Volkswagen GTI Heritage series

As we take our first spin in the 2015 Volkswagen GTI Mk7, take a look back at all six generations of GTI that came before.

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1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Mk1

Volkswagen produced about 35,000 Mk1 GTIs between 1983 and 1984, sold in the states with the Rabbit marquee instead of the global Golf.

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1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Mk1

If you ask VW, they'll tell you that the Mk1 GTI was the car that defined the "hot hatch" class. We'd be inclined to agree.

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1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Mk1

The little hatch measures 157.3 inches from nose to tail with a wheelbase of 94.5 inches.

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1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Mk1

The front suspension was a coil-strut type, the rear was a torsion-beam axle with coil springs, and the ride was like nothing that came before.

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1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Mk1

This example's bright red interior just screams 80s-chic.

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1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Mk1

The five-speed manual transmission was shifted with knob stylized to mimic a golf ball -- a feature that would be a hallmark of the Golf for decades to come.

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Photo by: Antuan Goodwin/CNET

1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Mk1

1980s cabin tech consisted of a tape deck and manual climate controls.

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1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Mk1

In the days before power windows were a standard feature on even the cheapest of cars, GTI drivers cranked up their glass the old fashion way.

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1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Mk1

The Mk1's 1.8-liter engine was good for 90 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque.

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1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Mk1

You'll find no computer-controlled ignition or direct injection here. The simple mechanical distributor was at the apex of early 80s engine tech.

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1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Mk1

The Mk1 could go from zero to 60 in about 9.7 seconds before continuing on to a top speed of 106 mph.

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1992 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk2

VW's follow-up came in the form of the Golf GTI Mk2. The automaker built a little over 66,000 of these between the years 1985 and 1992.

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1992 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk2

The Mk2 grew significantly when compared to the first-generation. The wheelbase stretched to 97.3 inches and the overall length to 159.1.

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1992 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk2

Its power also grew. The new 16-valve, 2.0-liter engine was good for 134 horsepower and 133 pound-feet of torque.

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1992 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk2

Despite almost 400 pounds more mass, zero-to-60-mph times dropped to 7.8 seconds, and its top speed was raised to 125 mph.

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1992 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk2

The interior featured heavily bolstered Recaro seats.

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1992 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk2

Even today, the Golf and GTI feature simple, dual-gauge instrumentation with white-on-black graphics.

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1992 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk2

This example's stereo has been replaced with an aftermarket CD player.

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1995 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 Mk3

The year 1994 signaled big changes for the GTI with the launch of the Mk3. VW built 28,115 examples of the third-generation GTI between the years 1994 and 1999.

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1995 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 Mk3

Though not much larger in stature, the GTI gained about 400 more pounds over its predecessor, partially due to the inclusion of more safety features and partially due to increases in creature comforts.

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1995 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 Mk3

The Mk3 continued the GTI's trend of an independent coil-strut front suspension and a torsion-beam rear axle.

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1995 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 Mk3

However, rather than a GTI badge on its grille, the Mk3 advertised "VR6."

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1995 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 Mk3

Indeed, this was the first (and only) generation of the GTI to feature Volkswagen's 2.8-liter "VR6" V-6 engine. Power is up to 172 horses for this generation, while torque jumps to 173 pound-feet. In the late 90s at least, there was no replacement for displacement.

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1995 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 Mk3

Despite gobs more power, the extra weight keeps performance gains moderate. Zero to 60 happens in 7.1 seconds while the top speed stretches to 130 mph.

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1995 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 Mk3

Even this 1995 model came standard with a cassette tape deck. The FM radio, on the other hand, is upgraded to a digital tuner.

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1995 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 Mk3

The close-ratio five-speed manual transmission remains a standard feature into the third generation along with the golf-ball shift knob.

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2002 Volkswagen Golf GTI 337 edition Mk4

In 1998, VW launched the GTI Mk4. Just shy of 60,000 of these were built between 1998 and 2004. This limited 337 edition was limited to just 1,500 units.

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2002 Volkswagen Golf GTI 337 edition Mk4

The fourth-generation model continues to grow in wheelbase and overall size, but VW managed to keep the weight gain to about 50 pounds.

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2002 Volkswagen Golf GTI 337 edition Mk4

While a larger version of the VR6 found its way under the hood of the Mk4-based, all-wheel drive Volkswagen R32, the GTI downsized to a 1.8-liter turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

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2002 Volkswagen Golf GTI 337 edition Mk4

Power is up to 180 horsepower and torque is up 174 pound-feet. The Mk4 is the first GTI to feature a turbocharged engine, but it won't be the last. Zero to 60 mph increases slightly to 7.2 seconds while the top speed grows to 135 mph.

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2002 Volkswagen Golf GTI 337 edition Mk4

Inside, we see a significant jump in fit and finish.

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2007 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk5

The Mk5 GTI debuted in 2006 with the signature goatee grille that still influences sport compact car design today. (I'm not really a fan of the look.) VW built 46,558 of these between the years 2006 and 2009.

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2007 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk5

By this point, VW had really gotten the hang of this whole turbocharging thing. The Mk5's 2.0-liter TSI engine was good for an even 200 ponies and 207 pound-feet of torque.

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2007 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk5

The extra power is necessary because the Mk5 also gains about 350 pounds of mass over its predecessor. Still, zero to 60 runs have been shortened to 6.7 seconds. Top speed remains in the 130 mph range.

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2007 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk5

The larger GTI features more passenger and cargo volume than ever before. This is also the first generation in which the GTI was offered in both two- and four-door configurations.

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2007 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk5

A six-speed manual transmission was standard for the Mk5 (seen here), but the dual-clutch automatic DSG transmission also became available for the first time.

This was also the first generation GTI to ditch the torsion-beam rear suspension in favor of a multilink setup for better handling.

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2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk6

The GTI's awkward goatee phase ended with the launch of the Mk6. VW built about 63,000 of these between 2010 and 2014.

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2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk6

For this generation, power and torque from the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine are unchanged, as are zero-to-60 time and top speed.

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2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk6

However, VW put the hatch on a diet, shaving about 200 pounds of weight. Less weight means improvements in performance, particularly when cornering and braking.

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2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk6

Inside and out, the Mk6 GTI sees improvements in tech and creature comforts. For example, this is the first generation of the GTI to feature optional touchscreen GPS navigation.

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2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk6

The six-speed manual continues to be the standard gearbox for the Mk6, and the optional DSG automatic gains one of my favorite features: launch control.

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Photo by: Antuan Goodwin/CNET
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