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After more than 45 years, the Volkswagen Golf was finally discontinued for the U.S. for the 2021 model year. While it got great gas mileage, its tiny powertrain failed to impress most drivers and auto critics. Despite only having one trim level with minimal upgrades, the Volkswagen Golf was also priced higher than several of its rivals.

Fortunately, American drivers still get to enjoy the Volkswagen GTI. This model has the same great interior as the Golf, but comes with better handling dynamics and a stronger powertrain. But what do the letters ‘GTI’ stand for?

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI front
2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI | Volkswagen

A quick history lesson about the Volkswagen Golf GTI

According to Volkswagen, the Golf GTI was first introduced for the 1974 model year. This first model included iconic Golf GTI design features like the red grille stripe and golf ball gear shifter.

U.S. News says that the Golf GTI MK2 is even more powerful with 137 hp on tap. The MK4 released in the 1998 model year offered a few engine options, including a 174-hp V6.

VW says that the limited GTI Edition 25, released for the Golf GTI’s 25th anniversary, is one of the most sought-after models. A VW Golf GTI with 230 hp was released across the pond for the car’s 30th anniversary. However, U.S.-produced GTI MK5s are still very quick with 200 hp of standard power.

The Volkswagen Golf GTI MK6 offers the same engine, but it was improved with a revised exhaust system and power-to-weight ratio. The GTI MK7 received a modest horsepower boost and a new Performance model. 

What does ‘GTI’ mean?

According to Auto Express, the acronym ‘GTI’ was actually lifted from Maserati. It’s an Italian phrase (Gran Turismo Iniezione) that translates to Grand Touring (or Tourer) Injection. The acronym was also used by Ferrari and Alfa Romeo to denote certain models in their lineups. 

As Quora users point out, the term typically means that the car in question is a high-performance model with a fuel-injected engine. These engines quickly rose in popularity over carbureted engines because of their accurate power delivery and improved fuel economy. Grand touring cars are also known for their pristine interiors and comfortable ride qualities.

Is the 2023 Volkswagen GTI worth buying?

The Volkswagen GTI is currently in its eighth generation, which started in the 2022 model year. VW says that the latest model has a turbo-four engine capable of  241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with either the standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Drivers can adjust their rides for maximum sportiness, comfort, or somewhere in the middle with the onboard Dynamics Manager. Each Volkswagen GTI comes with heated sports seats for the cabin, along with a heated leather steering wheel. The GTI S has wireless smartphone integration for both Apple and Android devices. 

A big safety suite is also included on the base trim, and standard adaptive headlights appear on the GTI SE. The GTI Autobahn (still relatively affordable at $39,070) adds summer performance tires and an adaptive suspension. The interior receives ventilated seats and more heated surfaces.

While previous special editions have been limited to overseas markets, the 40th Anniversary Edition trim is exclusive to North America. This car will have several unique design elements, including the golf-ball shifter and plenty of “40” badges.

Only 1,500 units are set to be produced, going on sale later this year. It will keep the GTI’s standard powertrain, but this setup already has plenty of power to keep most drivers entertained.