Volkswagen reveals new Golf GTI models with power now upwards of 261bhp

Choose from hot new GTI or even hotter GTI Clubsport

Volkswagen has revealed new versions of both its Golf GTI hot hatch icon, as well as the more intense and potent GTI Clubsport derivative.

The two new vehicles will be revealed in full to the world at the Nürburgring 24-hour race this weekend (June 1), where not only will the road-going GTI duo be subjected to the scrutiny of thousands of visitors to the race, but a special 375bhp competition version called the GTI Clubsport 24h will take part in the endurance motor sport event itself.

It’s all part of a major celebration of the Golf’s 50th birthday, as Volkswagen’s long-serving hatchback first appeared way back in 1974. Fittingly, the racing version taking part at the ‘Ring will wear the number 50.

Multimillion GTI sales numbers

To this point, more than 2.3 million Golf GTIs have been sold during its lifetime, so it’s appropriate that the performance model is the centrepiece of the anniversary bash.

The headlines are that both the GTI and the Clubsport have revised looks on the outside, better infotainment within, some chassis set-up tweaks and, in the case of the GTI, a 19bhp hike in power for good measure.

The LED Plus headlights on both models are of a fresh design, with the aim to make it look as if the clusters are merging into the radiator grille.

There’s also a full-width light strip and, of course, the red pinstripe that has been a hallmark of all Golf GTIs since it first appeared two years after its progenitor in 1976.

Illuminated nose badge

But a new trick for the 2024 model year GTIs is that the VW logo on their noses lights up for the first time in the car’s history.

There are then different bumpers and rear spoilers fitted to each, to differentiate the regular GTI from the more powerful GTI Clubsport. The GTI has a solid spoiler atop its hatch, while the Clubsport wears a larger spoiler with two transverse slots to allow airflow through.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport

At the back of the cars, both have newly developed LED lights with a 3D look and dynamic “direction sweep” indicators, while they also both sport twin-spaced exhaust outlets. As an option, the GTI Clubsport can have an Akrapovič system, which promises more noise.

Around the sides, the GTI runs on 17in “Richmond” alloy wheels as standard while the Clubsport gains 18in items of the same design, but there are 19in options available for both models. Again, as the more senior of the pair, the Clubsport has exclusive access to a forged 19in alloy called the “Warmenau”, that weighs 8kg per rim, representing a 20 per cent weight saving over comparable wheels.

Another new visual feature is the large “GTI” red-on-chrome lettering logo on the cars’ front doors; previously, they both had more discreet rectangular GTI badges in this area.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport

Major overhaul of infotainment and ergonomics

Inside, one of the main criticisms levelled at the Mk8 Golf family pertained to its clunky infotainment system. As a result, the new GTIs gain the latest Mk8.5 upgraded interface to address some of the key issues with the pre-facelift models.

Primarily, the infotainment software has brand-new graphics and a new menu structure for the touchscreen display, which should make it easier to operate.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport

To facilitate that, the screen is a whopping 12.9in freestanding item and it comes in two basic forms: Ready 2 Discover, the standard set-up, which doesn’t have navigation unless you pay for it as an option; and then Discover, which is nav-enabled from the off.

One of VW’s most egregious errors — the non-illuminated temperature and volume sliders underneath the screen, which were nigh-on invisible at night as a result — has been rectified, as these sliders now have backlighting and are said to be “more ergonomic” to use at all times of the day.

More new features include the “Ida” voice assistant that can access online databases and ChatGPT AI to answer its owner’s queries, plus a meaty 480-watt Harman Kardon sound system for both GTI models, likely to be on the options list.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport

Aside from these details, both cars have the 10.25in Digital Cockpit Pro configurable instrument cluster, the option of a windscreen head-up display and sports seats with a “Scalepaper” checked pattern as standard, plus lashings of red contrast stitching on most surfaces and a perforated leather steering wheel.

No manual gearbox

This last item is fitted with paddle shifts on both GTI cars, as they are only equipped with a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission, with no manual gearbox option available.

Alongside 30-colour ambient interior lighting and a start-stop button which pulses red until the engine is switched on, the Clubsport gets a slightly uprated cabin over the base GTI, thanks to the use of “ArtVelours” fabric on the seats and door cards.

For motive power, both the GTI and the Clubsport use the familiar 2-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine as they did before.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport

In the revised GTI Clubsport, this makes 296bhp and 295lb ft of torque (twisting force) as it did before, but the regular GTI has moved closer to it thanks to a power hike.

Previously toting 242bhp, the latest model now outputs 261bhp, along with a healthy 273lb ft of torque.

That means the 261bhp GTI can run 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds now, while the Clubsport retains its old 5.6-second sprint time. Both cars are nominally limited to 155mph flat out, although the Clubsport can have a Race Package optionally fitted which increases the limiter to 167mph.

The Bugatti link

Chassis-wise, the front-wheel-drive GTIs both have an electronically controlled front differential lock, to help limit wheelspin, as well as powerful brakes (17in on the GTI, 18in for the Clubsport), while optional Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) variable dampers can be specified for adaptive suspension.

Tuning of the diff-lock has been specifically adapted for the 261bhp GTI in particular, but another feather in the revised GTIs’ caps relates to Bugatti.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport

The engineering team this time around included chassis guru Sven Bohnhorst, who previously fulfilled the role of senior test driver at Bugatti.

Some of his learnings from developing the Bugatti Pur Sport have, according to Volkswagen, made their way into the steering systems of the updated Golf GTI and GTI Clubsport. Both cars are fitted with a variable-ratio set-up that allows the steering to be more responsive the more you turn the wheel.

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