It’s not long since we had the new Golf Mk8 in the driveway and what a great car it was to spend time with. Picking up speed we have somehow jumped the regular GTI, GTE and GTD to find ourselves living with the new Golf GTI Clubsport. This vehicle marks the next chapter in the brand’s tradition of high-performance GTI’s and as always it comes with a certain amount of fanfare. When the first Golf GTI Clubsport was launched in 2016 on the 40th anniversary of the iconic hatch, car journalists salivated at the thought of a more focused GTI. This is car that sits above the regular GTI but naturally below the Golf R and is designed to give buyers that option to hit the track after a long weeks work. Volkswagen are confident that they are writing the next chapter of the successful Golf story with this new Clubsport. The reworked turbocharged engine, fully connected drivetrain, and the brand new Nürburgring driving profile is bound to raise eyebrows when you get behind the wheel. Designed for the legendary Nordschleife track in Germany, the Golf GTI Clubsport marks a new milestone for driving enthusiasts and is set to be one of the all time great front-wheel-drive hot hatch VW’s.
First things first, just look at the stance of the new Golf GTI Clubsport. It would look very much at home on any racetrack thanks to that aggressive front end. The bumper looks almost open at the bottom with just the radiator grille trim and the larger aerodynamic wings guiding the head wind to keep the engine cool. At the rear, the two-part roof spoiler not only catches the eye but also works in tandem with the front spoiler to significantly increase the down force at speed. From the side you see a special diffuser, wider sills and a drop of 10 millimetres onto those purposeful 18-inch alloy wheels. Back to the rear and oval tailpipes replace the round versions previously found on the sports exhaust system. A genuine Clubsport will be denoted by the single tailpipe positioned on the left and right of the body. Inside it’s reminiscent of any modern GTI but heavily customised with supportive sport seats in ArtVelours, a sports steering wheel with perforated leather grip zones to make paddle shifting on the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox super easy. Sports pedals, and neat trim on the door cards and dash leave occupants under no illusion that you are in something special.
Back to the business end now and the Golf GTI Clubsport turbocharged engine (EA888 evo4), has been reworked to push nearly 300hp with 400 Nm of torque. All this power is fed to the front wheels using a new Vehicle Dynamics Manager. This was launched in the new Golf GTI and closely integrates control of the electronic differential locks (XDS) and the lateral dynamic components of the optional adaptive chassis control DCC for a better drive. In the new Golf GTI Clubsport the standard electromechanical front-axle locking differential is now included in the Vehicle Dynamics Manager’s network for the first time meaning even more grip can be obtained from the front wheels on track! This wizardry we look forward to testing some day at a circuit but for now we just have to enjoy our mountainous back roads and boy does it feel good!
The eighth-generation Golf does not disappoint in the safety stakes having achieved a five star overall rating in the latest round of EuroNCAP tests. The independent crash testing authority lauded the Golf for its “excellent crashworthiness” and standard fitment of a number of assist systems that help prevent an accident in the first place. The Golf achieved a score of 95% for adult occupant protection, 89% for child protection, 76% for its protection of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and 78% for its safety assist systems. It has all the tech and airbags you need to keep you somewhat safe although do be careful on the Nürburgring!
Prices for the MK8 Volkswagen Golf GTI kick off at around €45,000 but you can expect to pay €52,000 up on the Clubsport. Various finance and PCP options are available through Volkswagens trusted dealer network nationwide.
If this is VW’s attempt to continue the tradition of high-performance GTI models with the new Golf GTI Clubsport then they have certainly succeeded. The Clubsport is a little more taught on the road and perhaps a little firm to live with as a family car but if you like you’re hot hatch that bit spicier, then this is the car for you. The last Clubsport at the hands of pro race driver Benjamin Leuchter set a new lap record for front-wheel-drive vehicles on the Nordschleife at Nürburgring in May 2016 with a time of 07:49:21 minutes and I have no doubt in the right hands, the new Clubsport could go one better! The larger brakes inspire confidence, the hint of negative camber in the wheel setup allows precise turn in with bags of grip and then the clever differential somehow manages to apply power to road with minimum traction loss. Clicking the paddles through the 7 gears available on a spirited drive is a joy as it instantaneously gives you the right gear and a suitable audible treat from the Akrapovič exhaust system, which is standard on the Clubsport. This is one of those cars that’s hard to give back and a welcome break from the world of hybrids and EV’s we find ourselves in right now. If you enjoy driving, it’s hard to look beyond the GTI Clubsport as the best all-round package on the road today.
Not a lot really!