Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Volkswagen Celebrates GTI’s 40th Anniversary with 261-hp Clubsport Model

-By 40, most of us have begun to gray at the temples, ache randomly, and have urges to badger children who wander onto their lawn. Volkswagen’s GTI, which turns 40 early next year, is the George Clooney–like exception to this rule, strutting into middle age somehow improved, virile, ready for action. Not only has the hot hatch impressed us even in its latest form (landing a spot on our 10Best Cars list), but to specifically celebrate the nameplate’s 40th anniversary, Volkswagen is debuting a powerful and special Clubsport version with 261 horsepower, new front and rear fascias, and more.

Actually, the Clubsport makes a baseline 261 horsepower, but an overboost function temporarily imbues the front-drive hatch with 286 horsepower. Volkswagen really is doing the whole “special edition” thing right. The added power (compared to Performance package–equipped GTIs, which make 220 horsepower) drops VW’s claims for zero-to-62 mph to six seconds flat with the manual transmission and 5.9 seconds with the DSG dual-clutch automatic. Given that we tested a 220-hp GTI four-door and saw a 5.6-second zero-to-60 run, Volkswagen’s figures for the Clubsport seem highly conservative.


Less conservative is the Clubsport’s style. First previewed by an eponymous concept car at this year’s Worthersee VW convention, the upgrades include a straked front fascia, side skirts, a rear diffuser, and a multi-piece rear spoiler. The pieces are said to aid the GTI’s high-speed stability, while the forged-aluminum 18-inch wheels (19s are optional) merely improve the GTI’s looks. Also doing their part for the Clubsport’s vibe are a black-painted roof and door mirrors, darkened taillight lenses, faux-suede inserts for the seats, and a neat black strip on the bodyside that recalls the original GTI’s rub strips.

Now for the bad news: This GTI Clubsport, which VW refers to as “the most powerful production GTI ever” will, like the 35th anniversary GTI, stay the heck out of America. None will be sent here. Whereas Europeans have seen high-output, front-drive GTIs before, here in the U.S., that’s firmly Golf R territory. Hey, maybe we’ll get the 45th-anniversary GTI in five years. Or not. Either way, the GTI most likely will continue to Clooney ahead, betraying no hint of middle age.


2015 Frankfurt auto show full coverage

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