“My car’s faster than your car” is an oft-heard boast generated by those who believe paper figures tell a complete story. It’s a claim also bandied about by those who think outright performance figures, whether readily accessible or not, are an accurate reflection of an owner’s virility!
Happily, there are also a lot of level-headed motorists who value a blend of accessible high performance, fine handling, ride comfort and practicality which is just why the Golf GTI has been an enduring success story in South Africa.
With the incredibly refined Mk 7 iteration, motorists have been offered until now, two variants of the originator of the hot hatch genre: the 162kW GTI and the 169kW GTI Performance Pack with trick differential. And no, I haven’t forgotten about the 4WD 206kW Golf R but this isn’t actually badged as a GTI anyway.
Now, on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the famous GTI badge, VWSA has announced an exciting addition to the range in the shape of the Golf GTI Clubsport DSG. To my mind, this model is really an alternative to the Golf R and is aimed at those who want extra power but not the extra weight and complexity of the R’s 4WD system. Although the current Golf GTI in both guises punches way beyond what might be expected of the “on-paper” figures, a little extra grunt could never go amiss in such a composed chassis and that’s just what the Wolfsburg engineers have delivered.
In normal running guise, the third iteration of the revered EA888 motor delivers no less than 195kW that’s available all the way from 5 350 to 6 600 rpm. Just as importantly, given the GTI’s long-held reputation for offering real brawn at low revs, maximum torque of 350Nm is accessible from just 1 700 to 5 300 rpm.
But, as they say in the ads, there’s more – a whole lot more. In gears 3 to 6, an overboost facility can be called upon through the simple expedient of engaging S mode in the DSG transmission and tramping on the accelerator. For ten seconds, 213kW is on tap together with a torque peak of 380Nm, all of which is fed through a variable differential lock that talks to the ESC, EDS and XDS+ functionaries.
The result is a virtual complete absence of torque steer and much better traction control out of bends which may provide differing levels of grip, one side to the other. The instantaneous re-distribution of power according to traction levels in turn reduces the intervention of ASR and ensures that steering responses are much sharper while quelling the onset of oversteer. In addition, the driver may activate launch control which allows the Clubsport to put down all 213kW for 20 seconds from initial getaway. Further, it is possible to deactivate the ESC system to give the driver complete control without any system interventions, but in the interests of safety in on-road conditions, ESC is easily accessible via settings in the car menu.
All this tells you that notwithstanding the availability of much more muscle, VW has ensured that good manners are the order of the day even to the extent of still offering (optionally) Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) with algorithms especially tweaked for the Clubsport configuration. Greater control and ride comfort, together with slicker responses, are the order of the day and in my book, if the optional 19-inch wheels are specified, then DCC is a must to get the best out of this honed chassis while still enjoying a comfortable ride.
The chosen test route included plenty of A-roads and mountain passes as well as a fair bit of slippery, wet asphalt of uneven quality, all of which thoroughly tested the specifically re-tuned springs and dampers. At speed, the Clubsport provided arrow-straight stability even with quite strong crosswinds blowing and shrugged off undulating sections as though they didn’t exist. Rebound control is exemplary and the level of grip displayed on a very, very rapid ascent of a slippery Franschhoek Pass almost defied belief. At times,
the electronic aids could just be detected doing their work keeping the ship on course, but the intrusions were subtle even if the effect was spectacular in a positive way.
For sure, the extra grunt is very evident, especially when over-boost is employed, but what makes the package so complete is the fact that the Clubsport doesn’t compromise one dynamic aspect for another.
In other words, the flat cornering and uncanny chassis control isn’t achieved at the expense of a bone hard ride and limited spring travel. Add in great brakes that shrug off heavy use without a trace of fade as well as direct and nicely-weighted steering accessed from one of the best front seats in the business and you’ve got the complete driver’s car.
Oh, and no report would be complete without mention of that extraordinary automated manual gearbox carrying the DSG nomenclature. Aside from offering different modes, this gearbox quickly learns the driver’s mood and adjusts its behaviour to suit when left in D.
Floor the throttle in S-mode though and the speed and smoothness of the shifts is simply astonishing regardless of whether the driver elects to use the paddle shifters or leave the box to its own devices. In a word, DSG is “wunderbar.” The same word could also be used to describe the Clubsport in its entirety. It’s a sporting package with no obvious weaknesses.