GTI began in 1976, and only 5 000 units were planned but more than two million have been produced since. So Volkswagen’s cult car has been ruling the streets for 40 years now, and to celebrate this milestone the company unveiled their most powerful models to date, the GTI Clubsport and GTI Clubsport S.
I will start with the car that tamed the famous Nordschleife of the Nürburgring, the Clubsport S, in a record breaking time of 7 min 49.21 seconds, and now holds the title of being the fastest front wheel drive production car around this track.
Just to add a touch of perspective on how quick this is, this is a quicker time than the likes of BMW’s mighty M4. Renault claimed the record with their Megane 275 Trophy-R from Seat in 2014 before Honda claimed it last year in a Civic Type-R.
How long will the new record stand? I have no idea but it means that Joe Public keeps getting the chance to own race track fast cars for the everyday streets they live on.
But I use the word track loosely, because the Nürburgring is a 20.8km long ever changing surface and bumpy road type circuit that has 73 corners, so it depends who you believe or what your definition is of a corner.
And I was one of two journalists in South Africa to be invited to come drive the Clubsport S at the track notoriously known as the ‘Green Hell’. I would love to tell you that I attacked the ‘ring’ but that would be a massive understatement as there is no way you can remember which corner goes which way.
And the number of blind rises that test your bravery because you are not sure if you should stay flat because you might have guessed correctly which way the track is going on the other side, or lift slightly to preserve your life and the car and then sigh as you see the track open up ahead of you and think you could have been flat.
And just when you decide you have nailed it and fly over a rise, the track dives away suddenly and sharply the other way and you find yourself saying a little prayer while you try push the brake pedal through the floor of the car.
This place is not for the faint hearted. And this is even with Benjamin Leuchter, the race car driver and Volkswagen Driving Experience instructor who broke the actual record running in front as a pace car trying to show you the correct lines to take.
To add to our woes, it started to rain during our second session and then the track really lives up to its name of being a hell.
You have sections of great grip and then the surface changes and it is like driving on glass. I have a massive amount of new found respect for drivers who have driven this circuit at race pace.
VW GTI Clubsport S
This is a track ready road car of which only 400 units will be built. The good news is that South Africa has been provisionally allocated a few of these.
Obviously to have a go at the record and produce a front wheel drive car that handles better than anything else I have driven in this league before, weight had to be reduced, handling improved along with some extra horsepower.
So the Clubsport S only comes in three-door configuration and six-speed manual, along with a aluminium front subframe, as there are no rear seats, insulation or floor mats, but you do get a strut brace and partition net behind the seats.
The Clubsport S bodykit is also not there for show, each and every little change is there to improve wind resistance, downforce and grip. And this works perfectly with the sticky (when warm) 235/35 ZR 19 inch Michelin semi slick tyres running on a very track orientated race track suspension setup that sees a lot of negative camber being applied to the equation.
Going one step further, the car also has a “Nürburgring” setting, which tunes the adaptive chassis control, engine, steering and sound to suit the Nordschleife and by default any track or road circuit you mind find yourself on somewhere else in the world.
The other big change to this GTI comes under the hood. Power for the EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged engine comes in at 228kW along with 380Nm of torque courtesy of some engine mapping and 65mm free flow high performance exhaust that snaps, crackles and pops at will.
The car weighs in at 1 285kg, and its 228kW results in a power-to-weight ratio of 4.15 kg/kW which not only makes for a very agile car, it makes for a fast car, with the 0-100km/h sprint being claimed at 5.8 seconds while top speed is said to be 265km/h.
Pricing hasn’t been determined yet due to the crazy fluctuation of our currency but our guess is that you will pay less than R600 000 for one when they get here a little later in the year.
VW GTI Clubsport
A little more family and everyday road friendly is the Clubsport model that will be launched into South Africa in July with a price that should be around the R550 000 mark.
They too will be limited in terms of numbers, around 300 we were told, and we will only get five-door DSG models that deliver an output of 195kW and 350Nm. The Clubsport DSG is claimed to sprint to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds while the top speed is limited to 250km/h.
But the power can be boosted to 216KW for about 10 seconds by using an overboost function that is activated simply by kicking down the accelerator.
The rain was converting the track into a high speed ice skating rink, so rather than test my guardian Angel’s abilities to preserve my life once again and the VWAG’s track team’s sense of humour any more than I had to, I took to the winding roads in and around Nürburg with the Clubsport.
Sure while it is not as obviously as track focused as the S model, it really impressed me with its balance of grip and agility versus the comfort you would seek from an everyday car.
It is so easy to forget that this is a front wheel drive car thanks to the way it harnesses the power and gets it onto the tar via normal high performance road rubber. The Clubsport is also visually striking and easily distinguished from its standard GTI sibling.
The exterior features a completely new front bumper, new side sills, a new rear diffuser, a new multi-part roof spoiler and exclusive forged alloy wheels for this particular 40 year anniversary model. Other racy features include folding racing bucket seats instead of sport seats.
Trust me GTI fans, not only will you be driving the fastest production GTI made thus far, you will also be able to own any track day or mountain pass you choose, but I think you are going to have to be quick if you want to own one of these cars as I am very sure they will become instant collector’s items.