What is it?
These days, no self-respecting manufacturer passes up the opportunity to flog us an anniversary special, no matter how tenuous that anniversary might be.
Forty-five years is an odd one, it has to be said, although Volkswagen has celebrated the Golf GTI’s birthday in reliable five-year increments since the Edition 30 of 2007 and some of those specials have been excellent, so we welcome another attempt.
There is something that needs addressing early, though. At £39,980, this new car – called the Clubsport 45 – is not only the most expensive Golf GTI ever made, but it’s also more expensive than the current and not exactly cheap Golf R.
That’s the Golf R that makes 20bhp more from the 2.0-litre EA888 Evo4 turbo petrol engine the two cars share, and that drives not only its front axle but also the rear, which is now equipped with clutch packs that really do up the 316bhp flagship model’s dynamic game. So even with VW's own ranks, £40,000 is an asking price that ensures plenty of people will view the idea of Clubsport 45 ownership as a non-starter.
The extras you get for your money amount to an Akrapovic titanium exhaust, 19in ‘Scottsdale’ wheels, sporadic ‘45’ branding, plus metallic black finishing for door mirrors and the hefty rear spoiler. Slim pickings, you might think, if the donor was the regular GTI.
However, as the name suggests, the new car is based on the GTI Clubsport, which is a more seriously developed proposition, and one we like. In Clubsport guise, not only does the GTI get 296bhp instead of 242bhp, but new suspension springs also sit the car lower, front camber is increased not just by geometry tweaks but also with new parts, and the rear axle is tuned to be more mobile.
Factor in a more aggressive e-diff up front and Golf R brakes and the Clubsport recipe is an alluring one. Alas, there’s no manual option, but the current seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is awesomely effective, whether you're pootling or calling for redline upshifts.
Other than the exhaust, the 45 is no different in mechanical terms from the normal Clubsport, although it has had its speed-limiter removed, which pushes its V-max to 166mph, up from 155mph. The 45 also doesn't come as standard with VW's DCC adaptive dampers (fitted to this test car), or a rear-view camera, or even the top-ranking Discover Navigation Pro infotainment system. Those three options alone punt the asking price to more than £42,500.