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Surprise! It’s the new VW Golf GTI Clubsport

296bhp front-wheel drive Golf has a special Nürburgring mode

Published: 13 Oct 2020

Don’t get too excited. The new Golf GTI Clubsport is not the follow-up to 2016’s Nürburgring FWD record-holder, the Clubsport S. It’s not a limited edition and precisely no effort has been made to save weight. While VW claims it’s a handy 13 seconds quicker around the Green Hell than the standard Mk8 GTI (7:54 vs 8:07), it’s hardly what you’d call hardcore.

In fact VW says the new Clubsport is pitched between the old Mk7 Clubsport and Clubsport S, which both came out in 2016. In reality it’s a replacement for the old Golf GTI TCR – a normal GTI with added focus, but not so much that day-to-day usability is compromised. Classic GTI. And while the TCR arrived towards the end of the Golf Mk7’s life, the new Clubsport has made its debut mere weeks after we experienced the standard Mk8 GTI for the first time. VW, it seems, is in a bit of a rush.

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So, what’s new? Power is up from 242 to 296bhp and torque is up from 273 to 295lb ft, giving 0-62mph in “under six seconds” and a limited 155mph top speed. While the normal GTI is available with a six-speed manual gearbox, the Clubsport is only offered with the seven-speed DSG. Boo.

Of course VW’s engineers have messed with the suspension – the Clubsport sits 15mm lower than standard and there’s more positive camber on the front axle for better turn-in. Bigger brakes help rein in the extra power, while tweaks to the power steering have supposedly magicked up more feel. VW works driver Benjamin Leuchter says he reckons this new Clubsport has better steering than the Clubsport S. We look forward to testing that claim.

Oh, and there’s a new drive mode. The Clubsport’s ‘Special’ mode is tailored to the “very specific” idiosyncrasies of the Nürburgring, where much of the development work was done. It keeps the suspension soft, because the ‘Ring is bumpy as, but ramps the engine, gearbox, steering and so-on up to the max. Sounds like it might work pretty well on your average British B-road…

Just like on the regular GTI, the Clubsport’s running gear (adaptive suspension, steering and so-on) is managed by something VW calls the ‘Vehicle Dynamics Manager’. For the Clubsport it incorporates the clever ‘VAQ’ locking front diff. So while there are no hardware changes, it ought to be able to react faster.

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Spot a Clubsport by its slightly different front bumper that does without those, erm, interesting daytime-running lights, new spoiler, diffuser, side-skirts and twin ovular exhaust pipes.

No word on prices yet. A normal GTI with the DSG gearbox is around £35,000.

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