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2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons.

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons: S vs SE and Autobahn

What 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI Trim Should You Buy? What is the Difference Between Trims?

The 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI is a compact hatchback that's both practical to own and fun to drive. This is a small car that's easy to park and maneuver. With its four doors and dedicated cargo area, there's still plenty of room for five passengers and whatever one needs to haul around. The Golf GTI was always sporty, but the latest models offer more power and better steering dynamics than ever before.

The sporty aspect of this hot hatch isn't just about the performance stats. It has an all-around athletic appearance as well. The Golf GTI also offers a good starting price and excellent fuel-economy numbers. This makes the Golf GTI a great bargain. Volkswagen spared no expense to equip this compact car with a lot of safety features and driver-assist technology.

The 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI is available in three different trim levels. It's only available with one power-train option, but it's a powerful and efficient engine that should please just about anyone. The Golf GTI can be had with a manual or automatic transmission system. Here is a closer look at all three trim levels and what they have to offer. Each trim level will be compared to the others to highlight their differences.


Compare the S vs SE Trim Levels. What is the difference?

The base model for the 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI is called the S trim level. All models of the Golf GTI come equipped with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, direct-injection engine with four cylinders. This power-plant is capable of producing 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The engine can be paired with a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed DSG automatic transmission. The automatic transmission features Tiptronic technology and a Sport Mode.

Tiptronic technology means that the car can be taken out of automatic mode so the driver can shift manually via paddle shifters. The Sport Mode changes shifting points and other factors for quicker acceleration and a sportier overall performance. There's a rack-and-pinion steering setup with electro-mechanical power steering. The S trim level gets a sports suspension system. Handling and ride quality are fantastic no matter which trim level is selected.

The S models of the Golf GTI come standard with a set of 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. These have a sharp five-spoke design and come paired with all-season tires. The brake calipers are painted in a bright red. There are LED headlights and daytime running lights up front. The S trim gets a set of LED fog lamps. There are also LED taillights in the rear.

The headlights are automatic and offer a Coming/Leaving Home feature. This allows the driver to make specific settings for how long the headlights will remain on after coming home. It can also turn them on automatically when the driver is ready to leave. The exterior of the S trim also has rain-sensing windshield wipers that kick on automatically when needed.

The two front doors of the Golf GTI S trim have signature puddle lighting. The exterior mirrors are power adjustable and come with a heating feature. They also come with a memory feature for quickly getting them into the correct positions. There's a VAQ limited-slip front differential lock for superior traction.

On the inside, even the base-model S trim gets some neat, upscale features like ambient interior lighting. This light system offers 30 adjustable colors to set just the right mood. There are VW Top Sport seats up front with a heating feature. The rear offers a 60/40-split folding bench with a center arm rest. This allows for some versatility when it comes to the cargo area.

Every trim level of the Volkswagen Golf GTI offers a maximum cargo volume of 34.5 cubic-feet with the rear seats folded down flat. With the rear seats in use, there's still a respectable 19.9 cubic-feet of storage space in the back for groceries and other cargo. The seating upholstery is Scalepaper Plaid cloth. The Touch-Sport steering wheel comes wrapped in leather and has a heating function just like the front seats.

The S trim has an automatic-dimming rear-view mirror to negate visibility issues from the headlights of other vehicles. The infotainment system features an 8.25-inch touchscreen display with crisp, HD graphics. There are four USb-C ports, two data ports and two ports for charging smartphones and other devices. The audio setup for the S trim is just a basic AM/FM/HD radio.

There's a wireless smartphone charger in the S trim level. Bluetooth technology allows the driver to easily stream their favorite music through the car's audio system. On-board Travel Assist helps to control the steering, braking and acceleration. This trim level also gets adaptive cruise control. Volkswagen's APP-Connect adds a whole extra level of connection features for the infotainment system.

The inside is made cozier thanks to the Golf GTI's Climatronic system. This is a single-zone climate-control system that works to automatically keep things comfortable. The connected Air Care filtration system keeps everyone breathing easier too. Every trim level of this hatchback gets push-button start/stop.

Volkswagen's IQ.DRIVE system adds on a wealth of driver-assist technology. There's Emergency Assist, Rear-Traffic Alert, Lane Assist and a Blind-Spot Monitor. Other high-tech, modern features include Forward-Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking. Pedestrian and Cyclist Monitoring is also included as part of this vehicle's Front-Assist technology.

The Volkswagen Car-Net service allows users to remotely access functions and information about their vehicle. All trim levels get the VW Digital Cockpit Pro setup. This is a stylish and modern digital-display system that allows users to customize the visuals and information shown to their liking. Park-Distance Control makes it easier than ever to get in and out of tight spaces.

