Every spring, Volkswagen GTI enthusiasts from across Europe, and even some from overseas, gather on the shores of Austria’s Lake Wörthersee to celebrate their favourite model, and this year they’ll get a world premiere of a new GTI.
The highly exclusive Golf GTI Clubsport S (only 400 will be produced) represents the most powerful GTI ever, and has already proved it by breaking the lap record on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, in the hands of German Touring Car Championship racer Benny Leuchter.
Riding on a new chassis, the 2-seat 2-door hatchback, which gets its power from a 305-hp 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder (with peak torque of 280 available from 1,700 to 3,500 rpm), now owns the lap record for front-wheel drive cars, at a tick over seven minutes and 49 seconds. Other performance figures include a zero to 100 km/h of 5.8 seconds and a top speed of 265 km/h.
And fuel economy is a reported 7.4 L/100 km, but honestly …
Aside from weight reductions (among them, removal of the rear seats and the inclusion of only a manual transmission) that see it tip the scales at 1,285 kg and semi-slick 235/35 ZR Michelin Sport Cup 2s (mounted on 19-inch Pretoria alloy wheels), the record was achievable in part thanks to the Nürburgring setting on DCC, the car’s driver-selectable adaptive-chassis control. It can be accessed through the individual driver-profile selector, much like the other chassis modes (which includes Comfort, Normal and Race modes) are selected. The Nürburgring setting doesn’t just adjust the suspension, but also the throttle, steering and exhaust note, so you not only getting handling benefits, but also power delivery and it sounds pretty darn sporty, too, with its backfire “baps” under braking.
The chassis is enhanced with axle and suspension upgrades, and camber changes, with resultant improvements to vehicle balance and reduced understeer in order to allow quicker and more precise cornering. Large brake discs (17 inches) ensure controlled and sure stops.
The final piece in the performance puzzle was aerodynamics. The Clubsport already has improved aerodynamics over the GTI, with a different front bumper that provides more air to the engine and downforce for the drive wheels, and a high-mounted rear spoiler for the rear downforce to aid handling, and a rear diffuser for stability.
“It was obvious to all of us that this GTI had immense potential,” recalls Karsten Schebsdat, Head of Chassis Tuning. “So, we decided to get the most performance possible out of this car. A small team went through the entire process, from bottom to top, pretty much like it was back when the first Golf GTI came into being.”
Only 400 cars will be produced worldwide, with a quarter of those designated to stay in Germany. It comes in Tornado Red, Pure White and Deep Black Pearl, with a black roof on all models. The rear windows are darkly tinted to add to the aura of sportiness.
Other GTI Clubsport S standards include stability control (tuned to kick in later, and which can be completely disengaged) racing bucket seats, golf-ball shifter knob, Alcantara steering wheel, and of course the mandatory limited-series number plate. The idea for the Clubsport S originated in the final production of the current GTI Performance for the racetrack.