Volkswagen Rabbit GTI to Return for 2019

By Jonathan Spira on 11 October 2018
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1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI

Fahrvergnügen Continues, 35 Years Down the Road

The first generation Volkswagen Golf was marketed as the Volkswagen Rabbit in the United States when it was introduced in 1974 to replace the Beetle. Wolfsburg introduced a second generation Golf in 1983 along with a sportier model called the GTI.

The GTI is turning 35 next year and Volkswagen is bringing back the Rabbit nameplate with a limited production run of the 2019 Volkswagen GTI Rabbit Edition. 

{Editor’s note: GTI, incidentally, reportedly stood for either “Gran Turismo Iniezione” or “Grand Touring Injection” according to various people at VW involved in the project at the time of its launch]

Four years ago, I spent a few hours of seat time behind the wheel of a 1984 VW Rabbit GTI, a Wundercar if there ever was one. I liked driving it so much so that I could not get the “Kleiner GTI” song out of my head afterwards.

[Editor’s note: Kleiner GTI is a song from the commercial for the 1984 Rabbit GTI. The commercial features jumping GTIs and a German-language sendoff of Ronny and the Daytonas’ song “Little GTO,” itself part of a series of muscle-car themed songs from the 1960s.]

As I noted in my review of the ’84 at the time, pressing on the accelerator gave the impression that there were far more than 90 horses working full time under the hood but a more gentle application of the right foot served as a reminder that automakers hadn’t quite yet learnt how to minimize the impact of all of the pollution-control plumbing at that point.  Still, at under $10,000, it was easily affordable Fahrvergnügen with larger wheels and tires and a stiffer suspension.

Driving it was a revelation, I said in the review. With very neutral handling, it was nonetheless quite flingable and reminded me to some extent of how much fun it had been to autocross my 1982 BMW 320iS.

The 2019 Rabbit GTI “[pays] homage to the dedication of countless enthusiasts and past generations while celebrating the unique heritage of the VW GTI in the U.S.” the automaker said in a statement.

The new GTI will be available as a limited edition of 3,000. It will come in four colors: Cornflower Blue, Deep Black Metallic, Pure White, and Urano Grey. The Rabbit GTI will sport an LED lighting package, a special Vmax spoiler on the rear roofline, and special 18 Pretoria alloy wheels painted gloss black.

It will feature multiple standard driver assistance features including blind spot detection, rear traffic alert, front pedestrian monitor, autonomous emergency braking. A four-cylinder 228-horsepower engine is standard as are the high-performance disc brakes from the Golf R.

Inside, the sport seats are upholstered in heritage Clark Plaid cloth with an embroidered red Rabbit logo.  Floor mats have matching red trim.  Fahrvergnügen is, of course, a standard feature.

When the 1984 Rabbit GTI made its debut, it eclipsed the Rabbit diesel as VW’s best-selling Pennsylvania-manufactured car shortly after its debut. I expect nothing less from the 2019 version.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)