December 7, 2022

As the primary VW GTX-badged efficiency EVs attain showrooms, the 300hp Golf GTI Clubsport Mk8 reveals Volkswagen hasn’t misplaced its urge for food for efficiency – and there’s a lot extra to return.

Evaluation from Efficiency VW journal. Phrases: Alex Grant. 

So, right here we’re. Peak GTI. Eight generations, 45 years and greater than 2.3 million gross sales within the making, the VW Golf GTI Clubsport Mk8 is the quickest, strongest, most centered automobile ever to earn the crimson pinstripes. For all of the Mk8 hype round connectivity and digitalisation, it’s a line-up that’s nonetheless discovered house for the kind of track-tuned efficiency machine that may as soon as have relied on enter from… effectively, folks like us. However this one’s acquired a manufacturing facility guarantee.

It’s laborious to not admire Wolfsburg’s dedication to the trigger, contemplating the place the automotive trade is at the moment. Battered by ever-tighter effectivity and emissions requirements, endless SUV demand and the spiralling investments wanted for electrical autos, it’s no surprise that the recent hatch class has thinned out over time. And but, regardless of sharing the R&D limelight with the ID fashions, there are 5 efficiency fashions on the prime of the Mk8 line-up. GTD for motorways, a GTE hybrid for the tax (sorry, eco) aware, the four-wheel drive R for moist British climate, and a two-tier GTI vary topped by the Clubsport.

That’s a badge with some weight behind it. Volkswagen dropped the primary Clubsport GTIs mid-way by way of the Mk7’s lifespan, lastly stepping out of the sometimes understated Golf’s consolation zone and giving us one thing nearer in spirit to the RenaultSport’s uncompromising monitor automobiles. With the R&D purse strings loosened slightly, the 310hp Clubsport S monstered the front-wheel drive manufacturing automobile lap document on the Nürburgring in 2016, whereas the 265hp Clubsport Version 40 provided a peppier GTI for these of us who nonetheless want again seats. Each get a nod of approval from us.

The Mk8 Clubsport isn’t a restricted version, and Volkswagen hasn’t diluted the badge right into a stickers-and-trim makeover of the usual GTI – although that’s not a nasty place to begin. Regardless of the essential MQB platform being shared with the Mk7, there’s an extra eight years of refinement in its successor. Expertise from TCR racing and Ring data have helped make the common GTI a extra convincing efficiency automobile in its personal proper.

VW Golf GTI Clubsport Mk8

Closely influenced by improvement driver Benny Leuchter, who not solely set that Nürburgring document six years in the past, however has his personal Mk7 Clubsport S, there’s a raft of nip-tuck upgrades beneath the floor. The GTI will get the decide of the MQB components bin, dropped 15mm nearer to the tarmac with multi-link rear suspension and that includes the VAQ digital LSD as normal for the primary time. Its entrance and rear spring charges are barely stiffer (5% and 15% respectively), the bearings and bushes have been reconfigured to sharpen responses and enhance turn-in, and the engine subframe is now product of aluminium. That 3kg lighter improve which had beforehand been reserved for the Clubsport S.

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The obvious improve here’s a sizeable step up in energy and torque from the common GTI’s EA888 2.0-litre TSI turbo engine – a fourth-gen evolution of the unit launched with the Mk7, and nonetheless with out even a touch of electrical help. As an alternative, engineers have used higher-pressure gas injectors to optimise combustion, and additional decreased inside friction to widen the height torque band and enhance effectivity. No small feat while you’re additionally working throughout the hardest, fastest-changing environmental rules the trade has ever confronted.

4-wheel drive system apart, the VW Golf GTI Clubsport Mk8 is nearer to the Golf R’s efficiency than the GTI. Its full 300hp (a 55hp enhance) is on the market between 5300-6500rpm, with 400Nm of torque (up 30Nm versus the usual GTI) from 2000-5200rpm. By way of pub bragging rights, that’s a ramification nearly broad sufficient to outrun the 180kg lighter Mk7 Clubsport S in a drag race. Nevertheless, on paper a minimum of, it’s additionally barely off the tempo of maybe its closest rival – the good Hyundai i30N. Who would have seen that one coming again in 1975?

There’s an eagerness to the entire expertise that sizzling Golfs have often lacked from the manufacturing facility. Press the engine begin button – which pulses, like a heartbeat, as you get in – and the four-cylinder crackles and growls into life with a touch of turbo whistle at idle. There’s no handbook gearbox, however the seven-speed DSG does nothing to blunt what has turn into an almost-always-accessible swell of torque, punctuated by the pop-pop of unburnt gas on overrun. Bigger paddle shifters on the steering column wouldn’t go amiss, nevertheless it feels each bit as fast because it sounds on paper.

VW Golf GTI Clubsport Mk8

And never simply in a straight line. The entrance axle shoulders the total burden of placing that energy down, and there’s a collection of upgrades to set this other than different GTIs. A lot of the entrance bumper is open to maximise engine cooling and airflow, and it’s tipped with a splitter flowing into aerodynamic aspect blades – not dissimilar to the Clubsport S – to press the extra aggressively-cambered entrance wheels into the tarmac, whereas carry on the rear is dialled again with the assistance of a giant, open spoiler.

