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2021 Volkswagen Golf GTD and GTE Are the GTIs You Probably Don't Want and Can't Have

Who wants a more frugal diesel or plug-in hybrid version of the excellent gas-fed Golf GTI?

Good news: Volkswagen is sending the all-new sporty eighth-generation Golf GTI to America. The probably not-so-bad news to everyone but a handful of edge cases who'd want to see a more fuel-economy-minded GTI? Volkswagen has no plans to bring the newest GTD and GTE versions of the GTI to America. This is hardly a surprise, given the previous iterations of the GTD diesel and GTE plug-in, gasoline-electric hybrid hot hatches weren't sold in the United States, either.

What might those who do yearn for these sporting, economy-focused Golf trims be interested in, anyhow? The diesel-drinking GTD trades the GTI's punchy gas-fed turbo engine for a more efficient turbo-diesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder. With 197 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, the latest GTD is down more than ponies but up 22 lb-ft of twist to the GTI. So even though the GTD might not accelerate as quickly as the GTI, it'll certainly rip some epic burnouts with a good prod of the accelerator pedal and possibly travel farther on a tank of fuel. Forget rolling coal, though. The GTD is equipped with myriad emissions-scrubbing systems.

While the GTE uses a gas engine just like the regular GTI, it adds electric assistance and the ability to be plugged in and charged up for limited electric-only driving. With electric-only city center vehicle restrictions only a thing over in Europe, we'll happily pass on the GTE's claimed 37 miles of electric-only range (as measured on the optimistic Euro testing cycle). We can't help but assume that the hybridized GTI's handling and performance are held back by the extra weight of its 13-kWh battery pack, in spite of the gas-electric powertrain's reasonably substantial 241 total horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.

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Visually, little separates the GTD from the GTE (or the GTI). The GTD replaces the GTI's full-width red-colored trim piece, the one spanning the headlights and grille, with an LED-backlit silver piece. On the GTE, that spear is blue. Presumably, the suspension tuning of the GTD and GTE attempts to closely mimic that of the benchmark GTI's. That means both models offer the compelling promise of GTI-like dynamics mixed with more wallet- and baby seal-friendly efficiency. Given how reasonably efficient and affordable the regular Golf GTI is, however, we don't feel like we need either of these Euro-market spin-offs. Not that we'd complain if VW sent us more GTIs, but we're just happy we're getting the latest Golf GTI in the U.S. in the first place—after all, we won't be getting the newest Golf.

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