Thursday22 September 2016
With the Golf GTI turning 40 this year, VW was hell bent on bringing its world-famous hot hatch back to the top of the performance car tree. It put all its efforts into making the Golf the fastest five-door in the land, and this is the fruit of the engineers’ labour: the GTI Clubsport S.
Producing 306bhp, it’s the most powerful Golf ever made, and it is now the Nurburgring lap record-holder for front-wheel-drive production cars.
From the outside, the Clubsport S looks much like any other Golf GTI. The trademark red line that runs across the grille remains, along with the equally traditional twin exhausts.
Inside, however, it’s all change. The ‘golf ball’ gear lever has been carried over from the standard GTI, but that’s one of the few similarities. The seats, for example, now use Alcantara trim, while the rear seats have vanished altogether, replaced by a cargo net and some ‘bracing’ that isn’t actually as structural as it looks.
That the back seats have disappeared rather sums up VW’s attitude towards practicality when it comes to the Clubsport S. If you want a practical hot hatch, buy the normal GTI, or the Golf R.
But practicalities haven’t been forgotten entirely. As if determined to retain some of the utility that makes it one of Britain’s most popular cars, the Golf still serves up as much room as ever for front-seat occupants and a host of little cubby holes.
Removing the rear seats also means you get bags of boot space. Every cubic millimetre of the 1,270-litre luggage bay offered by a normal GTI in ‘seats-down’ configuration is still there, and the luggage net provided for a race helmet would be equally capable of containing a supermarket shopping bag.
The 2.0-litre engine under the bonnet is, in very simple terms, the same as the standard GTI’s power unit, but it has been turbocharged and supercharged to produce 306bhp. This, combined with the weight saving provided by dumping the rear seats, offers electrifying performance. Nought to 62mph takes a mere 5.8 seconds.
It handles well, and it isn’t too threatening even when the limit is fast approaching. Yes, if you push too hard the front end will wash out, as it will with any front-drive car, and there is a hint of torque steer when you put your foot down hard, but it’s generally very well sorted.
It rides quite well, too, although only in the ‘Comfort’ suspension mode. You can go for the more hardcore ‘Race’ setting, but that’s only really for use on race tracks, and it makes the ride harsh over rutted surfaces.
Despite the fact VW has tried to keep the Clubsport S as light as possible, you actually get a fair bit of standard equipment. For example, the 6.5-inch colour touchscreen is a standard feature, and it comes complete with satellite navigation and a reversing camera.
Climate control, though, is not standard, although VW will throw one in free of charge if you ask nicely.
This relatively generous kit list, however, comes at a price. If you’re one of the lucky 150 UK buyers, you’re going to be writing a cheque for £33,155. It’s far from cheap.
Anyone prepared to eschew practicality in favour of outright performance and the kudos of a Nurburgring lap record holder.
Model: Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S, from £33,155
Engine: 2.0-litre twincharged petrol producing 306bhp and 280lb/ft
Transmission: 6-speed manual, driving front wheels
Performance: Top speed 165mph, 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds
Economy: 40.4mpg combined
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