A lot can happen in a year. That’s usually the span of time between when VW releases a new generation of Golf in Europe and when it finally reaches the US. We haven’t so much as seen the new Golf in the US yet, but VW is already trotting out some sweet new variants that have us once again clamoring for forbidden fruit.
Volkswagen on Wednesday unveiled the new Golf GTI Clubsport. As with the first iteration that appeared in 2016, the Clubsport is meant to be the pinnacle of GTI performance, taking you as close as VW can to the range-topping Golf R without overlapping. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 puts out 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, and there’s a new Vehicle Dynamics Manager tucked into the electronics that communicates with all the electromechanical bits — like its front-axle differential — to boost performance beyond that of the standard GTI.
You can tell VW is intent on squeezing out every inch of performance from the GTI Clubsport because it even packs a specific Nürburgring mode that was engineered specifically to tackle the 13-mile strip of German dynamic madness. The previous GTI Clubsport picked up the ‘Ring record for front-wheel-drive vehicles back in 2016, and setting that precedent means the new version needs to be even better than that.
While the vehicle shown here is still a near-production prototype, it’s pretty much what European buyers can expect to pick up from the dealer. The bodywork is far more aggressive, with a two-part roof spoiler and a front splitter that work to boost downforce. 18-inch alloys are standard, and there’s also a unique set of tailpipes that replace the GTI’s round ones. The body’s been lowered by 0.4 inches, too.
Inside, there’s a number of Clubsport-specific touches, too, like a sportier steering wheel with perforated leather and some big ol’ paddles for the standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The sport seats have stronger bolstering to keep your torso planted in fast turns, too. The eighth-generation Golf represents a pretty big leap forward in interior design, no matter the model.
While depressing, those of us living Stateside will probably have to come to terms with the fact that the GTI Clubsport probably won’t make its way to the US. In fact, a number of Golf variants won’t; when the eight-gen Golf debuts in the US, it will only be available in GTI and R flavors. But a kid can dream…