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New MK8 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport debuts at the Nurburgring

New MK8 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Ahead of the 2024 Nurburgring 24 Hour race, Volkswagen have unveiled the most powerful Golf GTI ever. Ken Pearson has the low-down on the hardcore FWD hot hatch.

The Clubsport is back! After a brief hiatus, the name returns to the facelifted Mk8 Golf range with a suite of tweaks that make it the most focussed and most powerful GTI ever. While there are some very interesting styling changes to devour, the key changes are beneath the skin.

Beginning with the engine, the familiar EA888 2.0 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine now makes 296 bhp, up from 261 in the regular model. Peak torque rises from 272 lb ft (370 nm) to 295 lb ft (400 nm) which helps to cut the 0 - 62 mph time to 5.6 seconds - very impressive for a front-wheel drive car. For those hoping that the return of the Clubsport name would bring back a manual option, prepare to be disappointed: the new 2024 model exclusively uses a 7-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox.

An electronic differential lock is standard equipment and has a multi-plate clutch built into it, allowing for excellent grip and traction levels when cornering quickly. Volkswagen say that the e-diff “eliminates the traction disadvantages of front-wheel drive vehicles” which could mean that torque steer or spinning wheels in hairpin bends is nothing to worry about in the new model. 

A performance-focussed passive suspension setup comes as standard with MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link setup at the rear, but optionally available is the Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive suspension that continually adjusts itself based on what it detects about the road surface and how the car is being driven. Driving modes influence this too, with Eco, Comfort, Sport and a customisable Individual mode available. Exclusively available for the Clubsport is the Special driving mode and I’m not making that name up.

New MK8 Volkswagen Golf GTI
New MK8 Volkswagen Golf GTI

This was developed at the car’s birthplace - the Nurburgring - and blends the Sport mode steering and powertrain response with a revised suspension setup that compensates for the constant elevation and camber changes of the Nordschleife. Perhaps it should be called B-Road mode for the UK market…

In true Clubsport style, the styling has been altered to set it apart from a regular GTI; a reprofiled front end sees two hook-shaped bumper inserts turning their way into the grille. The splitter is painted black and appears invisible at first glance. The 5-piece fog lights of the standard model are removed and I say that’s a good thing, but more importantly the red strip that flanks the central - and optionally illuminated - Volkswagen logo remains, along with GTI badging on the nose.

A thick black trim strip runs from edge to edge of the humongous grille, appearing to separate the bumper hooks from the rest of the bodywork; this goes from vertical to horizontal ahead of the front wheelarch, and appears to continue on the other side of the wheel thanks to a black and white graphic that runs along the front doors.

Black trim elements can also be found on the enlarged rear wing, window surrounds, the rear bumper, diffuser and on the roof, which can make the car look like it has a sunroof fitted; Volkswagen are yet to confirm if that will be an option for the Clubsport in the UK. What I am expecting to be selectable is the optional Race Package that increases the top speed from 155 mph to 166 and adds an Akrapovic exhaust system. This option should be extremely popular on our shores.

New MK8 Volkswagen Golf GTI
New MK8 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Two wheel designs are available for the new 2024 Golf GTI Clubsport with the standard 19” Queenstown wheels said to be reminiscent of the Detroit alloys that were synonymous with the MK V Golf GTI. Squint and you’ll see it, but they look like they belong on a car with a cloverleaf badge to me. Optionally available will be the Warmenau forged wheels that weigh just 8 kilos each.

The tweaks continue inside with an updated infotainment system that promises to be more user friendly than the one the Mk8 launched with. Proper shortcut buttons return to the steering wheel and the customisable 10.2” driver’s display has three preset views available, with additional car data like torque and boost viewable in real time. The front seats are two-piece buckets with red contrast stitching and GTI lettering stitched into the backrests; the flat-bottomed steering wheel follows suit with red accents and a GTI badge below the airbag. 30-colour ambient lighting is available and naturally, all the launch images show this in red to keep the theme going. Even the engine start button is backlit and will gently flash red until pressed…I’m expecting to learn that the lights for the vanity mirrors and glovebox glow red too.

Lighting aside, the cabin has a functional side underneath all those flashes of red; there is room for five occupants, ISOFIX child seat anchors and a 381 litre boot. Even in a more spritely guise, the Golf GTI Clubsport is still built for everyday use as well as track day use.

The new Mk8 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport is the most powerful, focussed and fastest Golf available at the moment and owing to the UK market’s preference for top of the range performance models, I’d expect it to be an instant hit over here. The power and torque boost, optional DCC with a Nurburgring-optimised drive setting and standard electronic differential look to be all the right ingredients for a brilliant hot hatch.

The regular and Clubsport versions of the Mk8.5 Golf GTI are due to go on sale soon and we can expect these to be on our roads in the second half of 2024…just in time for the new Golf R to be unveiled.

New MK8 Volkswagen Golf GTI


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