Volkswagen Ditching the Manual GTI Is an Automotive Tragedy
For over 40 years, the hot hatch has been defined by versatility and driving engagement. A daily-drivable go-kart. A sports car with room to go yard sale-ing. And part of that iconic formula was three pedals and a manual gear shift. But not anymore. The 2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI will be the last with a manual, and that is, without exaggeration, an automotive tragedy.
VW gives the manual GTI a send-off with a disappointing special edition
Despite pouring icy water all over long-time VW GTI enthusiasts, Volkswagen did throw out a special edition to commemorate the end of the manual GTI. The GTI 380 will feature the black 19-inch wheels from the Golf R 20th Anniversary and adaptive dampers. In addition, the 2024 GTI 380 will feature an exclusive paint color to differentiate it from the rest of the ‘24 GTI lineup.
The 19-inch wheels may seem like an upgrade at first, but the lower side profile makes the hard-riding GTI even more harsh. In addition, the added weight inhibits fuel economy and adds driveline drag. Because just turning the wheel takes more effort, you’ll get less power to the ground compared to the lighter 18-inch rollers.
Adaptive dampers are a legitimate upgrade, but most GTI owners end up modifying those suspension components for a lower ride height anyway.
Oh, and that “exclusive” paint color? It’s graphite gray metallic. How exciting.
In short, the GTI 380 is a paltry sendoff for the last year of the manual GTI. And it’s certainly not enough to make us forget that VW is committing a mortal automotive sin.
The VW Golf R manual is dead, too
If you’re wondering whether or not the Golf R still gets the six-speed stick after 2024, it doesn’t. The all-wheel drive hot hatch goes the same way as the GTI, with an automatic-only transmission after 2024.
While we’re disappointed, this news isn’t much of a surprise, either. We learned of this possibility earlier this year, and the passage of new EU regulations cemented this unfortunate reality.
Killing the manual is just step one
Whether it happens in 2025 or 2026, the VW GTI is eventually going electric. The VW ID.2all showed off a compact EV hatchback earlier this year. And VW itself has stated its intention to make the GTI an EV with the next generation. The electric GTI will sit on the new Volkswagen MEB platform, specifically MEB 21.
Lighter and simpler than the rear-drive MEB setup from the ID.4 and ID.7, the GTI EV will retain its current fun-to-drive nature. Importantly, the styling feels very reminiscent of the ever-popular MK7 GTI. A sense of refinement and elegance wrap beautifully around the compact hot hatch frame.
Why not keep the manual until the EV arrives?
Like most GTI fans, I wish Volkswagen could have kept the manual GTI until the EV arrived for the next generation. Unfortunately, European emissions regs are clamping down on cars like the GTI. Because the manual is less efficient than the DSG, VW could no longer justify keeping it around.
Sure, those regs don’t affect the American market. But Volkswagen sold fewer than 10,000 GTI and Golf R models, and of those, only about 45% came with a manual. Making a stick-shift GTI for such a small number of buyers just doesn’t make financial sense. By going all automatic, VW gets to save on tooling, parts, and assembly for the entire Golf lineup.
Buy a manual GTI while you can
While the 2024 VW GTI 380 isn’t all that special, it is the last chance to get a new manual GTI. This hot hatch icon going all-automatic is a harsh blow to hope for the future of the manual transmission. With a starting price of $32,825, snap up the GTI 380 while you can.