VeeDub’s Club­sport was built to cel­e­brate the GTI’s 40th birth­day, but has it got loftier am­bi­tions?

Built to cel­e­brate the GTI’s 40th birth­day, the peppy and ever-so-ag­ile Club­sport is sup­posed to sit be­low the R in the Golf line-up. But does it, asks wheels’ Im­ran Malik

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It’s quite likely that you missed out on the chance of own­ing a GTI Club­sport S be­cause Volk­swa­gen only pro­duced 400 of them. The 306bhp, three-door, man­ual trans­mis­sion lim­ited-edi­tion VeeDub was the fastest front-wheel drive car to lap the Nür­bur­gring and, un­sur­pris­ingly, sold out quicker than you could mut­ter ‘red grille and tar­tan seats’.

So the Wolfs­burg car­maker has cre­ated this, the GTI Club­sport, to mark 40 years of the model – which sits be­tween the GTI and the R. Hav­ing spent the week­end with the hot hatch, I’ve been left won­der­ing if it should be in sec­ond spot, or first.

Our ‘doorier’ tester equipped with an au­to­matic is way down on power com­pared to the mad S, but in spite of this, it still has the abil­ity to put a very large grin on your face due to its sporty char­ac­ter, which, thank­fully, amounts to more than just a few vis­ual add-ons to the body.

But since we’re on the sub­ject, let’s start with the re­vamped ex­te­rior. It fea­tures a deeper front bumper with big­ger air in­takes and se­ri­ous-look­ing duct vanes chan­nelling air through brake cool­ing slits. It rides on lighter 18in wheels wrapped with size 225/40 tyres and gets ‘Club­sport’ de­cals along the side sills, not to men­tion an ex­tended roof spoiler and rear dif­fuser.

The slim tail­lights are ac­com­pa­nied by fat­ter dual ex­haust pipes, which cre­ate an an­grier, naugh­tier note than the GTI. It’s a throat­ier bark and it suits the Club­sport’s more ag­gres­sive per­son­al­ity. It has a lower stance too, thanks to a sports sus­pen­sion that drops ride height by 15mm, and as for the cabin, it is mostly fin­ished in a grey hue with a few splashes of red – how­ever, it does get Al­can­tara trim seem­ingly ev­ery­where, from the flat-bot­tom mul­ti­func­tional steer­ing wheel, gear lever and the bucket seats.

It’s still ever so prac­ti­cal with its abil­ity to ac­com­mo­date five adults (along with a 380-litre boot), and it has an 8.0in in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with a CD player, SD card and aux-in, while the eight-speaker sound sys­tem is crys­tal clear. How­ever, the only rea­son you would con­tem­plate want­ing one of these is for its per­for­mance. And as it would tran­spire, that is a very good rea­son in­deed.

The out­put of the EA888 2.0-litre tur­bocharged four-pot goes from 220 horses in the GTI to 265 in the Club­sport. It’ll hit 100kph from rest in just 5.9 sec­onds and it’s stronger through­out the rev range too, but it has an­other party trick up its sleeve; a boost func­tion is able to ac­cess an­other 25 horses for 10-sec­ond

bursts of throt­tle, and this takes the fi­nal out­put to a Golf R-threat­en­ing 290 horses, and since it doesn’t have the R’s Haldex all-wheel drive sys­tem weigh­ing it down, it feels more sprightly. You re­ally don’t need AWD any­way, not when the Club­sport has more than enough grip to keep it on the straight and nar­row. Even when you try, you can’t seem to shake it from its stride. Its be­spoke sus­pen­sion ge­om­e­try with re­tuned springs and dampers does a ster­ling job of im­prov­ing re­spon­sive­ness and agility when you’re as­sault­ing the cor­ners.

No, the GTI doesn’t shy away from twists and turns at all – but Volk­swa­gen has made what was a fab­u­lous chas­sis even bet­ter. This car seems to rel­ish the bends just a lit­tle bit more; it’s stiffer than the GTI. The ride may be slightly harsher, but you will ap­pre­ci­ate the firmer sus­pen­sion set-up when you are up in the moun­tains and chuck­ing it from left to right, as I was over the week­end in Al Taween.

An elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled me­chan­i­cal lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial, taken from the Per­for­mance Pack model, is fit­ted as stan­dard on the Club­sport and over­all it feels more poised in the cor­ners with the front end keen to tuck in with a flick of the meaty steer­ing, which is in­cred­i­bly tight and re­spon­sive and tuned to over­steer more – mak­ing it per­fect for the track and fast, wind­ing roads. There isn’t a hint of body roll to be de­tected ei­ther, it cor­ners flat and when the road be­gins to straighten out and you’ve buried the throt­tle, you are thrust into the back of your seat from the 350Nm of twist that it sum­mons up from 1,700rpm.

The throt­tle re­sponse is in­cred­i­ble for a four-pot turbo, while the sixspeed DSG ri­fles through the ra­tios as rapidly as ever. In fact, the Club­sport seems to be a lit­tle too peppy at times as even on a dry road you can chirp the front wheels from first through to third gear. Ad­mit­tedly, you have to give trac­tion con­trol the af­ter­noon off and if the heav­ens had opened up and left a tiny layer of wa­ter on the road, this GTI would have put an even wider smile on my face. I just wish it had a ‘proper’ hand­brake, it’d make U-turns far more ex­cit­ing.

For 40 years and seven gen­er­a­tions, the GTI has been de­liv­er­ing thrills to car en­thu­si­asts all

It seems to REL­ISH the bends just a bit more; it’s stiffer than the GTI. The ride may be slightly harsher, but you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate the FIRMER sus­pen­sion when you’re in the moun­tains chuck­ing it from left to right

over the world and has rightly earned its place in motoring his­tory as one of the best per­form­ers of all time. Even though the Club­sport is not as ex­treme as the Club­sport S and falls short in terms of sheer power and has been tuned to pro­duce less oomph than the R too, I have to say I like it more than both the reg­u­lar GTI and the R. It’s a bril­liant way to honour that mile­stone and al­though it may sit in sec­ond place in the line-up, I would rank it as the ul­ti­mate Golf GTI.

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