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40 years of GTI in the form of Clubsport


It was 5am on a cold, quiet Sunday morning. It was dark outside, did I mention that it was cold. The reason for my rise before the sun was one that only a few will understand. I was going out for a drive. Not a normal drive, oh no, I mean a drive out for some soul rejuvenation, especially after hearing about the loss of a dear friend of mine, Gugu Zulu. The car that I would be using was the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport.

A fitting companion to be honest as Gugu was a Volkswagen rally driver, he was also passionate about the brand and the GTI in particular. This Golf GTI though is somewhat special. How so? Well for starters the car features a redesigned front bumper which sees big air-intakes and aerodynamic bits take the place of the front fog-lights. There is also a large rear wing as well as ‘Clubsport’ detailing along the side of the car. The wheels are also different to the design on the standard GTI.

The car sitting in my driveway was white, this worked well for me as all the black aerodynamic bits really stood out. Standing there the GTI Clubsport really looked good, aggressive and purposeful. The design has always been that of an angular nature with sharp edges and strong lines.

Inside the car it is pretty much the same as any other Golf GTI, except for a few bits like the fact that the Clubsport features some Alcantara around the DSG gear lever, handbrake and more noticeably the flat bottomed steering wheel. One can opt for racing seats, unfortunately my car didn’t have that option. It did have heated seats though which made me very happy as it was about minus two degrees outside.

I started the car and set off. Before I knew it the sun was kissing the horizon which revealed that there were rather thick, cold looking clouds in the direction of my travel. On the highway I used the optional DCC (dynamic chassis control) feature to set the driving mode into ECO. This mode sets the car up into its most economical state. It’s perfect for highway cruising.

As I drove further and further into the Lowveld in search for my nirvana I had a chance to look over the interior of the car. The quality of the materials is as one would expect from a German car, impressive. The infotainment screen features touch sensitive functionality. The car that I was piloting was fitted with the optional navigation system. I also discovered that when I connected my iPhone via the USB port the car supports Apple Car Play which is a nice feature for those who want to have their devices integrated into the car.

Many hours later I reached my special little road, Slaaihoek. It’s a 35km road that blends some of the best corners, straights and hairpins into one phenomenal package. It was time to unleash the R541 250 (R601 050)Clubsport and see why it is said to be one of the best GTI’s available to date.

I put the 6-speed DSG gearbox into Sport and I set the DCC into Sport mode. This sharpens up the throttle, makes the steering heavy and sets the car up for maximum attack. It also makes full use of the 2.0-litre 195kW/350Nm turbocharged engine up front. In fact, thanks to an overboost function the power can jump up to over 210kW and 380Nm. Now unlike the Golf R, the Clubsport is not fitted with 4Motion all-wheel drive, instead all the power is sent to the front wheels.

Now this would be a disaster if it wasn’t for the fact that the Golf Clubsport, like the Performance pack makes use of a Limited Slip Differential which Volkswagen calls XDS. The differential, with the use of science is able to provide huge amounts of front end grip with minimal amounts of understeer, in fact I even tried to induce understeer through some corners with no prevail.

The Golf GTI Clubsport just felt so good, being thrashed through the corners, the brakes have also been upgraded and they really do work well. What’s more is that when the DSG gearbox changes gears under hard acceleration the car gives off a nice little bark which reminds you of the fact that it means business.

After some fun I pulled off at a look out spot. The view is incredible, the silence even more so. Gugu would have loved this road, he asked me about it a number of times and I always promised to take him. I looked over at the GTI Clubsport and knew that Gugu was there. He was loved by everyone who met him and he had a smile that could light up any cloudy day. He was also relentless behind the wheel, pushing harder and harder and I felt like the Clubsport really encapsulates that character.

It’s a car that you can use every day. It will transport your family in comfort and safety and yet, when the mood takes you it will thrill you, make you smile from ear to ear. I got back into the car, aimed its nose for a set of corners and planted my right foot to the floor.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
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