Insights that Echo Beyond the Echo Chamber


2025 Volkswagen GTI: Buttons Are Back! Manual Is Not

Volkswagen this week debuted the 50th anniversary edition of one of the world’s most beloved hatchbacks. It will come to the U.S. as the 2025 VW Golf GTI. The version unveiled in Germany this week was for Europe, but we can almost certainly decipher what Americans should expect from it.

That includes a triumphant return and a sad loss.

Buttons are back. The stick shift is not.

Minor Changes, But Some of Them Welcome

The interior of the 2025 Volkswagen Golf -- European model shown

Little has changed in the car’s shape, as little should. But a new front end brings an available illuminated VW logo and redesigned headlights. Optional LED matrix headlights, VW says, project out to 500 meters.

While designers don’t dare touch the Golf’s shape, they have remade its cabin. Volkswagen loyalists had bemoaned the brand’s switch to touch-capacitive controls in many of its newer cars. The brand listened. The 2025 GTI’s cabin is filled with physical switchgear. Illuminated touch sliders under the central screen still control the temperature. But the rest of the interior controls are old-fashioned buttons and switches again.

Or you can choose to ignore them. The 2025 GTI will be one of the first models to bring Volkswagen’s new ChatGTP-based voice assistant to the U.S. market. “Occupants can interact with the car using natural language and have researched content read aloud to them while traveling,” Volkswagen explains.

Limited Lineup Coming to U.S.

The new GTI gets 262 horsepower from a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine – 21 more than the current model. Power goes through a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission – the only option. Stick lovers should know that VW built a special 6-speed-equipped farewell edition of the outgoing model that may still be available from some dealers.

VW revealed several powertrains in Germany, including a plug-in hybrid edition. But persistent industry buzz says the U.S. won’t get that one. We do expect to see the GTI stateside, and Car and Driver reports that the high-performance Golf R will return, with details coming later.


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