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As a system, it’s vastly spectacular. There’s by no means any sense that the entrance wheels are clawing on the limits of mechanical grip, or that the British highway community’s ruts and bumps try to grab the steering wheel out of your palms. As an alternative, the tyres observe each curve and undulation with confidence-inspiring fluidity, which suggests each fraction of the powertrain’s potential is put to good use.

VW Golf GTI Clubsport Mk8

Know-how helps. The MQB ‘Evo’ platform has a extra superior digital structure than the Mk7’s, and the Automobile Dynamics Supervisor exploits a community {of electrical} programs to answer the atmosphere and driver inputs. Its progressive steering system provides secure, linear responses throughout abnormal driving, then winds on additional help for a extra direct really feel whereas pushing into tighter corners, decreasing the necessity to shuffle palms across the wheel. On the entrance axle, the 18-inch brake setup options aluminium bells to shed 600kg of unsprung weight at every nook, and chunk progressively more durable while you need them to.

This provides a broad vary of abilities, chosen by a alternative of 4 drive modes that affect not solely the powertrain and differential, however the chassis, differential and three-mode ESC system. On a clean stretch of motorway, ‘Eco’ mode can de-couple the engine let it run at idle speeds tipping effectivity over 40mpg with nearly no effort. On the different finish of the dimensions, Sport and the distinctive Nürburgring-tuned ‘Particular’ drive mode flip each component as much as 11. The latter is extra helpful than it sounds; it’s calibrated to keep up a continuing tyre contact patch on the Nordschleife’s uneven surfaces, and a lot better suited to UK roads than the over-firm, extra track-oriented Sport mode.

Nevertheless, it’s value noting that our take a look at automobile had some helpful choices ticked. As normal, VW suits fixed-rate shocks and the identical 18″ ‘Richmond’ swept-back five-spoke wheels as the essential GTI, which leaves it trying barely under-wheeled. Our automobile had Dynamic Chassis Management (an £815 possibility) and got here fitted with 8×19″ wheels on barely wider Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport rubber than the bottom spec (one other £760). Petrolhead maths suggests each are sound investments when you’re already stepping as much as the Clubsport, and filling the arches provides it actual presence too.

In any other case, there’s not a lot lacking from the manufacturing facility spec. The ArtVelour trimmed tombstone seats aren’t fairly as much as the excessive requirements set by the Mk7 Clubsport’s glorious Recaro wingbacks, however they’re figure-hugging sufficient for enthusiastic driving with out being uncomfortable for motorway journeys. Some components of the de-cluttered dashboard – most features relocated into the central touchscreen – aren’t fairly as effectively thought out as older generations, nevertheless it’s comparatively straightforward to regulate to and it’s wealthy in options. Faucet away on the menus and the devices will show a G-meter and enhance gauge both aspect of a central rev counter with a lap timer at its core.

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VW Golf GTI Clubsport Mk8

If we’re being actually choosy, the worst factor left off the choice checklist – particularly because the Scirocco was axed in 2017 – is a lighter, sportier three-door model. 5-door Golfs died out in the direction of the tip of the Mk7’s manufacturing run, which suggests the Up GTI is Volkswagen’s solely surviving three-door sizzling hatch.

Nevertheless, that’s a element we’ll reside with contemplating the VW Golf GTI Clubsport Mk8 is a undertaking which may simply haven’t occurred in any respect. In an atmosphere that’s pushed rivals to reinvent themselves or drop out of the market fully, it’s nice to see Wolfsburg nonetheless has its palms on the method that made the Mk1 GTI so profitable nearly 50 years in the past. Change is coming – and it’s thrilling – nevertheless it’s value having fun with ‘Peak GTI’ whereas it lasts.

Tech Spec: VW Golf GTI Clubsport Mk8

Engine:

1984cc, 4 cylinder, turbocharged petrol, seven-speed DSG transmission with digital differential lock (XDS+) and entrance axle locking differential (VAQ)

Chassis:

18-inch huge brake equipment with GTI-branded four-piston calipers and drilled discs with aluminium bells, Dynamic Chassis Management (£815), 8×19” ET50 Adelaide wheels with 235/35 Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport tyres (£755)

Exterior:

IQ.Mild LED headlights, GTI Clubsport styling pack together with bumper, sideskirts and rear wing, Oryx White Premium Signature Paint (£1,105)

Inside:

Digital Cockpit with wi-fi charging, GTI Clubsport premium sports activities seats with hexagonal-imprint ArtVelour upholstery, perforated leather-based GTI steering wheel, brushed stainless-steel pedals, GTI Clubsport hexagonal sprint trim, Rear-view digicam (£305), Head-up show (£650), Curtain Airbag system (£350), Digital key for smartphone entry (£215)

ICE:

Uncover Navigation Professional touch-screen navigation infotainment system with gesture management (£1,200), wi-fi telephone charger, Vodafone S5-VTS GPS tracker (£450.19)

Efficiency:

300hp at 5,300-6,500rpm, 400Nm @ 2,000-5,200rpm, 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds, 155mph prime velocity (electronically restricted), 38.5mpg, 166g/km CO2

Worth (OTR):

£38,150 (£45,015.19 as examined)