The seventh-generation Golf GTI left us feeling a touch lukewarm on its introduction in 2012.
It was decent, of course: good looking, well made, capable and brisk, but Volkswagen equipped it with too little horsepower, too high a list price and too anonymous a front differential – and then compounded it all by introducing a four-wheel-drive R model that was plainly superior in every way and for not a whole heap more cash.
In the past six months, though, and to coincide with the GTI’s 40th anniversary, Wolfsburg has sought to rectify the so-so-ness of its most famous performance model line.
First, we’ve had the Clubsport edition – a revised trim level prospect that belatedly put the GTI’s output (albeit in overboosted form) at the same level as the Seat Leon Cupra while tweaking the bodykit volume up a notch or two.
A birthday needs a proper celebration, though. So rather than merrily stopping there, Volkswagen has taken a leaf from Renault’s book, ripped the back seats out of the GTI Clubsport, turned up the EA888 engine’s wick a bit more and duly delivered a Golf GTI capable of ascending to hot hatch heaven: top spot on the front-wheel drive lap time leaderboard at the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Dubbed the Clubsport S, the model returns a GTI-badged car to the top of the fast Golf line-up – in every sense.
It is the most powerful road-going Golf yet produced (marginally exceeding the output of even the potent R) and, at £33,995, also the most expensive Golf you can buy.
If you could buy it, of course, because of the 150 examples (of 400 to be built in all) bound for the UK, all have been eagerly snapped up already. That rules the desirability question of a two-seat, hollowed-out Golf GTI moot.
Whether those expectant signatures have bought the best version yet, however, is still very much up for debate.