Volkswagen has swept past Honda in the race for Nürburgring bragging rights, having lopped 1.42 seconds off the existing front-drive production Nordschleife record in a Golf GTI Clubsport S. With no rear seats, insulation or floor mats, the Clubsport S is a limited edition GTI designed with laptimes, not the daily commute, in mind.
To undercut Honda and achieve its 7:49.21 Nordschleife time, Volkswagen was forced to put its most powerful Golf GTI on a strict diet. Compared to the regular Clubsport, the Clubsport S does without its rear seats, sound insulation and floor mats. In their place you get a strut brace, a partition net behind the seat, carpeting on the boot floor and not much else. Also contributing to the weight-saving measures is an aluminum front subframe.
All up, these changes have shaved 30 kg (66 lb) from the GTi Clubsport for a total curb weight of just 1,285 kg (2,833 lb), or 1 kg (2.2 lb) more than the Renault Megane 275 Trophy-R that stole the record from Seat in 2014 before Honda claimed it last year in a Civic Type-R.
The other big change to the Golf comes under the hood. Apparently the "most powerful GTI ever" wasn't quite powerful enough, because the record-breaking car's 228 kW (306 hp) is 15 kW (20 hp) more than the regular Clubsport, thanks to a reworked ECU, more powerful fuel pump and a bigger exhaust system that deliberately lets loose backfire under braking. Peak torque remains unchanged at 380 Nm (280 lb.ft), but the 100 km/h (62 mph) sprint time has dropped by 0.3 seconds to 5.8 seconds.
The GTI's exterior and interior are both typically restrained. On the outside, VW has fitted 19-inch aluminum wheels, which work with new brake covers to lower unsprung weight by 1 kg at each corner. The Clubsport's more aggressive front bumper, rear diffuser and rear wing are all carried over as well, but they're not about aesthetics.
Instead, the bodykit and rear wing create big downforce on the rear axle, working in tandem with the Clubsport S' sticky 235/35 ZR Michelin tires and increased negative camber to cut down on understeer.
Inside, the changes are all about getting the most out of the car at the racetrack, so the gear knob, steering wheel and bucket seats are trimmed in grippy Alcantara. There's also a red stripe stitched into the seatbelt, a small touch that's claimed to save between 3 and 5 seconds per lap.
Just 400 Clubsport S versions of the GTI will be built, 100 of which are set aside for Germany. If you like the look of the car, the only real choice to make is whether to have it in red, black or white – no other colors are available, because the original GTI only came in those hues.
The Clubsport S is only available as a manual, and premieres at the Lake Wörthersee GTI event on May 4.
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