By the time the second-generation model arrived the competition had woken up and the hot hatch war had started. As the 1980s drew to a close, hot hatches were consistently becoming more powerful, more comfortable and better-equipped.
As a response to this, Volkswagen launched one of its hottest hatches ever, the GTI G60. It was presented to the press in early 1990 and it went on sale across Europe shortly after.
The German automaker explained that with cars like the GTI G60 it was testing the limits of front-wheel drive.
“Not too long ago, 100 horsepower was considered the limit for a front-drive layout,” said Volkswagen in a press release issued in February of 1990. “We are redefining the limits of the technology.”
On the outside the GTI G60 was nearly identical to other GTI models in the Volkswagen lineup. The biggest differences included model-specific fog lights integrated into the front bumper, wider fender flares and a G60 emblem affixed to the radiator grille and to the tailgate. Less noticeable to the naked eye, the G60 sat a few sixteenths of an inch lower than other GTI models.
Not much changed inside, either, and the G60′s equipment level was about on par with that of the GTI 16s, the next model down in the lineup. Buyers who wanted a more premium-feeling car could opt for Recaro bucket seats and leather upholstery on the steering wheel and on the shift knob. Option packages such as the Edition One were also available throughout the G60′s short production run.
The GTI G60′s most interesting and important feature was undoubtedly its engine, a 16-valve four-cylinder unit with a displacement of precisely 1,781 cubic centimeters (108 cubic inches). As its name clearly implies it was equipped with a supercharger that had G-shaped compression channels, a design that had been previously used on the Polo, the Corrado, the Golf Rallye and the Passat.
The G-shaped supercharger provided a generous amount of low-end torque and very little turbo lag. At the time Volkswagen claimed that 80 percent of the supercharger’s boost was available just 0.4 seconds after the accelerator pedal was pushed to the floor.
The G60′s supercharged four-cylinder managed to make healthy 160 horsepower and 165 foot-pounds of torque in spite of being fitted with a power-robbing catalytic converter. These statistics enabled it to sprint from zero to 62 miles per hour in 8.3 seconds and on to an Autobahn-worthy top speed of 134 miles per hour.
To put these numbers into perspective, in 1990 a 16-valve GTI took 9.0 seconds to reach 62 miles per hour from a stop and it went on to 124 miles per hour. A standard eight-valve GTI hit 62 in 10.3 seconds and boasted a top speed of 115 miles per hour.
In the G60 power was sent to the front wheels via a then-new five-speed gearbox that was introduced on the Passat.
All G60s came standard with 15-inch alloy wheels while 15-inch BBS wheels were available as a factory-installed option; they were also included in the Edition One option package. The relatively large wheels allowed Volkswagen to fit beefier disc brakes all around. Electronic ABS came standard and buyers could opt for a limited slip differential at an extra cost.
In 1990 the GTI G60 carried a base price of 37,125 German marks. The 16-valve model retailed for 31,000 marks and the entry-level eight-valve variant could be purchased in exchange for 28,545 marks.
The G60′s high price at the time plus its very short production run make it one of the most uncommon and sought-after second-generation Golf GTIs today.