VW Golf GTI Clubsport: The best GTI since GTI

By Miles Downard

Right, so this is a bit of a story. The Golf GTI has been around for 40 years in most of the world, so the ‘Clubsport’ as us South Africans will know the car is actually an anniversary edition marking the occasion. Accordingly it’s called the ‘Edition 40’ elsewhere but because the GTI only hit our shores in the early 80s VWSA has dropped the anniversary thing. And basically what that boils down to is that this is one special GTI.

What makes it special?

Well it clearly looks a bit different to your average GTI, so let’s start there. This Clubsport edition, which will only be produced until the end of 2016, gets some real bit of aerodynamic trim. The revised front bumper has a lower lip section that directs air around the car, while the fins help duct flow for better cooling. The rear wing pushes the rear into the ground, as does the little edge that hangs off the rear bumper. It might not seem much, but it makes all the difference for the chassis engineers. There’s also more power, lot’s more power.

Sounds tasty…exactly how much more?

It’s the same basic powerplant, a 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol unit. Only this one pumps out 195kW which is 33 more than the standard car. That’s a lot, but there’s more. Overboost, activated by hitting the kick down on the accelerator pedal, delivers an additional 18kW for 10 seconds. That gives you more power than a Golf R.

You also mentioned some aerodynamic stuff, what’s that all about?

Well because there’s aero at play the chassis engineers can focus on the suspension setup differently to if they had to try keep the tyres in contact with the tarmac with no aero. It’s an odd concept to wrap your head around but it’s a real thing. Trust me. So the springs and dampers are set differently to a normal GTI, while the addition of VW’s electronically controlled limited slip differential up front aims to control traction on the driven wheels.

Read also: VW Polo GTI: Punches above its weight

So they’ve changed a lot it seems. How does it all feel?

I’m glad you asked because the Clubsport certainly lives up to its tagline: ‘The fastest GTI since GTI’. In fact it’s night and day over a normal one. Thanks to a quicker steering rack the Clubsport feels alive at the front end, turning like a house fly. Then when it’s time to get on the loud pedal that differential tugs and goes, limiting understeer significantly. In fact it’s beautifully balanced, until you don’t want it to be. A little aggression on turn in will see the rear end liven up. It’s very un-VW-like. I love it.

Downsides? Yes, there are some. There’s no manual handbrake, which I almost think is a must-have item in a front-driven hot-hatch. It just makes for a load more fun. Also the engine note can become a drone at cruising speeds, although you can change that in a settings menu. Lastly I’d want mine with a manual gearbox thank you very much, none of this DSG stuff regardless of how quickly it shifts cogs.

Sounds good. What’s this I see about setting lap records?

Yes, well the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S did set the lap record for a front wheel drive car around the infamous Nurburgring recently. That’s an even more intense version of the Clubsport, having no rear seats, more aggressive suspension setup and semi-slick tyres as standard. You won’t even get an aircon because the unit weighs too much. It’s a serious piece of kit and one I can’t wait to drive considering how good the ‘normal’ Clubsport is. Good news is that South Africa has been allocated 47 S’s.

Right, so before I sign, what does one of these cost?

The Clubsport hits the pricelist at R540 200 before options. I suggest you get the checkered bucket seats, they’re great. You get a 5-year/90 000 km service plan and a 3-year/120 000 km warranty.

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