Currently reading: New VW Golf GTI Clubsport gets 296bhp and chassis upgrades
Extensive upgrades include multi-mode locking differential, suspension retune, bigger brakes and special Nürburgring drive mode, plus more power
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4 mins read
13 October 2020

Volkswagen is swiftly following the debut of the Mk8 Golf GTI with a more powerful and focused Clubsport version – reviving a name used on past special editions and replacing the old GTI TCR.

It’s described by the brand as offering “even more cornering grip, further increased driving stability and even more driving fun” without significantly compromising the everyday usability of the standard Golf GTI.

The new range-topping variant raises the standard model’s 242bhp to 296bhp, thanks to a retuned engine management system, larger intercooler and a new turbocharger sourced from Continental, replacing the standard GTI’s Garrett-sourced item. 

Torque also increases to 295lb ft – 22lb ft more than in the regular GTI. However, these figures are achieved running on 98 RON fuel, which is recommended by VW, rather than the 95 RON fuel recommended for the standard GTI. 

Power is put through the front wheels via a standard-fit seven-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox. A manual version will not be offered, with VW claiming the car is significantly faster with a DSG. The dual-clutch gearbox itself has also benefitted from Clubsport-specific shorter gear ratios. 

Volkswagen quotes a 0-62mph time of just under 6.0sec and a top speed of 155mph for the new Clubsport. By way of comparison, the standard GTI fitted with the DSG dual-clutch auto is claimed to cover 0-62mph in 6.2sec and has an identical top speed.

As with previous Clubsports, the upgrades over the base GTI extend far beyond a boost in power. Volkswagen claims the chassis has been “completely retuned and significantly further developed”.

Like the standard GTI, the VAQ electromechanical locking front differential replaces the purely electronic XDS system of the standard Golf and control of that system has been integrated into the car’s driving dynamics manager. That means the diff can be relaxed in comfort-focused drive modes and set to a more aggressive tune in sportier modes.

Further tuning includes new axle kinematics with “significantly increased” camber at the front over the standard GTI - although VW admits this is less aggressively dialled-in that it is on the old Clubsport S. On the rear axle, a new control arm mount, new wheel mounts, new spring configuration and new damper bearings and hydraulics also feature. 

The spring rates, however, remain identical to the standard Mk8 GTI; they are 5% higher on the front axle than the Mk7 and 15% higher on the rear axle. VW allows greater-than-ever control over damper settings, though, through the Mk8’s Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) system, which has a full fifteen settings between Comfort and Sport to allow more precise fine-tuning. 

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The GTI Clubsport even has a 'Special' profile in the driving mode selector that tailors the car’s settings for use on the fearsome Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit.

There’s also an uprated braking system with 18in perforated discs and two-piston callipers. Fine-tuning to the car’s ABS and stability control systems is said to increase the slip thresholds for shorter braking distances and boost overall braking stability.

Racing driver Benjamin Leuchter, who was part of the Nürburgring development team for the new car, claims it’s capable of a “significantly higher curve entry speed” than the old Clubsport as a result of all the changes.

Leuchter also describes the Clubsport’s steering as “a tiny bit better than the old Clubsport S, with more feedback”. The ratio itself has not been changed over the base GTI, however, with Leuchter stating that making the ratio any tighter would reduce high-speed precision and stability. 

Alongside the standard range of tyres fitted to the GTI, larger 19-inch wheel options can also be specced with the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyre. This tyre, alongside the other changes, allows the Clubsport to lap the Nordschleife 13 seconds quicker than the standard GTI at 7:54 min.

That’s seven seconds short of the 2016 lap record set by the more powerful, stripped-out Clubsport S.  Autocar understands there are currently no plans to offer a direct successor to the Clubsport S to chase the 7:40:1 lap of the Renault Megane RS Trophy-R.

The Clubsport’s aerodynamics have been enhanced by the addition of a new splitter and redesigned intakes at the front, and a distinctive two-piece spoiler at the rear, among other changes. Volkswagen claims the slight increase in drag is more than paid off by reduced lift front and rear, enhancing agility and stability.

