Than a GTI but milder than a Golf R - meet the new Golf GTI Clubsport
More than forty years after its birth, the Golf GTI certainly doesn’t need an introduction anymore.
For those who still need a reminder, this legendary Volkswagen Golf was among the first “hot hatches” in the world by combining entertaining performance with the everyday practicality of a sensible hatchback model.
Seven generations later, the fast Volkswagen has spawned countless competitors - and quite the collection of models.
The hard-core, 206kw, four-wheeldrive Golf R sits atop the (non-gti) pecking order. It is armed with every imaginable performance-enhancing substance pumping through its hairy chest; ready to defend Volkswagen’s honour.
The regular Golf GTI offers 162kw or 350Nm and – in the humble opinion of the author - an extremely complete package of dynamism, practicality, quality and efficiency. Anyone who somehow needs more oomph could specify the optional “Performance Pack” which cranks up peak power (to 169kw) and driving dynamics a few more notches.
This new GTI Clubsport neatly slots in between that Performance Pack and the Golf R, not just price-wise.
Maximum power is up substantially to 195kw (or 265 horsepower) but torque remains unchanged at 350 Newton-meters.
More crucially, this version of the Volkswagen Group’s amazing 2-litre EA888 turbo- petrol four cylinder engine occasionally allows up to 10 seconds of over-boost - to 213kw.
Combined with even more cosmetic and mechanical go-faster bits, VW South Africa calls it “the fastest GTI”.
Its overseas name-badge is actually Clubsport Edition 40 but we only got our first Volkswagen Golf GTI’S 34 years ago so that name has been omitted here. Like previous “Edition” models, this GTI enjoys a limited production run and distinguishes itself with unique styling features.
The most obvious among these include new front and rear bumpers with aerodynamic advantages, BiXenon headlights with LED daytime lights, side skirts and black side decals a-la the 1976 original, larger chrome tail pipes and a two-piece rear roof spoiler.
Those striking 18-inch “Belvedere” wheels you see in the second photo of our mini-gallery come as standard; VW’S 19-inch “Brescia” alloys are an optional extra.
Interior highlights, beyond the solid quality and sporty details of a normal GTI, are part-velour sports seats (at the front) with honeycomb pattern and GTI badges as well as a velour sport steering wheel featuring a red 12 o’clock marking.
Racing bucket seats at the front are an optional extra. Mechanically, the Clubsport shines with new spring and damper tuning, a progressively variable steering rack and the XDS front differential for improved agility, cornering and traction in every imaginable driving situation - especially spirited ones.
The reduced tendency to under-steer or lift-off over-steer helped a similar setup to klap the Nordschleife in 7 minutes and 49 seconds.
While we didn’t go to such extremes, the local launch included numerous mountain passes, closed highways, busy byways and some drag racing on a race track.
With four adaptive drive modes, you may choose between the fidgety “Sport”, balanced “Normal”, softer “Comfort” and a very customizable “Individual” mode.
For such a powerful front- wheeldrive vehicle, the Clubsport puts its power down well and will obey an experienced driver’s commands with great composure. After hundreds of kilometers at various speeds, my co-driver and I agreed that this feels like a GTI with software tuning and better running gear; but it’s available brand- new with a warranty and service plan.
At N$600,000 the new Clubsport is N$110,000 more expensive than a GTI (with DSG) but only N$30,000 cheaper than the Golf R DSG.
More than a golden middle child, the Clubsport is also aimed at fans and collectors with its limited production run of a few hundred units only being available until the end of 2016.
For those die-hard GTI aficionados, Volkswagen hinted at the hard-core, 228kw, stripped-out, two-door and manual-only GTI Clubsport S making its way to South Africa soon.
With just 47 units coming to South African shores, you best place your order now.
Long live the GTI and its many, many derivatives!