► CAR drives the latest anniversary GTI
► New 45 Edition tested in the UK
► Is it worth the extra cash?
For those not fluent in Volkswagen, the Golf GTI Clubsport 45 is the ultimate expression of 'GTI' and marks four and a half decades since the badge appeared. There's an eighth generation Golf in here somewhere, but it's covered in a thick layer of GTI, lashings of 'track-focused' Clubsport parts, and finally sprinkled with '45 Edition' trinkets.
But those 45 Edition parts come at a serious price: almost £3k on top of a regular Clubsport. Are the additions worth it?
Well, what do you get for that extra cash?
The Clubsport bit brings the majority of the changes; it provides that more aggressive front bumper and front splitter, as well as the larger two-part spoiler at the rear. Although not essential for downforce, both optically slide this GTI into Affalterbach-rivalling territory. Clubsport also means huge, perforated brakes and a range of tweaks to an already refined chassis. There are new spring and dampers, and Wolfsburg has dropped everything by 10mm while also increasing the camber and retuning the electronic limited-slip diff.
Along with the Clubsport's power increase over a standard GTI (297bhp over 241bhp) and the distinct 'Special' drive mode with pre-set parameters for driving at the Nürburgring, there are a few bits and pieces on the 45.
Clubsport 45s get bespoke 19-inch wheels, a throaty Akrapovič exhaust and the removal of the speed limiter – the 45 tops out at an unrestricted 166mph. Other than that, most of it is cosmetic, with some decals along the door edges.
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What does it all mean on the road?
Put it all together and like the Clubsport, the Clubsport 45 is far more alive than the standard GTI. It starts with those larger perforated brakes, which both offer more stop and more feel than the standard set. While not as easy to module as those on a Type R, they're certainly a match in outright power. And you need them for the Clubsport's increased power.
The extra shove is evident on corner exists, and helps catapult this Golf into the same conversations as rivals like the Honda Civic Type R and Focus ST. It's now got a more pronounced, turbocharged snarl and a retuned electronic diff means it's happy to apply its horses to tarmac.
That power is kept in check with a new chassis, which is both more composed in the twisty bits – and in corner entry, too. Everything has been dropped by 10mm, while new springs and dampers mean the Clubsport GTI is squat and more willing to be hustled mid-corner.
The steering is heavier but somewhat anonymous. It's extremely sure-footed front-axle means you can carry in bags of corner speed. Get a bit of feedback through the wheel, correct if needed, and finally release all 300PS with minimal torque steer.
However, there's not much feedback. This Golf can eat corners but doesn't necessarily shed as much light on how it's happening as other hot hatches – and it don't always feel as engaging as a result. There's no hacksawing at the wheel, no playing with grip levels, and there isn't that feeling of ultimate control, adjustability and spontaneity you get with the best hot hatches either.
VW Golf GTI Clubsport 45: verdict
The GTI ups its game with some added power and a far more responsive chassis – and the 45 badge adds some crackles and pops to go with it. The result is more engaging than before, but still not a match for the best hot hatches you can buy.