Most obvious is the upgrade in power from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the previous model's 200-horsepower rating to the new GTI's 220 hp at 4,500 rpm. Torque is now 258 pound-feet at just 1,500 rpm. An optional factory performance pack--a first for VW--can boost that to 230 hp, and add a torque-sensing limited-slip differential plus upgraded performance brakes, with larger vented rotors on all four wheels (13.4-inch in front, 12.2-in at the back).
A six-speed manual transmission is still standard, and a six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission is also available with either power configuration. With the manual, the 0-62 run takes 6.5 seconds (or 6.4 with the performance pack) and top speed is 153 mph (155 mph with the performance pack). Performance figures for the DSG version haven't yet been released.
A new start-stop system enables both to reach high European combined gas mileage figures of 39.2 mpg with the manual transmission, while the DSG scores a bit worse at 36.8 mpg (220 hp configuration) or 36.2 mpg (with 230 hp). While those figures don't translate directly to American miles per gallon, the 18 percent overall increase in efficiency should, meaning a rating around 32 mpg combined could be possible. Curb weight for the base GTI is 2,978 pounds.
Other standard equipment includes 17-inch "Brooklyn" GTI wheels shod with 225/45 tires, red-painted brake calipers, twin chrome tailpipes, and, of course, a lowered, tauter GTI-tuned suspension. Aesthetic differences from the standard Golf include special aerodynamics at the front, sides, and rear of the car; and smoked LED tail lights.
Inside, the new GTI gets "Clark" tartan pattern on the seats; a black headliner; red ambient lighting; a sport steering wheel; GTI-badged shifter knob and instrument cluster; special trim inserts; and stainless steel pedals.
All GTIs will also include a "progressive" steering system, automatic climate control, park assist, touchscreen infotainment system, and a winter pack with heated front seats. Three colors are available for the GTI: "Tornado Red," "Black," and "Pure White."
The new GTI hits Germany in May, with U.S. arrival sometime later this year. Stay tuned early next week as we bring you the latest information and live images straight from the Volkswagen GTI's debut at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.