It was a nice and sunny day in Algarve, Portugal. The conditions were perfect for a day of racing at the track. And that’s what we did. Thanks to Volkswagen we were among the first to step into the new Golf GTI Clubsport on the Algarve International Circuit.
40 years of Golf
Where just 5.000 units of the initial Golf GTI were planned in 1976, the GTI turned into a real cash cow selling over 2 million units over seven generations. To celebrate 40 years of the Golf, Volkswagen came up with their most powerful GTI to date, christened as the Golf GTI Clubsport.
Looking at the car you can immediately see that it is not a standard Golf. First thing we notice is the design of the car. There is a completely new front bumper staring at us aggressively. There are also new side sills, a new rear diffusor and a big rear spoiler on top of the car.
The new design of the front bumper offers improvements in air supply to the engine, aerodynamics and downforce at the front body.
On the side profile we find a black trim stripe with ‘CLUBSPORT’ lettering. This is a tribute to the 1976 Golf GTI, which also had a wide black trim stripe. The high-gloss door mirror caps are also finished in black to give it a special look. Volkswagen also designed 19-inch forged alloy wheels specially for the new GTI Clubsport. The cars we drove were fitted with rims which we first saw on the Golf 7 R.
The rear spoiler on the back of the car is designed in such a way that it significantly increases the downforce on the rear axle. The rear diffusor has also been customized and is finished in high-gloss black. Redesigned chrome-plated tailpipes have been elegantly integrated in the diffusor. We can straight away tell that these pipes are much larger than those found on normal GTI models.
The most powerful GTI to date will launch in the beginning of 2016 to mark its 40th anniversary.
In basic mode the car delivers 195 kW / 265 PS and 350 Nm, there is however an overboost function which boosts the car to 213 kW / 290 PS and 380 Nm for a period of ten seconds. This function is available between third and sixth gear and when using launch control on the DSG version.
The GTI Clubsport accelerates to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds and the top speed is set to 250 km/h. To ensure good grip, road legal semi-slicks are available as an option.
To complete the overall sporty design, the interior is equipped with sport bucket seats or classic GTI sport seats.
The Golf GTI Clubsport version with a manual gearbox has an unladen weight of 1,375 kg. With DSG on board, its unladen weight is 1,395 kg.
Turbocharged Engine with 290 PS
The engine of the Golf GTI Clubsport – which has a power output of 195 kW / 265 PS between 5,350 and 6,600 rpm – is technically based on the 1,984 cc TSI engine of the Golf R. The power of the new GTI Clubsport is channeled entirely to the front wheels via either a manual gearbox or a DSG that performs automatic gear changes.
Thanks to a boost function, the 265 PS power output can be boosted nearly 10 per cent to 213 kW / 290 PS momentarily. The maximum torque is also increased from 350 (between 1,700 and 5,300 rpm) to 380 Nm. This means that the new Golf GTI Clubsport reaches practically the same power level as the Golf R – the difference is just 10 PS – and the two Golf models are equally strong in terms of maximum torque.
The boost function is available in gears 3 through 6, provided that the “Sport” driving profile is active. In the manual gearbox version, the driver activates “Sport” mode by activating the driving profile selector that is included as standard in all Golf GTI Clubsport versions. If the Golf GTI Clubsport is equipped with a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox (DSG), the “S” mode can easily be selected alternatively by clicking the gear shift lever back briefly.
After a presentation that showcased the improvements of the car, it was time to test it on the track. Since it was the first ever press presentation of the new Clubsport, we were only allowed to drive it on track. A review of how the car drives on the road will follow later.
The three very first Clubsport were lined-up for us. Two of the cars were manuals while one was fitted with the DSG gearbox. We stepped in the DSG version first followed by a lap to familiarize ourselves with the track and the car.
We could immediately feel that the response to the gas pedal is very direct. The sound of the car is quite impressive and the exhaust produces a nice sound which willingly lets out some soft bangs while shifting up and down.
The sports steering wheel feels very comfortable. When steering in the corners we experience a high level of steering precision. Especially in the higher speed range the car feels very comfortable and reacts predictably to our movements. The street approved Michelin Pilot Cup 2 Tyres give the car much more grip, especially on the corners.
The limited slip differential gives strong traction away from corners. This allows us to reapply power earlier than you would normally be comfortable with thus providing us with an even faster track experience.
Compared to purely mechanical locks, the front differential lock integrated in the GTI Clubsport has a variable degree of locking. This makes it possible for us to completely avoid negative effects on steering response and steering precision.
As a result, the system realises the full potential and maximum performance of a differential lock with regard to vehicle dynamics, because comfort is not compromised under any circumstances. This ensures that 100 per cent of engine power is transferred to the racetrack and is fully available to propel the GTI.
The Algarve circuit was a great way to get to know the car and its limits but these few laps were not enough to give a full review about the new Golf GTI Clubsport.
Based on our track experience we have a very good first impression of the car. On track the handling is superb and performs well. The downforce on both axles really increases the stability of the car and gives us a very precise feeling.
The improved chassis setup provides less understeer and more traction than the standard GTI. The increased downforce on the rear end of the car makes the Clubsport much more agile and playful around the track.The overboost function is an innovative feature in this Clubsport, however the increase of power doesn’t quite make a difference in the drivability of the car.
The mechanical locking differential that is electronically controlled enables us to stand on the power on a very early stage that really drags us out of the corner. We really encourage future buyers to choose the optional Michelin Cup 2 Tyres in order to access its full potential with a massive amount of grip.