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Testing the VW Golf GTI Clubsport 45 on the Nordschleife

Golf in sheep's clothing - the line is a classic, just like the VW Golf GTI itself. For the 45th birthday of the compact icon, we're rocking the Nordschleife with the discreet but stimulating Jubi model.

In appraisals, supervisors like to cleverly get into work psychology and first praise positive aspects before discussing negative ones. Today I'm the boss of the VW Golf GTI Clubsport 45, but we're talking straight to the point: Who just nodded the slowness of the infotainment system? And who came up with this chaotic menu navigation, in which you, as a sports driver, spend minutes looking for the ESP deactivation? No, the eighth generation GTI didn't deserve this digital chaos, because from a driving dynamics point of view it has become a really good compact sports car, especially as a club sport.

Why am I so upset about the digital faux pas? Because I'm sitting in the cockpit with a racing helmet in front of the Nordschleife, the track is dry and the only one that doesn't get into trouble is the Golf GTI Clubsport 45 - more precisely: its infotainment chaos. It took a hand-timed 19.73 seconds for the system to boot up. No joke: Check it out in the reels on my Instagram channel.

And when the system has finally booted up, the touch function of the display reacts surprisingly with a time delay. Sometimes you even tap the app in question a second time on the display because you're not sure whether the system has received the command.

On the subject of ESP, I can only ask: Why was the ESP button from the seventh GTI generation retired? The long press worked great - both for the sports drivers and as a safety threshold for the ignorant. Enough of the scolding - some things in automotive engineering do not need to be understood.

Now it's time to celebrate. The three iconic letters have been 45 years old since the original GTI was first presented in 1976. respect, congratulations!

What is the gift for the Jubi version compared to normal club sport without the 45 abbreviation? In addition to the black-painted roof with a black roof edge spoiler, the birthday GTI bears the number 45 on the side skirts and at the six o'clock position on the steering wheel.

Also exclusive to Clubsport 45: the race package. In addition to the black 19-inch Scottsdale wheels with tornado red paint strips on the edge of the rim, the package also includes a twin-pipe titanium exhaust system from Akrapovic and the Vmax increase from 250 to 267 km/h. Also standard on the Clubsport 45: the LED matrix headlights with the typical GTI red stripe.

You celebrate the Clubsport 45 even more when you take the Nordschleife under the wheels with it in the Sabine Schmitz curve.Get in, drive off, be fast - the automatism that you don't have to get used to it for a long time, but that you trust the compact sports car from Wolfsburg already in the Hatzenbach at the limit shows that the driving dynamics development has done a good job again.

Cool: the Nordschleife mode

Making a successor model faster from a lateral dynamics point of view is certainly not the problem. Not making a successor model faster with a more pointed set-up, but at the same time maintaining or even improving the good driveability of the predecessor – that is a challenge. How did the landing gear manage to do that?

On the chassis side, the Golf GTI Clubsport benefits from a number of modifications. Compared to the Golf VII GTI, the models of the eighth generation use, for example, newly tuned wishbone bearings, springs and damper hydraulics on the front and rear axles. New damper bearings and new wheel carriers are also used on the rear axle. The driving dynamics developers increased the spring rates by 5 percent on the front axle and 15 percent on the rear axle. The body of the Clubsport was also lowered by 10 millimeters.

The Clubsport also has a more aggressive front axle setup than the normal GTI models. Its camber values ​​on the front axle should correspond to those of the Golf VII GTI Clubsport S. We briefly think back to the 400-piece limited special model from 2016, which at the time held the Nordschleife record for front-wheel drive vehicles.

In the Supertest ranking, the 310 hp Clubsport S is still the fastest Golf to this day. With a measured -1°03', the camber values ​​of today's test car are much more tame than the Clubsport S measured at -2°06' (see sport auto 7/2016).

The electronically controlled front differential lock, the electronic differential lock and the DCC adaptive dampers are controlled in a coordinated manner via the so-called driving dynamics manager. In addition to the driving programs Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual, Clubsport now has what is known as Special Mode, a sub-program of Sport mode that has been specially applied to the Nürburgring-Nordschleife.

