Each of the 400 Golf GTI Clubsport S cars made will have its production number (001/400 to 400/400) on the center console in the front. The driver and the front seat passenger sit in racing bucket seats that provide the necessary lateral support while flying around the Nordschleife. The car also features GTI insignia that's featured in the 'normal' Golf GTI Clubsport, including the iconic golf ball shifter knob with Alcantara trim, a red line in the safety belts, 'Honeycomb 40' design decals on the dashboard and doors, and elegant Piano Black accents. The extremely grippy Alcantara-trimmed sport steering wheel, which has a chrome GTI emblem, red stitching and the 12-o'clock position marked out, was designed to be ergonomically perfect for the track.
The idea for the Golf GTI Clubsport S originated when the team responsible for the 'normal' GTI at Volkswagen tested the final version of the current Golf GTI Performance Pack on the racetrack. 'It was obvious to all of us that this GTI had immense potential,' recalls Karsten Schebsdat, Head of Chassis Tuning, 'so we decided to get the most performance possible out of this car. A small team went through the entire process, from bottom to top, pretty much like it was back when the first Golf GTI came into being.' In addition to the weight reduction and the improvement in performance, two other factors are of fundamental importance when it comes to designing a really fast car: optimal aerodynamics and an outstanding chassis. When it comes to aerodynamics, Volkswagen was able to draw on the modifications already implemented in the Golf GTI Clubsport. Both the 'Clubsport' and the 'Clubsport S' have completely new front bumpers that improve engine induction, front end aero, and downforce. At the rear, the roof-edge spoiler that was perfected in the wind tunnel and is significantly larger on the Clubsport versions results in significant amounts of additional rear downforce. In conjunction with a black rear diffuser, this two-part rear wing generates more downforce on the rear axle than on the front axle. In the case of the Golf GTI Clubsport S, this means that the understeer that is typical of front-wheel-drive cars is practically eliminated. The new Golf GTI Clubsport S also has a special sport chassis. Karsten Schebsdat explains: 'To neutralize the understeer and at the same time boost grip levels, we counteracted understeer on the front axle and specially designed the hub carriers,' resulting in higher camber angles. The negative camber increases the potential for directional control, thus optimizing the grip on the front axle. The Clubsport S is characterised by similarly good balance to the 'normal' Clubsport, even at higher levels of lateral acceleration, allowing even higher cornering speeds. Braking performance was also perfected, in particular to prevent the rear end from breaking away: combined with the aerodynamic measures, this allows the driver to brake into bends in a controlled way. Even at full acceleration the car has even better traction due to the modified chassis tuning and the tires. Volkswagen was also able to fine-tune the ESC software on this basis: even though the traction control intervenes later in the Golf GTI Clubsport S and the torque is reduced less, 'wheel hop' from the front wheels, typical of powerful front-wheel drive cars at maximum acceleration, is practically eliminated. The extra acceleration is also handled by stiffer engine mounts, a new coupling rod between the transmission and front axle, and a reinforced transmission. Other important elements include the XDS+ system and the electronically controlled, torque-sensing limited slip differential. As is the case for the other GTI models, Volkswagen also offers the 'ESC Sport' function for very experienced drivers. The system is activated by a two-stage switch on the center console. When the driver presses this switch briefly, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) switches to the 'ESC Sport' mode. In very fast driving with lots of bends—such as on the Nordschleife—ESC responds later and thereby gives even more agile handling. If the driver pushes the switch for more than three seconds, the ESC system is completely deactivated. As an alternative to the push-button switch on the centre console, the ESC can also be activated or deactivated in the settings on the car menu.
Most racetracks in the world are smooth and relatively flat. That's not the case on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, where there are plenty of bumps and elevation changes, as well as a daunting number of corners on top of that. So a car tuned to drive on the Nürburgring needs, on the one hand, to be able to take bends at high speed, while at the same time being able to cope with extreme dips and crests. If a car is fine-tuned for driving on a normal racetrack, where the suspension is very stiff, this isn't helpful on the Nordschleife. Rather, the car needs to be fairly soft vertically, but at the same time stiff when it comes to lateral damping. This is exactly what the Volkswagen engineers managed to take into account when fine tuning the spring/damper package for the DCC system.