In addition to the driver-assist technology, Volkswagen has also equipped every trim level of the Golf GTI with a good amount of safety features. These include both active and passive features. There are front and side airbags for the two occupants up front. There are also side-curtain airbags for head protection of occupants up front and in the rear.

The seat belts up front are adjustable for different passenger heights. They have pretensioners as well as load limiters. Every Volkswagen Golf GTI has the LATCH system for safely tethering child seats to solid anchor points. The front end of this hatchback has been engineered for optimal strength in the event of a front collision.

The S trim level gets Electronic Stability Control, Anti-Slip Regulation and an Electronic Locking Differential for maximum traction and stability. Engine-Brake Assist is standard across all models. A Rear-View Camera gives the driver a better view of what's behind them. The Tire-Pressure Monitor lets them known if the tires are over- or under-inflated to an unsafe level.

All models of the 2022 Golf GTI get Anti-Lock Brakes with Electronic Brake-Pressure Distribution. There's also an Hydraulic Brake Assist. The Intelligent Crash Response System works to make sure every passenger has optimal protection if a crash should occur. This technology deploys airbags, adjusts seat belts, unlocks all doors and connects with emergency responders.

The next trim level up from the S models is called the SE. SE models of the 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI have the same engine and most of the same mechanical features as the S models. Buyers can again choose between a manual or automatic transmission system. All of the exterior features are carried over from the S trim level. The SE adds on a Power-Tilting, Sliding Panoramic Sunroof.

The interior is largely the same as well. The infotainment system gets some nice upgrades for the SE trim level. There's now a larger 10-inch Discover Pro touchscreen. There's also now a built-in navigation system to help the driver find their every destination. A Harman Kardon premium sound system gives music fans an even better experience than before.

In addition to the upgraded audio system, SE owners will also have access to SiriusXM 360L satellite radio. Wireless App-Connect makes it even easier to stay connected and to use one's favorite applications. The SE trim level also gets Keyless Entry with Push-Button Start. Every safety feature and all of the driver-assist technology found on the S trim is carried over for the SE models. Basically, if the S has it, the SE has it as well along with the extra features mentioned here.

Compare the SE vs Autobahn Trim. What is the difference?

The top trim level of the 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI is called the Autobahn. The Autobahn is named after the famous German federally-controlled highway system. These roads are famous for having no federally-mandated speed limit. This trim level is all about performance, while still maintaining all of the convenience and practicality of the previous trim levels.

The engine and available transmission systems are the same as the previous two trim levels. The performance enhancements here aren't so much about speed and power, but are more concerned with handling and steering dynamics. One of the biggest additions for the Autobahn is the DCC Adaptive Chassis Control.

The DCC Adaptive Chassis Control provides seriously improved cornering and steering dynamics. There's less body roll in the Golf GTI with this engineering technology in place. It also provides a more smooth and refined ride quality that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. The Autobahn also gets upgraded brakes with vented front and rear rotors.

The Autobahn gets a new set of 19-inch alloy wheels with a diamond-turned surface. The new wheels come with a new set of tires as well. This time, Volkswagen outfits the Golf GTI with a set of summer performance tires. On the inside of the Autobahn, the car now comes with leather upholstery for all of the seats. The driver's seat is power-adjustable with a memory feature for the first time.

In addition to the heated front seats, this trim level adds on heated rear outboard seats as well. The Autobahn has a new Park Assist feature. A Light Assist feature uses a camera in the windshield to detect and analyze oncoming traffic. The beam brightness is then adjusted accordingly. This trim also gets a new Heads-Up Display that projects certain information right onto the windshield within the driver's field of view.

The remaining exterior, interior and safety features are all identical to those found on the SE trim level. Once again, the trim level takes everything that was offered before and builds on it with some additional features and upgrades.


Final Thoughts

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is completely new for 2022. The latest models mark the 8th generation for this vehicle. It looks to be the best iteration of this hatchback to date. The Golf GTI is a popular vehicle with the tuning and track-racing crowd. If a buyer finds themselves in this category, then choosing the Autobahn trim is a no-brainer. The improved handling makes a huge difference if the hatchback will be used for racing.

For most buyers, the mid-tier SE trim level will probably be their best choice. They will get the same power and performance of the higher trim level, with the exception of those handling upgrades. Buyers should keep in mind, however, that even the base model of the Golf GTI already offers great steering and handling.

The SE represents the best value of the three trim levels. The slight price increase over the S model is worth it for the better audio system alone. The SE has some great additional convenience features. Buyers will also save some money on foregoing the slight performance upgrades of the Autobahn.

Previous Year Trim Configurations:

2021 Volkswagen Golf Trime Levels