Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport – #TBT Review

ThrowBackThursday to my review of the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport back in 2016

Read what I wrote in the original review below – originally posted on Motoring Middle East:

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the GTI, this is the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport. And four years into the lifecycle of this Mark 7 Golf, this GTI, finally looks and feels like a GTI should.

Whilst the regular GTI seems a bit embarrassed and is certainly low key about its sporting aspirations, this Clubsport is about as bold as hot hatches get these days. It’s got a massive spoiler on the back, new diffuser, go-faster stripes, red accents – those are crucial – and a far more aggressive front bib seemingly now with claws out to get you.

It’s got an increase of over 30bhp from the 2.0 Turbocharged four-cylinder more compared to the regular GTI, at 261bhp for a 0-100kph time of 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 250kph. But there’s a dirty little secret. Mash the right pedal to the ground – and it’s like hitting the boost button in an arcade game with another 10% power and torque for 10 seconds (that’s up to 285bhp!).

The new aero produces genuine downforce – and those front claws actually work the airflow around the wheels. And there’s more trickery – with an electronic front diff lock, mechanical variable ratio steering and stiffer suspension.

You get 18-inch or optional 19-inch wheels and Dynamic Chassis Control for a choice between Comfort and Sport damper settings. In Fact go into the drive modes and you got a selection from Eco to Sport plus individual – which is my preference because you can turn everything up to Sport (including the exhaust note) but leave the ride in Comfort!

We know the Mk VII Golf well as a practical and sensible small family hatchback and this one is available with a 6-speed Dual Clutch auto (whilst they do make a manual, none have been allocated for our market). Inside there’s plenty of room the bucket seats are great, the thick-rimmed alcantara-trimmed steering wheel is lovely to hold – and there’s more of the suede-like stuff on the doors and seats.

Plus you get the latest infotainment system as seen on the new Passat with Apple Carplay and there’s a fantastic deep thumpy base stereo. There’s even active cruise control. More importantly, as well as regular, sport and manual (flappy paddle) modes for the transmission there are drive modes ranging from Eco to Sport with an individual setting – which is my preference because you can turn everything to Sport (including the interior – admittedly artificial – engine note) but put the DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control) or suspension in other words into comfort (it’s too fidgety and brittle for normal driving).

And driving this thing is hilarious. Not only is it wicked-quick, making great use of the snappy shifts for fast acceleration with satisfying throttle blips on downchanges, but it’s incredibly agile and chuckable. You get a lot of confidence through the steering wheel, which whilst not the most feelsome, certainly is accurate, faithful and quick. The front hesitates only a fraction of a moment before darting into any given corner, then sticks stubbornly to the line, even if that means pulling the back round a bit. There’s little or no understeer. High-speed cornering too is incredibly planted and stable thanks no doubt to the additional unspecified downforce.

Your confidence is further boosted by the great anchors attached the brake pedal – but above all this car sharp and potent supply a huge dose of fun both on your favourite road and even in town which is slices happily through traffic.

What I love about this car is that it’s no longer shy about being a GTI. It’s blatantly proud of being a bit boisterous. It still retains some of the sensitivity of the Golf so is not quite as childish and old-skool riotous as a Focus ST, and not yet quite as sexy as a Giulietta QV, but it’s got back performance and ability by the spades.

As well as being able to go for gold, it now once again looks the part, sounds the part and feels the part – truly emerging to reclaim its hot hatch crown. Also, there is simply no argument to spend an extra AED15,000 for the AED153,000 ($41,700) Golf R, and if you want the ultimate Golf, and indeed GTI, pay the extra AED20,000 over the regular GTI’s price and get this Clubsport.

Be quick though, only 70 out of the total limited production run are allocated to the Middle East region. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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