First Drive

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 2020 review

What’s it like?

The added power and torque is instantly noticeable in the more performance-orientated driving modes. There’s sharper step-off and greater urgency to the in-gear acceleration compared with the Golf GTI. This is reflected in the Clubsport’s claimed 0-62mph time, which is 0.7sec inside that of the standard model, at 5.6sec. Befitting its more sporting brief, the Clubsport also adopts a more compelling exhaust note. 

Of course, the added performance comes at a price. Loading the throttle up suddenly, in a low gear and on the exit to a tight corner, often causes the front wheels to momentarily scramble for traction. Wheelspin is only ever fleeting and can be anticipated, although it undermines the car’s sense of tactility and clearly signals the limits of VW’s front axle technology, which uses brake intervention to limit the slip as well as the clutch-based VDQ system.

This aside, the Clubsport is more responsive, possesses greater body control and serves up greater levels of grip than the standard GTI. On the right road, and in favourable weather conditions, it displays real intent.

Part of the reason for this is the 10mm reduction in ride height and “significantly greater” negative camber for the front wheels. The front springs and dampers are carried over without change, although there is a new control arm mount as well as new wheel mounts and new springs and dampers at the rear. And at the rear especially, there’s no doubt that stability has increased.

In line with developments on the standard Golf GTI, you can also precisely alter the damper settings and action of the VDQ differential lock via the Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) system. And in addition to the standard Golf GTI driving modes, the new Clubsport has a Nürburgring mode. Tuned to operate with 19in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, this setting was used by VW’s contracted racing-turned-development driver Benjamin Leuchter to lap the Nordschleife a claimed 13sec quicker than the standard model, at 7min5 4sec.

Should I buy one?

Ultimately, the Clubsport is comfortably more engaging than the standard Golf GTI, and yet it delivers excellent compliance. At £37,215, the premium over the GTI is £3755, and that seems fair.

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