telephone dial' wheels from the Mk V GTI make a reappearance, albeit in subtly evolved form on the Mk VI GTI concept.  Finished in milled silver with gloss black inserts, the new wheels are reminiscent of those first fitted to the GTI W12-650 concept.

Continuing the unique modifications to the GTI over the conventional Golf is a new interior.  Drawing on the all-new interior of the Mk VI Golf the GTI features a flat-bottomed steering wheel finished in black leather with contrasting red stitching.  A set of contoured sports seats finished in grey tartan cloth reminiscent of the Mk I and Mk V models are joined by unique instruments and gloss black dashboard and door trim inserts framed by silver highlights.

As with all Golf models the new GTI concept is fitted with a high level of standard equipment including seven airbags, a CD stereo, climate control and ESP.

The GTI concept is intended as a first step towards the Golf GTI which will start production in spring 2009.  UK sales are expected to start in early summer, with prices and specifications announced closer to this date.