What is it?
Volkswagen says the Clubsport is a different kind of Golf GTI – more powerful, more heavily focused in the dynamics department and, naturally, more expensive. It exists because “there remains a relevant group of customers who demand greater performance potential than that offered by the standard Golf GTI”.
We have been here before, of course. Last time around, it was the Golf GTI TCR that filled this particular market niche. But now that Volkswagen has officially turned its back on all forms of motorsport, including the TCR (Touring Car Racing) class, it has decided to resurrect the more traditional Clubsport nomenclature last used in 2016.
The GTI Clubsport arrives just six months after the launch of the latest eighth-generation Golf GTI, bringing with it a number of subtle styling changes. Included is a revised front bumper with a more pronounced splitter element and a wider honeycomb air duct without the distinctive foglights of the standard model, as well as chunkier sills underneath the doors. At the rear, there is a new twin-plane spoiler, reworked diffuser and unique oval-shaped tailpipes. The standard wheels are 18in but buyers can also specify 19in rims.
Power comes from the latest iteration of VW’s EA888 engine. It is the same turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit used by the four-wheel-drive Golf R, albeit in a slightly lesser state of tune, making 296bhp and 295lb ft of torque. This gives the Clubsport 49bhp and 22lb ft more than its standard Golf GTI but 20bhp and 15lb ft less than the Golf R.
Drive is channelled to the front wheels through a standard seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox with the same ratios – but a slightly shorter final drive – as the standard Golf GTI. The car’s VDQ electromechanical differential lock has also been retuned to suit the added reserves, while the front brakes have been upgraded with the same drilled 357mm discs and two-pot calipers seen on the new Golf R.