The first generation of the Volkswagen Golf GTI had very few serious competitors when it was introduced. However, by the time the second-gen model arrived the competition had caught up, and an all-out hot hatch war was raging in Europe. Volkswagen fired back in early 1990 when it introduced the GTI G60.
The Wolfsburg-based car maker explained that cars like the GTI G60 tested the limits of front-wheel drive.
“Not too long ago, 100 horsepower was considered the limit for a front-drive layout,” explained Volkswagen in a press release issued in February of 1990. “We are redefining the limits of the technology.”
The GTI G60’s most interesting — and important — feature was undoubtedly its engine, a four-cylinder unit with a displacement of precisely 1,781 cubic centimeters. As its name clearly implies, the G60 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 even the Passat.
The G-shaped supercharger provided a generous amount of low-end torque and very little 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. Bolted to a five-speed manual transmission, the four-cylinder generated 160 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque, enough to send the GTI from zero to 62 mph in 8.3 seconds and on to an Autobahn-worthy top speed of 134 mph. In comparison, in 1990 a 16-valve GTI took nine seconds flat to reach 62 mph from a stop, and it went on to 124 miles per hour. A standard eight-valve GTI hit 62 in 10.3 seconds, and it kept accelerating until it reached 115 mph.
Outside, the 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, as well as discreet “G60” emblems on the grille and below the passenger-side tail lamp. Additionally, the G60 sat a few sixteenths of an inch lower than other GTI models. All G60s came standard with 15-inch alloys, 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 order a limited slip differential at an extra cost.
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 as well as leather upholstery on the steering wheel and on the shift knob.
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 cost 28,545 marks. Today, the G60 is one of the most uncommon and sought-after second-generation GTIs because it was relatively expensive when it was new, and because its production run was short.