The front-wheel drive Nurburgring record felt like a watershed moment for the Golf GTI. This was a hot hatch we always used to associate with understated, sensibly gauged performance, and yet VW turned all that on its head by making the stripped out, hardcore Clubsport S.
It redefined what we thought a Golf GTI could be, but sadly, it looks like it’ll be a one-off. At a digital press conference held ahead of the new Clubsport‘s reveal, the VW’s compact product line spokesperson Bernd Schröder confirmed that there won’t be a hardcore, ‘Ring-baiting S model this time. Such a car is “not planned now,” he said.
Schebsdat didn’t elaborate further than that, but we can hazard a guess as to why the S won’t be returning. If it did, VW would be damn near obliged to go for the front-wheel drive Nurburgring record again, which - as proven by the Renault Megane RS Trophy-R - now requires a particularly extreme kind of car.
It’d need a decent amount of investment, something tricky for VW as the financial fallout of dieselgate rumbles on. Meanwhile, the company intends to lob €30 billion at electric car development by 2023, which is also where it’ll want much of its high-profile PR activities to be. VW’s various record-beating efforts with the all-electric ID R are now closer to its core message than stripped-out hot hatch shenanigans.
It’s not all bad news, of course. The new Clubsport may not be as extreme as the old Clubsport S - the negative camber increase is smaller, it’s less powerful and there’s no weight reduction - but it does look awfully promising. VW works driver Benny Leuchter - who set the Clubsport S ‘Ring lap a few years ago - even said that the steering is better. The new Clubsport has also arrived a lot sooner than the last one, which didn’t crop up until the Mk7 GTI was four years old.
A Clubsport S arriving next year would have been perfectly timed to coincide with the Golf GTI’s 45th anniversary, just as the Golf 7 ‘Edition 40’ Clubsport marked the 40th birthday. It does seem as though the occasion will get some sort of nod, though. “We know it [the GTI’s 45th anniversary] and we’ve thought about what we can do,” Schröder said, adding, “but I can’t say more at this time”.
So far, so vague, but we should think what VW comes up with for this birthday celebration will involve something a tad less involved than a two-seater track weapon.