What does GTI, GTD and GTE stand for?

Last modified on November 12th, 2020 by Martin Sanders

Images thanks to beastly_mk7, mk2_zippy and mk3-gti-anniversary.

If you are an automotive enthusiast, you can’t but get excited by the simple three initials GTI. GTI may invoke up memories of your first drive in a sports car or your teenagehood where you would dream of owning the legendary Golf GTI.

What does GTI stand for?

The initials GTI (or GTi) summons emotions among all petrol heads, with such glorious cars as the Golf GTI, Peugeot 205 GTI and let’s not forget the VW Scirocco GTI. The GTI initials stand for “Grand Tourer Injection”, originating from the Italian “Gran Turismo Iniezione”. The “Grand Tourer” lexicon was a famous classification used long before the 1970s VW hot hatchback, being used to describe such awe-inspiring cars as the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing. The first use of the GTi initials can be traced back to Maserati 3500 GTi, presented at the 1960 Salon International de l’Auto featuring Lucas mechanical fuel injection.

The GTI initials for many of us will inspire dreams of the mk1 Golf GTI, the first car to bring about the hot hatch revolution. However, it may surprise you to know that the VW Scirocco GTI was the first VW to wear that prestigious badge. While the mighty Golf GTI will always be known for starting the hot hatch class.

The mk1 Golf famously designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro (Italdesign), a renowned automotive designer who was known for his great work with such cars as the Alfa Romeo 105/115 Series Coupés and Maserati Ghibli. By the 1970s when Volkswagen started working on the new lineup of VWs, Giorgetto had established an angular wedge style, commonly referred to as the “folded paper” era.

Giorgetto was responsible for designing a new range of Volkswagens, seeing a shift from the rear-wheel-drive with the air-cooled engine mounted at the rear generation which had served the Volkswagen since the 1930s to a modern of front-wheel-drive with front-mounted, water-cooled cars. A design layout which we now take for granted.

With designs for the Golf, Scirocco and Passat all coming from the Italdesign, Giorgetto was instrumental in turning the financially troubled Volkswagen of the 1970s into a maker of practical modern vehicles.

As a maker of dependable family cars, Volkswagen hadn’t included the sporty GTI within their hatchback range. Maybe in part due to the previously tricky reception received for the Beetle “GSR”, “Yellow-Black Racer” in 1973. 

Engineers at Volkswagen had other ideas. So when a concept using the Scirocco base was declared “undriveable” by Volkswagen’s Chief of Research Ernst Fiala the GTI story could have ended there. However, lucky for us Veedub enthusiasts, engineers at VW persisted with their hot-hatch endeavours. And on 28 May 1975 Volkswagen management gave their approval. The VW Golf GTI mk1 was released to the public at 1975’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

It is difficult to believe that Volkswagen had any doubts about the popularity of their GTI hot hatch. The GTI story has become part of the automotive heritage that we relish. The individual VW red and grey checked tartan fabric, red piping, and golf ball gear lever have all become instantly identifiable within Volkswagen GTI range. 

What does GTD stand for?

The lesser-known GTD has been with Volkswagen for almost as long as the fabled GTI, translated to mean “Gran Turismo Diesel”. The initials have become a constant feature within the VW Golf range, so much so that many translate the initials as “Golf Turbo Diesel”. No matter your preference, you can be sure that any VW wearing the GTD badge will be fun and entertaining to drive.

The GTD was a trendsetter, while not as well-known as the GTI. The GTD established a new niche of sporty premium diesel hatchbacks long before the likes of BMW’s One Series and the Mercedes-Benz A-class.  

The mk1 Golf GTD came on to the market in 1982, featuring a 70bhp Garrett / KKK turbocharged 1.6-litre engine capable of delivering a 0-62mph time of 13.5 seconds and a top speed of 96mph. While these stats may seem mundane when compared with today’s advanced modern diesel engines, however, these were impressive stats in an era of plain non-turbo assisted diesels.

Volkswagen’s first GTD inherited many of the sporty markings seen in the GTI. For many non-motoring enthusiasts at the time, it would have been difficult to tell the difference between a GTI and GTD so successful was the formula. 

The GTD model class has been a regular part of the Volkswagen Golf lineup, with the only notable absence being the fourth and fifth-generation Golfs which featured the “GT TDI” initials instead.

So strong is the GTD brand that Volkswagen reintroduced the GTD initials in the sixth generation along with an engine capable of impressive 0-62mph in just 8.1 seconds, from an engine producing 170bhp with 258lb ft of torque all while delivering an impressive 53.3mpg. 

The GTD contains many of the sporting accessories found on the equivalent GTI model, with the exception, of grey checkered fabric interior, replacing the GTI red tartan.

What does GTE stand for?

The GTE is a sporting brand that will become increasingly more popular in the future for Volkswagen. The GTE initials stand for “Gran Turismo Electric”. While it is easy to think that electric cars are relatively new, Volkswagen has been working on electric automotive technology since the 1970s. 

In 1970 VW set up the “Centre for Future Research” to design a “powertrain for the future”. The unit was lead by Adolf Kalberlah, an electro-chemist who specialised in battery research. Kalberlah was ideally suited to develop a system to power a VW T2 Camper. The project took Kalberlah just two years to get the Volkswagen camper on the road, a mighty achievement.

Volkswagen released their first electric-powered Volkswagen car in 1981; a limited production run of just 25 units was produced based on the mk1 Golf called the I City-STROMer. 

It wasn’t until 2014 that Volkswagen introduced the GTE brand in the form of the plug-in hybrid VW Golf GTE, released in 2014 at the Geneva Motor Show. The Golf GTE platform shared technology with Audi’s A3 Sportback e-tron powertrain with VW software. The first production Golf GTE was delivered during the fourth quarter of 2014 and was later joined by the Passat GTE in 2015. 

The sporty GTE has become a symbol of Volkswagen’s clean green environmental-friendly future and features many of the style characteristics loved by enthusiasts in the GTI and GTD. The Golf GTE stars a blue checked tartan interior and a hot-hatch style manner.

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Martin Sanders

A big fan of all things VW, establishing the Veedubs brand and website, sharing his interests in regular blog posts. Martin Sanders also works as a graphic designer, his work can be seen here.

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