Nürburgring Nordschleife setting.
Wolfsburg / Nürburgring, May 2016 – A cool spring morning. The Nürburgring Nordschleife. Temperatures slowly rise. Warmed up, the car waits, crackling in the pit lane. The new Golf GTI Clubsport S. The mission: to write history. Race car driver Benny Leuchter (28) Leuchter puts on his helmet and gives Karsten Schebsdat a hand signal: 'I'm ready.' Schebsdat is the Head of Volkswagen Chassis Tuning and is part of the team that developed the 165-mph Golf GTI Clubsport S. Passionate Volkswagen people from Development, Marketing, Communications and Sales worked on this car. GTI fans. They spent many months refining the 'normal' GTI Clubsport and the Golf GTI TCR racer into a sporty jewel. Now they want to know what their baby can do. Schebsdat taps Leuchter's helmet. He starts the car, selects the 'Individual' driving profile mode and thereby activates the setting for the Nürburgring Nordschleife (North Loop), which manages special settings for the engine, steering and adaptive chassis control system (DCC). The Nordschleife has a unique combination of bends and road bumps. 'To break the record here, the GTI must be fast in the bends while simultaneously handling the bumps and leaps', explains Leuchter as he closes the driver's door. The Clubsport S specializes in this. The time will be measured by breaking a light beam. Leuchter drives out of the pit lane. One lap. 20.832 kilometers. A flying start. The clock is running. The Clubsport S thunders into the Hatzenbach. Into 4th gear. 'The car has to absorb the curbs cleanly', Leuchter says via radio. 'We have put a high priority on the GTI being stable on the curbs too', says Schebsdat in the pit lane with a glance at the clock. The Clubsport S flies through the Hocheichen section. 4th gear, at speeds up to just over 115 mph. Full speed ahead, a longer stretch of straightaway down to Quiddelbach Höhe, then the Flugplatz. Two right-hand bends, very fast, 5th gear; good for 134 mph. 'Making sure that I am back on the gas early, because I am now heading towards Schwedenkreuz', says Leuchter. 'Upshift to 6th gear.' At nearly 150 mph, the Clubsport S flies over the crest at Schwedenkreuz. 'The car is super at absorbing everything; it rebounds and immediately recovers.' Back to 5th gear. Backfire from the exhaust system. Now left into Schwedenkreuz. Applying the brakes, 3rd gear. Aremberg and then into the Fuchsröhre. Leuchter: 'It all works at full throttle. Going very fast. But the car must be perfectly aligned when it enters the Fuchsröhre.' The GTI reaches the Adenauer Forest. Towards Metzgesfeld now. Fast left bend. He stays on record time, because the GTI has tremendous downforce. Through the Kallenhard section, 'it is possible to brake hard at the last instant, but it still remains fully steerable', Leuchter would later report. He continues: 'I can trust the car. Even on the bumps. That is important to be really fast on the Nordschleife.' Wehrseifen now, nearly halfway around at 9 kilometers. At Ex-Mühle, a fast uphill right: 'Normally, a front-wheel-drive car understeers here. The GTI Clubsport S only exhibits it slightly at the entrance to the bend. Ex-Mühle is also bumpy. The Golf handles it superbly.' Out of this bend and towards Kesselchen. Kilometer 12. The GTI flattens out the bumps and curbs, and doesn't jump a single millimeter. Kilometer 13. The Karussell. Leuchter: 'Concrete, very bumpy, the GTI doesn't jump here either.' Hohe Acht. Now the Eifel hills become more alpine, and the Nordschleife gets even more challenging. Leuchter's favorite passage: 'Every meter from Hohe Acht down to Brünnchen is demanding on car and driver. Wippermann, for example: Enter very fast. Just touch the curbs on the left slightly, then full over to the right. Even here this GTI remains true to its line. That is the key to a really fast lap.' Final sprint. Pflanzgarten, the second jump over the crest. The GTI lifts briefly, comes back down and can be driven very quickly through the double right that follows. Leuchter: 'Even when it rebounds to the limits, the GTI follows steering inputs.' Kilometer 17, the Stefan-Bellof S bend. Bellof set the record on the Nordschleife in Porsche 956.007 with 650 PS. Leuchter is following Bellof's wheeltracks with 340 PS less, but in the same spirit. Schwalbenschwanz, Galgenkopf: 'The Galgenkopf is also crucial for a fast lap. If I can drive out of it at high speed, I can reach the Döttinger Höhe at a speed of more than 155 mph' Seconds later, the Golf GTI Clubsport S shoots through the light beam at the finish. A time of 7 minutes, 49.21 seconds. The fastest front-wheel-drive time around the Nordschleife. Ever.