There are further visual tweaks both inside and out. The most noticeable external change is the front bumper, with a chunkier lip spoiler, matt black aero fins and widened honeycomb intake, which ditches the standard GTI’s five-piece LED lower running lights.

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There are enlarged side skirts with black stripes, too, and various 18in and 19in wheel designs are available. The new spoiler in gloss black is the most distinctive addition at the rear, but there’s also a revised diffuser and oval tailpipes instead of the standard GTI’s circular ones.

Interior revisions are less significant, extending only to redesigned seat upholstery.

Order books for the GTI Clubsport are expected to open in November but UK pricing has yet to be revealed. With the DSG-equipped regular GTI starting from £34,690, a price increase of at least £3500 for the Clubsport is likely. Unlikely the Clubsport S, production will not be limited. 

 

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Comments
21

13 October 2020
A hot hatch without a manual gearbox is totally pointless. It's very reason for being should be driver interaction not out right speed. It's tragic that Renault have recently gone the same way; as has the Jaguar Xe and, unless you want a 318d, so has the BMW 3 series.
I am on the brink. Of giving up on modern cars and turning to classics, an I'm only in my 30s.

14 October 2020
jameshobiecat wrote:

A hot hatch without a manual gearbox is totally pointless. It's very reason for being should be driver interaction not out right speed. It's tragic that Renault have recently gone the same way; as has the Jaguar Xe and, unless you want a 318d, so has the BMW 3 series. I am on the brink. Of giving up on modern cars and turning to classics, an I'm only in my 30s.

Clearly the buying public and the manufacturers disagree. 

14 October 2020
Jon 1972 wrote:

jameshobiecat wrote:

A hot hatch without a manual gearbox is totally pointless. It's very reason for being should be driver interaction not out right speed. It's tragic that Renault have recently gone the same way; as has the Jaguar Xe and, unless you want a 318d, so has the BMW 3 series. I am on the brink. Of giving up on modern cars and turning to classics, an I'm only in my 30s.

Clearly the buying public and the manufacturers disagree. 

 

I used to have a manual Golf R Mk 7, and currently have a manual M140i. Lack of a manual, takes this (and presumably the Mk8 R too) off my next car shortlist.  

it's not about customer demand, it's about lower fleet average CO2. For a manufacturer over their CO2 target a manual car emitting 20g CO2 above the auto version would them a €1900 fine, (as well a lower margin to start with being cheaper to buy than an auto.)

14 October 2020
jameshobiecat wrote:

A hot hatch without a manual gearbox is totally pointless.

And a manual choke. Otherwise you're letting a computer run the engine for you. Manual spark advance is desirable as well.

15 October 2020
Nope, electronics have their place (I should know, I develop automotive control systems and software for a living), but not in selecting gears in a car that should be about engagement.

15 October 2020
jameshobiecat wrote:

Nope, electronics have their place (I should know, I develop automotive control systems and software for a living), but not in selecting gears in a car that should be about engagement.

So it's actually a manual clutch you want. Otherwise you're splitting hairs about what exact directions you wiggle a stick in.

Besides, not having to stamp on that third pedal means you can be better engaged in the steering, weight transfer, and everything else that's involved in driving. It's not less engaged, it's engaged in other aspects.

XTX

14 October 2020

What have VW done to the golf! not even a mother could love that face. 

Currently on an auto S3 but still wish I'd kept my old manual Gti.... won't be returning while it looks like this.. 

14 October 2020
XTX wrote:

What have VW done to the golf! not even a mother could love that face. 

Currently on an auto S3 but still wish I'd kept my old manual Gti.... won't be returning while it looks like this.. 

Its not a looker is it, and a real Golf GTi should be available as a 3-door.

How come the previously described LED foglights are now being called lower running lights?

14 October 2020
Let's be honest, take away the multi mode locking diff and you have what the standard Mk8 GTI should have been. Instead VW was smart in making the the normal GTI a carry over from the prior gen so they could charge more for the Clubsport version which is also essentially a carry over. Money money money mooooney

14 October 2020

The standard GTI does have a locking diff, unless Autocar has been telling us porkies. And yes, the loss of the three door and manual option is a great shame... might as well just call this the R.

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