Currently reading: VW Golf GTI Clubsport: 296bhp range-topper on sale from £37,215
More powerful GTI gets multi-mode locking differential, suspension retune, bigger brakes and special Nürburgring drive mode

Volkswagen is swiftly following the arrival 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.

Priced from £37,215 and available to order now, 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.

Representing a premium of around £4000 over the entry-level GTI, the new range-topper 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”.

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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. 

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.

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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.

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.


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Peter Cavellini 3 December 2020

 A few grand more,

                      For a few grand more you can have a Golf-R, which is faster everywhere.

Overdrive 15 October 2020


We do like a moan in the comments here, don't we?

xxxx 3 December 2020

So true Blimey, when others are cutting back on gearboxes and engine choices and in some cases just having one small petrol engine in the range with a battery attached vag are offering something different by way of choice

NoPasaran 15 October 2020

GTI is a mixed bag of great car and infantilism

I too agree that VW should be above that "it is faster with DSG" statements.

Faster in a traffic queue? Is that important to "be faster" in a everyday all-rounder car?

Also, "Nurburgring mode" much more infantile can they be?

3-door looks great and is was fun for two-up and young owners but not practical. 

Manual gives control over rpms which is great at times, but DSG gives comfort and ease of use (especially in dense, creeping stop-and-go traffic, especially uphill!)

I have owned manual 3-door Edition 30 and my parents have DSG 5-door GTI, so have experience with both.