Chronology of a record-setting drive
Golf GTI / 1976. In 1974, six men forged the secret plan to develop a 'Sports Golf'. They carry the project through to the end, although there is no recorded date for when the first full-production GTI was built in 1976. With its 110 PS and 112 mph top speed, it stirred up the world of compact cars and redefined what a sports car represents. In 1983, the first special edition makes its debut—the 112 PS 'Pirelli GTI'. Mk2 Golf GTI / 1984. A strategic stroke of genius follows one year later with the Mk2 Golf GTI. Still with 112 PS, it continues the conceptual course of the first generation. As a result of the introduction of the catalytic converter, the power output briefly goes down to 107 PS in 1984. Two years later, Volkswagen compensates for the reduced power with a new 16-valve engine, which delivers 129 PS even with a catalytic converter and matches the agility of the original GTI (139 PS, no catalytic converter). In 1990, a 'G-Lader' supercharger in the Golf GTI G60 increases power output to 160 PS. Mk3 Golf GTI / 1991. In 1991, Volkswagen transfers the GTI insignia to the third generation. This begins with 115 PS. A year later, the power output goes up with a new 16-valve engine to 150 PS. In 1996, a turbodiesel version (TDI) delivering 110 PS enriches the GTI concept. In 1996 the '20 Years of GTI' anniversary model is launched. Mk4 Golf GTI / 1998. The fourth GTI generation, introduced in 1998, is very conservative in appearance. Technically, however, the 150-PS Mk4 Golf GTI is a car that keeps the competition at bay with its agility and quality. The four- and (in one case) five-cylinder petrol engines deliver up to 170 PS, while the diesels manage 150 PS. In 2001, the 180-PS '25 Years of GTI' turbo model heralds a renaissance of the sporty icon. Mk5 Golf GTI / 2004. With the debut of the fifth generation, the Golf GTI 2004 celebrates a grand comeback. With a much sharper look, a 200-PS turbo engine and superb driving characteristics, it catapults the GTI concept into the future. In 2006, to mark the cult car's 30th birthday, Volkswagen gives its fans the 230-PS '30 Years of GTI' model. Identically powered, the reincarnation of the 'Pirelli GTI' is then launched in 2007. Mk6 Golf GTI / 2009. With the sixth-generation in 2009, the Golf GTI redefines the subject of traction with an electronic transverse differential lock (XDS). Now with 210-PS, the GTI is even more fun and features a redesigned exhaust system that creates a dynamic sound as well. For the first time it is also available as a Convertible. This generation's crowning glory comes onto the market in 2011 for the 35th birthday: the 'Golf GTI Edition 35' with 235 PS. Mk7 Golf GTI / 2012. The seventh generation of the GTI launches in 2012 with two levels of power output: 162 kW / 220 PS from the base version and 169 kW / 230 PS from the Golf GTI Performance, the latter being equipped with a new electronically controlled, torque sensing limited slip differential. In early 2016 the Golf GTI Clubsport, delivering up to 213 kW / 290 PS, goes on sale.
40 years of the Golf GTI – a retrospective