VW unveils flagship Golf GTI Clubsport, but there's a catch

Volkswagen has revealed the newest flagship of its new eighth-gen Golf after releasing the GTI, GTE, and GTD models. The Golf GTI Clubsport is also the most powerful Golf in history and, according to VW, heralds the next chapter in the brand's tradition of high-performance GTIs.

However, the newest Golf GTI Clubsport won't be coming to the U.S. (as expected) and will initially arrive in Europe, instead. This means we won't get to experience its updated 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, whereas a standard Golf GTI only makes 228 horsepower. Power is routed to the front wheels via a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

The new Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport is equipped to reclaim the Nürburgring lap record for front-wheel drive vehicles. Back in 2016, the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S recorded a blistering time of 7:49.21 to become the fastest FWD vehicle to complete a lap of the Nordschleife. However, the record was shattered by the Honda Civic Type R in 2018 (7:43.8), and again in 2019 by the Renault Megane RS Trophy-R (7:40.1).

From the looks of it, it seems Megane's reign in the 'Ring will be a short one and will be seriously challenged by VW's newest Golf GTI Clubsport. Besides having more power, it comes with a special Nürburgring-specific driving mode that alters the suspension, engine, steering, and gearbox settings.

It also has a 0.2-inch lower body and a new vehicle dynamics manager that controls the electromechanical front locking differential. "Networking all driving dynamics systems means that the new Golf GTI Clubsport handles even more neutrally and precisely than the classic Golf GTI," said Karsten Schebsdat, Head of Driving Dynamics, Steering and Control Systems at Volkswagen.

The VW GTI Clubsport also looks the part. It has a new front bumper with larger air openings and aero-optimized wings. It also has a two-part roof spoiler, bespoke 18-inch alloy wheels, wider side sills, snazzy body graphics, and a new rear diffuser to further tame the wind. The Clubsport model is further distinguished from a regular GTI by having twin oval tailpipes.

Inside, the GTI Clubsport has ArtVelours sport seats, a perforated sport steering wheel, and aluminum pedals. It may not be coming to America, but the VW GTI Clubsport is the best-looking (and most desirable) Mk8 Golf yet.