REVIEW | The 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR is racy and rare
Perhaps too much power for a front-wheel drive, but this final GTI makes a statement
The Golf7 has sold over 40,000 units in SA since its 2013 introduction, and with a third of them being GTI models, Volkswagen has fed the demand with some special editions of the hot hatch.
In 2016 Golf GTI fans were given the Clubsport, an up-powered version of the iconic car. Now with the local arrival of the new eighth-generation Golf — including the GTI — looming in the second quarter of next year, the German firm is giving the Golf7 GTI a final send-off by launching a TCR limited-edition.
Named after the international TCR touring car racing series, the front-wheel-drive car gets a more potent version of the GTI’s 2l turbo petrol engine. Mustering 213kW and 380Nm, it outguns the standard Golf GTI’s 169kW and 350Nm but still falls short of the all-wheel-drive Golf R with its 228kW/400Nm.
Power is fired to the front wheels via a seven-speed DSG auto gearbox, and the mechanical makeover is completed with a front-axle differential lock, perforated disc brakes with special pads, and adaptive chassis control suspension. The TCR looks racier than the run-of-the-mill GTI, festooned with decals and spoilers to bring out the party animal.
Volkswagen SA is importing 300 TCRs — all individually numbered — at R675,700 apiece versus the standard GTI’s R620,300 price tag. The test car was the last off the line and bore a “300” plaque on its dash, making it a special unit that could become even more of a collector’s item if the eventual owner doesn’t mind that it has been driven around the block by a few motoring journalists.
A number of TCR customers are likely to be track-day enthusiasts so we took the car for a few hot laps around Zwartkops. Here it proved to be edgy and playful, a hatch that’s fun to drive by the scruff of the neck, though on the limits it’s not as polished and pinned-down as its all-wheel-drive (AWD) peers.
It has excellent traction in fast corners but the driven front wheels scrabble for grip under power in tighter turns, and you have to display patience before booting the throttle. The diff lock helps improve grip in these situations, just not as effectively as AWD.
The uprated brakes stood up well to the task of harsh track punishment, and though they got very hot they didn’t fade in performance.
There’s no major torque steer under hard acceleration and the TCR’s tiller stays straight and true in your hands, but if you minimise or disable the stability control there’s wheelspin galore. This means the GTI TCR doesn’t burst off the line as quickly as its AWD peers, and even with launch control engaged the Golf smokes its front tyres.
Still, the car managed a respectable 0-100km/h sprint in 5.8 seconds in our test at Gerotek, close to the factory-claimed 5.6 seconds. It will also reach a 264km/h top speed versus the regular GTI’s electronically-governed 250.
There are different drive modes that make a meaningful difference. Jab the Sport button and the car adopts a distinctly racier character as the suspension stiffens, the engine is kept in a high-revving zone, and the exhaust blurts more loudly. Here the ride becomes choppy, but switched to its Comfort or Eco modes the car adopts a plusher, more commuting-friendly ride.
The decals are garish but this TCR Golf is unashamedly presented with boy-racer flair. Along with its sporty front splitter, roof spoiler, rear diffuser, black 19-inch Reifnitz mags and black exterior mirrors, this final GTI version displays a visual bravado that does not go gentle into that good night.
The interior is more demure, though it is brightened up with scarlet stitching on the gearshift lever and steering wheel, and red stripes on the alcantara-and-cloth sports seats.
Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
WE LIKE: Performance, price, rarity
WE DISLIKE: AWD rivals have a traction advantage, launch of new Golf is imminent
VERDICT: A fun-to-drive collector’s car
The Golf 7’s age shows in its interior design but it’s ergonomically efficient and comes with all the modern accroutements including a digital instrument panel, plus a touchscreen infotainment system with the requisite smartphone connectivity.
Launching the final Golf7 GTI model so close to the arrival of the Golf8 may seem like business folly, but this limited-edition TCR may have good investment potential due to its rarity. With some of its hot-hatch rivals selling for a lot more, this Veedub is relatively well priced.
It’s probably near the limits of how much power you want to put through the front wheels, but it’s roaring fun.
Type: Four-cylinder petrol turbo
Type: Six-speed DSG auto
Type: Front-wheel drive
Top speed: 264km/h
0-100km/h: 5.6 seconds (claimed); 5.8 seconds (as tested)
Fuel Consumption: 7.5l/100km (claimed); 8.1l /100km (as tested)
Sports suspension, adaptive chassis control, ABS brakes, stability control, front differential lock, Alcantara sport seats, electric windows, rain sensor, automatic LED headlights, electric and heated side mirrors, seven airbags, cruise control, parallel parking assist, digital instrument cluster, touch screen infotainment system with voice control, remote central locking, climate control, interior ambient lighting, panoramic sunroof
Warranty: Three years/120,000 km
Service plan: Five years/90,000km
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic, 225kW/400Nm — R850,000
BMW M135i xDrive, 225kW/450Nm — R773,788
Honda Civic Type R, 228kW/400Nm — R771,600
Hyundai i30N, 202kW/353Nm — R679,900
Renault Megane RS 280 Cup, 205kW/390Nm — R634,900
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