What is it?
This car is capable of lapping the Nürburgring Nordschleife quicker than any other front-wheel-drive production car - something of a modern theme. It’s called the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S, a limited-run hot hatchback that’s 1.5sec quicker than a Honda Civic Type R around das Nürburgring, if such things are important to you - and they are to at least four car manufacturers in recent times: Renault, Seat, Honda and now Volkswagen.
The GTI Clubsport S, then, follows the GTI Clubsport, which itself sits above the regular Golf GTI and was built to celebrate the Golf GTI’s 40th anniversary. The Clubsport has 261bhp most of the time and an extra 25bhp available on overboost. The S obtains rather more from the same 2.0-litre engine, driving 306bhp through the front wheels, which is apparently the kind of boost you need to keep pace with a Civic Type R on a long race track.
But probably the more significant gains, when it comes to that lap time around that circuit – 7min 49.21sec, if you’re counting – are in the chassis, aerodynamics and interior.
Firstly, the rear seats have been discarded, making the Clubsport S a two-door two-seater. Throwing out some sound deadening and making the front subframe from aluminium instead of steel reduces weight by a further 30kg.
There’s an aero package shared with the Clubsport that, instead of lift at both ends, gives downforce at both ends – and rather more at the back than the front, which would make the car give up grip at the front earlier than at the back. So the front hub carriers are new and different geometry compensates for the balance shift by adding front-end grip, so the car corners faster and understeers less. Meanwhile, the engine mounts are stiffer than those of the regular Golf, to give better responses, presumably at a cost to some of the Golf’s fabled refinement. Like the aero pack, though, the regular Clubsport gets these.
Then there’s what I suspect is the most important thing for this lap time: a chassis set up for the place. There are adaptive dampers as standard, with soft and firm modes, as well as firmer bushes front and rear, while geometry changes give less toe-in and more negative camber. Finally, there are sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres specifically designed for this car.
Everything’s developed with the Nordschleife lap time in mind - which, if you come here often, might be important to you. If you don’t? “Nürburgring Schmürburgring,” you might think. “Given the base price is £35,000(ish) and I live in the UK, where it’s often cold and wet and there’s a lot of traffic around, I’d be better off with a cheaper, almost as powerful, four-wheel-drive Golf R.”