Peak GTI has been reached with the GTI Clubsport. The five-door Volkswagen hot hatch in this guise gains 55hp over the standard GTI and the result is truly remarkable. The 300hp Clubsport should be a real handful but its not! The car delivers a civilised and very entertaining driving experience.
A few years ago I would have said putting 300hp and 400nm of torque through the front wheels of a road going hatchback would deliver an undriveable car. Just look at the simple mechanics of it. The two front tyres have to do so much. They need to find grip to stop and accelerate plus get grip to steer the car as well as deliver traction from the engine above them through to the road – that’s an awful lot grip with the road surface to find and potentially lose at the slightest opportunity! VW gave us the 4MOTION torque vectoring (four wheel drive) Golf R for this very reason. It can handle 300+hp as all the wheels share the workload – so how can a front wheel drive Clubsport come close to a 63 grand 320hp Golf R?
How has VW managed to deliver 300hp to the front wheels? In the current 8th generation Golf GTI, its clever VDM (Vehicle Dynamics Manager) closely integrates control of the electronic differential locks (XDS) and the lateral dynamics components of the optional adaptive chassis control DCC. The new Golf GTI Clubsport takes this further with the standard electromechanical front-axle locking differential now included in the Vehicle Dynamics Manager’s network for the first time – in other words it corners on rails!!! Karsten Schebsdat, Head of Driving Dynamics, Steering and Control Systems at Volkswagen explains: “Networking all driving dynamics systems means that the new Golf GTI Clubsport handles even more neutrally and precisely than the classic Golf GTI. For the legendary Nordschleife track, we have also programmed a new Nürburgring profile, which specifically adapts the running gear components in the new Golf GTI Clubsport to this race track.” Okay so Irish buyers are unlikely to take their Clubsport on the Nordschleife but this development work has helped deliver a sublime road driving experience that we thoroughly enjoyed in Ireland.
Styling-wise. A big rear spoiler is the only rally obvious clue that your GTI is a more special Clubsport version. On closer inspection you will find subtle tweaks like the Clubsport rear diffuser and exhaust tips and bigger front brake disks (18s). The cabin is understated with only a couple of Clubsport features (Clubsport seats and fabric). The DSG automatic Clubsport features ‘Servotronic’ speed sensitive power steering with limited steering lift mechanism, it has a specially tuned suspension set up with McPherson struts up front and a trick four-link rear axle set up with Clubsport rear shocks. Like the GTI you can select from a number of drive modes with Clubsport getting an additional special driving profile. (The special edition 45 Clubsport gets more kit with highlights being an Akrapovič Titanium exhaust system (an option n Clubsport) and a delimited top speed of 270km/h.
While electric cars wow us with their rapid acceleration the Clubsport’s 0-100km/h time of just less than 6 seconds doesn’t seem that impressive for a performance model – but it is. The Clubsport carved 13 seconds off the standard GTI’s time around the Nordschleife. The good new is the Clubsport can tipple along at any speed without any fuss. The Clubsport is nimble and really precise – if anything its too easy to drive quickly! Top speed is limited to 250km/h.
The current Golf GTI starts from €46,080 (OTR) and the Golf GTI Clubsport starts from €53,440 (OTR) and our test car with its white Oryx paint cost €54,694 – and you don’t even get a reversing camera as standard! The special Golf GTI Clubsport ’45’ (anniversary model) costs from €57,940. The four cylinder petrol powered GTI was first launched in 1976 with an intended limited run of 5,000. It was a huge success combining the perfect combination of power (110hp), weight (circa 800kgs) and drive-ability. The 2nd generation GTI and then the 5th generation onwards delivered on the GTI’s legacy – we’ll forget 3rd and 4th generations as they were relatively dreadful. The Golf GTI Clubsport is the definitive evolution of the classic Mark 1 GTI.