In 2016 Volkswagen built a fantastic car called the Golf GTI Clubsport S. It was a radical car for a Golf because it didn’t have any rear seats and was clearly aimed at hardcore enthusiasts who go to bed each night dreaming of the famous Nürburgring race track. Before I drove the Clubsport S I was expecting an extreme, uncomfortable racing car for the road.
I was very wrong because it turned out to be comfortable yet extremely quick and able. For a short time it was the fastest front-wheel drive car to ever lap the Nürburgring circuit.
It was without doubt the most exciting Volkswagen I’d ever driven.
Now Volkswagen has followed it up with a car called the GTI TCR. TCR stands for Touring Car Racing, the rather unimaginatively named racing series for saloon cars in which Volkswagen, Peugeot, Hyundai and many others compete in. So VW took a Golf GTI and threw some special bits in its direction.
First, under the bonnet we have a 286bhp version of the Volkswagen Group’s 2.0 TSI engine that’s used in numerous hot products from Audi and Seat as well asVW.Attached to it is a seven-speed DSG auto gearbox and electronic limited-slip differential.There’s no manual gearbox option which might put off a few purists.
The TCR’s drilled brake discs come from the Clubsport S which means they’re well up to the job.
The Golf GTI has always been the understated hot hatch, leaving others to do the spoilers, wings and stickers. Not the TCR. In front you get a gloss black splitter, down the side sill extensions and at the rear a similarly glossy diffuser. But the most obvious addition is the optional sticker pack. It looks quite snazzy but you’ll need to make sure that the lads at the local hand car wash haven’t got the pressure turned up too high on their jet wash guns.
Shame if £555 worth of stickers went down the drain. In case you forget that you’ve bought a TCR you’ll be reminded every night as you open the door and “GTI TCR” is projected onto the ground.
On the subject of options, our test car was also fitted with the TCR Performance Pack, the most notable feature of which is a chassis that’s lowered by 20mm and Dynamic Chassis Control which gives you the choice of Sport, Comfort and Normal for the dampers, throttle, steering and gearbox tuning.
On top of that you get 19-inch alloy wheels and extra sticky tyres that will probably wear out rather quickly. Oh, and the always somewhat pointless removal of the 155mph speed limiter so that the TCR will hit its 164mph maximum speed.
Add this option and a few others such as the panoramic sunroof and the price of the GTI TCR goes from the standard £34,085 to a whopping £41,289.
If the stickers and aerodynamic add-ons are a bit flash for you you’ll be calmed down by the extremely restrained and very classy interior.
The TCR gets a perforated leather wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel with a racing-style marker that tells you the wheels are pointing straight ahead.
The car also gets its own bucket seats, trimmed in a tasteful take on the traditional GTI tartan design and with bolsters covered in the same soft grey microfibre that’s used on the door panels and gear shifter. When Volkswagen built the Clubsport S that we mentioned earlier, it turned the GTI into something really special yet managed to retain the car’s famous liveable-with character.
Not too harsh a ride over the bumps and, apart from the loss of the rear seats, a car you could use every day. That same ease of use is there in the GTI TCR but the specialness isn’t.
Apart from the styling add-ons and tasteful interior adjustments you get nothing over and above what the standard GTI delivers. Or at least not enough to justify the extra cost. If you really want an extreme hot hatch you’re better off looking at Honda’s outrageous looking and fabulous to drive Civic Type R or Renault’s new Megane RS 300 Trophy.
Volkswagen’s problem isn’t that the TCR isn’t any good; it is, but that the standard car gives you everything you want from a high performance hatchback for less money. Sharp handling, a comfortable ride and more than adequate performance.
The lifelong GTI fan, member of the GTI owners club and wearer of the T-Shirt will no doubt be a target audience for the TCR but even the fan isn’t going to find this car special enough.
Model: Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
On sale: Now
Engine: Petrol – 2.0 286bhp
Performance: 0 to 62mph in 5.6 seconds, 155mph top speed
Average fuel economy: 36.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 153g/km
Rivals: Honda Civic Type R, Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy
Published at Sat, 11 May 2019 13:29:00 +0000