Just when it seemed the Golf 8 GTI would be overshadowed by its rivals in terms of outright performance, Volkswagen has unveiled a Clubsport derivative of its iconic hot hatch, replete with sportier looks, beefed up peak outputs (221 kW and 400 Nm) and a claimed 0-to-100 kph time of "under 6 seconds". Sadly though, it's not destined to reach South Africa.
The recent unveilings of the Hyundai i30 N N-DCT and BMW 128ti, which produce 206 kW/392 Nm and 195 kW/400 Nm respectively, have made the SA-market-bound Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI’s peak outputs of 180 kW and 370 Nm seem rather… well, middling. Right from the onset, the Wolfsburg-based firm’s 8th-generation hot hatch trailed the Renault Megane RS 280’s 205 kW/390 Nm (let alone the Trophy version) and the Honda Civic Type R’s 228 kW/400 Nm...
But, just as was the case with the Golf 7 and "7.5" facelift, there will indeed be several iterations of the Golf 8 GTI. Whereas the standard version is configured for typical premium compact hatchback buyers who primarily want to be seen at the ‘wheel of a GTI (and, sure, enjoy its superb ride/handling balance from time to time), the Clubsport version caters for the true performance aficionados.
But we must interject here, to bring you some unsavoury news. Volkswagen South Africa has confirmed that the Golf 8 GTI Clubsport is not destined for South Africa.
A VWSA spokesperson said, “We will not get the Golf 8 GTI Clubsport in South Africa as it is only available for the European fuel emission levels”. This is disappointing news for local GTI fans.
The Clubsport rides 15 mm lower than the standard GTI and features oval, as opposed to round, exhaust ends.
Apart from a sportier exterior execution, the Golf 8 GTI Clubsport features a number of mechanical upgrades and handling improvements over its standard sibling which, according to Volkswagen, facilitates “even more cornering grip, increased driving stability and even more driving fun”, although the derivative is not too comprised as a source of everyday transport.
By virtue of reprogrammed engine management, a new turbocharger (sourced from Continental, rather than Garrett, as in standard GTI) plus an enlarged intercooler, the Clubsport produces an additional 41 kW and 30 Nm compared with its standard sibling for peak outputs of 221 kW and 400 Nm. What’s more, its 7-speed dual-clutch (DSG) automatic transmission has derivative-specific shorter gear ratios, which helps the Clubsport accelerate from 0 to 100 kph about 0.3 sec faster, hence the manufacturer's “under 6 seconds" claim.
Note the subtle Clubsport script in the newcomer's red headlamp trim.
The Clubsport can be distinguished from its lesser Golf 8 siblings by its sportier, aerodynamically-optimised exterior addenda. At the front, the bumper has redesigned air intakes (sans the standard car’s 5-piece LED foglamp clusters), an extended honeycomb grille, black and satin-silver fins and a bigger chin spoiler.
The newcomer’s black-cladded side skirts are subtly flared out, with racy black striping applied to the bottom edges of the front doors. At the rear, the bumper features a more elaborate diffuser that neatly ties in with side-skirt trims. Oval exhaust ends are positioned at its outer extremities (the standard GTI has round tailpipes) and the eye-catching tail spoiler has a gloss black finish.
Apart from the aerodynamic accoutrements, Volkswagen has fitted an electromechanical limited-slip diff and beefier brakes.
The newcomer comes shod with 18-inch “Richmond” alloys wrapped in 225/40 R18 rubber, but there are 19-inch options too, which can be specified with the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. With the bigger wheels in combination with the French rubber, the Clubsport can lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife 13 sec quicker than the standard GTI (in a time of 7:54 min), Volkswagen claims.
That rapid lap time is not all down to the sticky Michelins however; the Wolfsburg-based firm says the Clubsport’s chassis has been “completely retuned and significantly further developed”.
Okay, the newcomer does have a “Special” profile in the driving mode selector that tailors the car’s settings specifically for the Nordschleife, but the Clubsport also has an electromechanical limited-slip diff instead of the electronic XDS system of the standard GTI, new axle kinematics with “significantly increased” camber at the front, plus a new control arm and wheel mounts, as well as a revised spring configuration, damper bearings and hydraulics on its rear axle.
The interior execution is largely similar to the GTI's although perforated leather with red piping is standard.
The Clubsport also rides 15 mm lower than – although its spring rates are identical those of – the standard GTI. The braking system is beefed-up too, with 18-inch ventilated discs in combination with 2-piston callipers at the front. The ABS and stability control system calibration is such to increase the Volkswagen’s slip thresholds for shorter braking distances and boost overall braking stability.
As a final thought, bear in mind that Volkswagen’s stated performance figures were achieved using 98 RON fuel, rather than the 95 RON fuel that is more widely available.