Neutral and stable

What happens when the special mode is selected? The fact that the VW chassis department has taken special care of the Nordschleife fans is then communicated to the driver on the infotainment display with the following information: "In this driving program, the entire vehicle is set for optimal performance on the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring. Especially the Adaptive chassis control DCC and the lateral dynamics systems are tailored to this special track profile. Of course you can also select the profile outside of the Nordschleife. However, the Sport driving profile is better suited for racetracks without the unique track characteristics of the Nordschleife."

The front axle steers precisely on the Nordschleife, before at some point it gently starts to understeer if you want to "push" too hard. The rear axle is extremely stable and always acts predictably, since club sport almost completely dispenses with load change behavior.

Overall, the GTI Clubsport impresses on the entire Nordschleife with its largely neutral suspension set-up and its easy controllability.Not too soft, not too hard - you notice immediately that this suspension has been extensively tested on the Ring and that the Nürburgring mode is not only It's a marketing idea with empty phrases. Surprises on the 20.6 kilometers? Not the track - you don't have to fear pulse-pounding moments here.

On the contrary: While the previous models under high lateral acceleration - in the Hatzenbach bend or when you go through with full load the compression of the fox tube drove - again and again through its briefly hardening steering g have noticed, this phenomenon could finally be stopped in the GTI VIII Clubsport. The further developed progressive steering with two selectable characteristics for the manual torque (Comfort, Sport) and progressive transmission ratio is neither dull nor ultra-pointy, but a successful compromise that works well in everyday life as well as on the racetrack. Especially on the Nordschleife, it behaves unobtrusively and its feedback does not cause unnecessary unrest in the vehicle.

Let's come to the EA 888 evo4 - that's the engine designation for the 300 hp two-liter TSI four-cylinder. This means that the current Clubsport has 35 hp more than the Golf VII GTI Clubsport and 10 hp more than the GTI TCR. In particular, the TSI example in the current test car is doing well - WOB-GO 100, for example, undercuts the 0-100 factory specification in 5.4 seconds by two tenths of a second. The pithy full load sound in Sport mode, which alternates with roaring Akrapovic exhaust gas cleaning when accelerating, is also pleasing.

Good brakes, fine ABS

Now we come to the BUT, which is particularly noticeable when visiting the race track. If you downshift in transmission S mode using the paddle pull and then want to accelerate out again, the Clubsport reacts sluggishly, hangs in the limiter for a second after the upshift process and does not accept the gas spontaneously enough. Valuable tenths are lost at the limit.

This phenomenon was particularly noticeable in Hockenheim when accelerating out of the hairpin. On the Nordschleife, the issue only occurs in Wehrseifen and before the last right-hand bend before the start-finish at T13. All curves where you switch from second to third gear. Changing from third to fourth gear is usually easy.

Shifting at the limit with the Clubsport-specific characteristics of the Nürburgring special mode works best if you let the transmission change gears autonomously and manually actuate the left shift paddle at most for downshifts. Yes, at this point one thinks back to the manual transmission with a bit of nostalgia, which is only offered in the basic GTI, but no longer in Clubsport.

With the exception of the transmission issue, the driving dynamics of the Clubsport 45 deserve great praise - for example for the high level of grip of the optional Michelin Pilot Sport Cup type sports tires with N0 identification. A mandatory extra if you occasionally want to do a few tourist laps in Hockenheim or on the Nordschleife.

Both in Hockenheim and on the Nordschleife, the Clubsport 45 scores with its easily adjustable brake system and finely tuned ABS control. Fading? An absolute foreign word for the Jubi GTI. For that, too, he deserves an appreciative fender pat. A stable brake system is not a matter of course among compact sports cars.


maximum 100 points

Apart from the digitized cockpit, there is praise for the Golf VIII GTI Clubsport 45. In everyday life, the compact sports car doesn't annoy you even on long journeys, it impresses with its suitability for everyday use. You get on the racetrack and after just a few corners you feel comfortable in the limit area. Hardly any other compact sports car conveys as much confidence at the limit as the GTI.


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