Volkswagen GTI MK4

A new millennium signaled all change in the world. Computers did not bring the Earth to a standstill. Everything was just fine on January 1, 2000.

All was fine at Volkswagen, too. Just before the new millennium, a new Golf was introduced, along with a new GTI. The fourth generation of the renowned hatchback was seen as more evolutionary in design. There is a lot more to its looks during this period.

The Mk 3’s lines were simply sharpened on the new GTI. Key areas on the body were made bolder, more muscular than its predecessor. Glass area was increased all around, giving the GTI an airier cabin, while maintaining its size and capabilities. The rear hatch area was cleaned up, sending the license plate enclosure down onto the bumper.

Only nominal changes were seen in the interior. For the most part, the GTI’s cabin was carried over from the Mk 3 to the Mk 4. Content will gradually increase through its run, including the introduction of the Monsoon audio system. This eight-speaker system gave GTI drivers an amazing soundtrack to go along with the one coming from the exhaust.

The GTI began with the standard 2.0 liter four-cylinder for half a year, until the 1.8liter turbocharged engine arrived with 150 horsepower. You could still get the 174-horsepower 2.8liter VR6 engine with its 15-degree V angle block. Manual transmissions were standard on the GTI. At first, GTIs were equipped with five-speed transmissions, but six-speed gearboxes would be added later – namely for the VR6 and a couple of special editions. An automatic transmission was available on the four-cylinder models only.

Two significant models were introduced during this generation’s run. In Europe, they celebrated the GTI’s 25th anniversary with a special model for 2002. North American customers received a similar model in a very limited offering called the 337. They only came in Reflex Silver with a red and black interior including Recaro seats and brushed aluminum trim, 18-inch BBS wheels, factory body kit, a six-speed manual, beefier brakes and a lowered sports suspension. Only 1,500 of the 337s were available at a price of $22,500. They became a sought after commodity when they were announced at the New York Auto Show.

The 337 was a segue for 2003 – the GTI’s 20th anniversary in North America. To commemorate that milestone, an anniversary model was introduced that was similar to the 337. However, actual specification had some differences, including three different colors, the return of the classic red GTI badge and Rabbit logo, golf ball shift knob and other trim features. Just in time for the 20th Anniversary model was a power increate on the 1.8liter turbocharged engine, now with 180 horsepower. Neither special edition could be ordered with the VR6 engine.

Speaking of the VR6, a new set of cylinder heads was added for 2002. The VR6 became a 24-valve engine, raising the power to 204 horsepower. However, all things did come to an end by 2005 when we last sold the Mk 4. It left a huge legacy for its owners – original and subsequent – that it also became popular with the tuner set. This remains true today.

The Mk 4 reversed the GTI’s fortunes with improved quality and an emphasis on performance. The special editions helped to raise the bar as to what the GTI would become. The original hot hatch simply transformed into a hotter hatch matching the want of enthusiasts who simply wanted more.