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Car and Driver: VW Officially Debuts 305-hp GTI Clubsport S, Claims 7:49 ‘Ring Time [w/ Lap Video]


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Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the original hot hatch with a limited-edition Volkswagen GTI was a predictable move. Building an even more limited-edition variant capable of setting the fastest-ever lap of the Nürburgring Nordschleife by a front-drive production car was maybe a little more surprising, but that’s what VW says it has done with its GTI Clubsport S, clocking a time of 07:49:21. (Watch the full lap in the embedded video below).


That time pips by 1.4 seconds the 7:50.63 record lap turned by the Honda Civic Type R just over a year ago. Like that Honda, VW’s champion won’t be finding its way to the U.S. market. (We will get the next-gen Type R, however.) We’re not even getting the regular 261-horsepower Clubsport special edition, let alone the even more specialer Clubsport S boasting 306 horsepower. While the Clubsport S reveal thrilled all the GTI nuts gathered for the annual festival of fast Volksboxes and plaid upholstery at Lake Wörthersee in Austria, the best you can do in a GTI in America is to opt for the Performance Package with 220 horsepower or choose instead the not-a-GTI Golf R that deploys its 292 ponies through all four wheels.




Only 400 Clubsport S models will be built “for worldwide distribution” (only PR flacks think “worldwide” also means “except for you”), and 100 of those are reserved for Germany. Which makes a certain perverse sense in that the Clubsport S is so particularly designed to a purpose that there’s a special Nürburgring setting that can be deployed using the driving profile selector. It’s a track-day special aimed at one specific track. So those who can just drive on over to the ’Ring for a little hooning can dial it in on the dashboard. The ordinary Comfort, Normal, and Race settings configure the adaptive Dynamic Chassis Control (damping), engine, steering and exhaust sound. There’s also an Individual mode that allows drivers to customize these settings, and VW engineers have used this feature to bake in a Nordschleife-specific setup. The challenge, they said: maximize stability and lateral grip while leaving enough suspension compliance to deal with the track’s numerous bumps and dramatic elevation changes. The adaptive damping employs its soft Comfort setting to allow vertical wheel travel over the terrain while stiffening in response to lateral loads. They also tweaked the stability control’s ESC Sport mode and it can be switched completely off.


It’s not just electrickery that got the Clubsport S around the Nordschleife a second ahead of the Civic Type R, which also was rated at 306 horsepower. Matching that number, a 45-hp gain over the standard Clubsport that VW was previously calling “the most powerful GTI ever”, took a new ECU, a high-capacity fuel pump, and an exhaust system made with tubes 2.6 inches in diameter rather than 2.2 in. VW says the engineers drew on their experience developing the Golf GTI TCR race car when tuning the Clubsport S engine, which is based on the same 2.0-liter turbo four that serves in the regular GTI and paired only with the six-speed manual transmission.




Once they’d packed in more power, they started throwing out weight—the Clubsport S has no rear seats, center armrest, rear parcel shelf, variable-height trunk floor, floor mats, or sound-deadening insulation. Also shedding mass are a smaller battery, an aluminum subframe for the front suspension, and aluminum hats connected to steel brake rotors. The latter pares 2.2 pounds of unsprung mass at each corner. Adding some weight back in are semi-slick 235/35 ZR Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires on 19-inch aluminum wheels, the DCC system, a strut-tower brace, a partition net behind the seats and a carpet in the rear. All in, it’s about 66 pounds lighter than the GTI Clubsport and VW says it works out to 9.14 pounds of GTI per horsepower. They use “unladen” weight and Germany’s metric PS power units (the output is 310 PS) to make these calculations, by the way.


Chassis amendments also include new hub carriers that allow more negative camber angle. Aerodynamics were fine-tuned with a two-part rear wing at the trailing edge of the roof that’s even bigger than that on the regular Club Sport. VW claims there’s more aero downforce at the rear than in front and that “understeer typical of front-wheel-drive cars is practically eliminated.” German racing driver Benny Leuchter got the Clubsport S to within 10 mph of its stated 165-mph top speed near the end of the lap and remarked on the car’s stability over bumps and minimal understeer.


Check out the full lap in the video; unfortunately, the bizarre, soft-porn-esque soundtrack makes it hard to verify VW’s assertion that the engine backfires dramatically under braking, but it’s still a decent watch:





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