NEW VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI CLUBSPORT S BREAKS NÜRBURGRING LAP RECORD, MAKES WÖRTHERSEE DEBUT
The most powerful Golf GTI ever breaks the lap record for front-wheel-drive cars
on the Nordschleife, with a time of 07:49:21
Wolfsburg/Reifnitz, May 2016. The Golf GTI Clubsport S is the most powerful ever version of the Golf
GTI and was built to celebrate 40 years of the iconic hot hatchback. With German racing driver Benny
Leuchter (28) at the wheel, the car has just smashed the existing lap record for front-wheel-drive production
cars on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, with a time of 7 minutes, 49.21 seconds.
This exclusive new vehicle, based on the Golf GTI Clubsport, makes its world premiere at the GTI event at
Lake Wörthersee (4-7 May). The hard performance numbers of this new GTI are truly impressive: a power
output of 228 kW/310 PS; 280 pound-feet of torque between 1,700 and 5.300 rpm; 0 to 62 mph
acceleration in 5.8 seconds; a top speed of 162 mph; and an unladen weight (including the driver and
luggage) that has been reduced to 2,998 pounds. But the raw figures don’t tell the whole story, as the
record lap time around the Nordschleife demonstrates how fast this car actually is.
The Golf GTI Clubsport S has an exclusive setting for the most demanding racetrack in the world, which
can be accessed using the driving profile selector. This is possible because the car is fitted as standard
with the individually configurable Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) and a driving profile selector. In the
‘Individual’ driving profile, the engineers have developed a setting that is fine-tuned to suit the unique
conditions of the Nürburgring. Over and above that, the Comfort, Normal and Race settings are also
available. The driver can still adjust the settings in the Individual profile, as usual, and can revert to the
Nürburgring setting by resetting the Individual profile on the touchscreen menu. This unique configuration
switches the Sound, Engine and Steering parameters in the Race profile as well as DCC to Comfort.
However, in this instance an entirely different group of settings is hidden behind this option, instead of the
normal Race and Comfort settings.
The production run will be limited to 400 cars worldwide, 100 of which will be delivered to customers in
Germany. Colors will be limited to those of the original GTI: “Tornado Red”, “Pure White” and “Deep Black
Pearl Effect”, with the roof painted black. The Clubsport S is based on the two-door model with a manual
transmission, in order to keep the weight as low as possible.
The Clubsport S is a pure two-seater. Doing away with the rear seats, including the central armrest, for
example, accounts for the most noticeable weight saving. A smaller battery, as well as doing without
insulation, the variable-height trunk floor, the rear parcel shelf, and the floor mats pushed the weight down
yet further. An aluminum subframe for the front suspension and aluminum brake covers also shed weight.
On the other hand, 235/35 ZR Michelin tyres mounted on 19-inch “Pretoria” aluminium-alloy wheels, DCC,
a strut brace, a partition net behind the seats and a carpet in the rear add some of that saving back, for a
total weight reduction of approximately 66 pounds in comparison to a similarly equipped Golf GTI
Clubsport. The unladen weight is 2833 pounds, resulting in a dynamic power-to-weight ratio of 9.14
pounds per horsepower. Less weight also means greater fuel efficiency, with an NEDC rating of 31.8 mpg
(equivalent to 172 g/km CO2).
The development team exploited synergies between motorsport and production vehicles in enhancing the
engine performance, as they could draw on their experience with the 243 kW/330 PS Golf GTI TCR—the
new racing car for the TCR International Series. This also gave them the opportunity to boost the engine to
310 PS and 280 lb-ft. The engineers achieved this boost in performance with a modified engine control unit
and a new exhaust system: an increased diameter of 2.56 inches instead of 2.16 in reduces the exhaust
backpressure and increases the performance. A side effect of the modifications is that the exhaust system
produces a wonderful and deliberate ‘backfire’ under braking! In the course of the modifications the
engineers also integrated a new fuel pump with increased throughput. The engine of the front-wheel drive
Golf GTI Clubsport S is technically based on the 1,984 cc TSI engine that also powers the other versions of
the Golf GTI and the Golf R.
Other changes for the most exclusive Golf GTI include the following: semi-slick Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires
mounted on 19-inch “Pretoria” alloy wheels, tinted rear windows that absorb 65 percent of the light,
“Clubsport S” type plates, Bi-Xenon headlights with cornering lights and LED daytime running lights. The
brake system was also modified to withstand the high temperatures inflicted at a racetrack. The disc bells
are made of aluminium and are connected to the steel discs by cast location pins, allowing them to expand
radially when they heat up. An important factor for the car's handling is that the unsprung mass of each
wheel is 2.2 pounds lower thanks to the aluminum brake covers. To further improve the braking
performance, the Golf GTI Clubsport S has special brake pads.
Each of the 400 Golf GTI Clubsport S cars made will have its production number (001/400 to 400/400) on
the center console in the front. The driver and the front seat passenger sit in racing bucket seats that
provide the necessary lateral support while flying around the Nordschleife. The car also features GTI
insignia that’s featured in the “normal” Golf GTI Clubsport, including the iconic golf ball shifter knob with
Alcantara trim, a red line in the safety belts, “Honeycomb 40” design decals on the dashboard and doors,
and elegant Piano Black accents. The extremely grippy Alcantara-trimmed sport steering wheel, which has
a chrome GTI emblem, red stitching and the 12-o'clock position marked out, was designed to be
ergonomically perfect for the track.
The idea for the Golf GTI Clubsport S originated when the team responsible for the “normal” GTI at
Volkswagen tested the final version of the current Golf GTI Performance Pack on the racetrack. “It was
obvious to all of us that this GTI had immense potential,” recalls Karsten Schebsdat, Head of Chassis
Tuning, “so we decided to get the most performance possible out of this car. A small team went through
the entire process, from bottom to top, pretty much like it was back when the first Golf GTI came into
being.” In addition to the weight reduction and the improvement in performance, two other factors are of
fundamental importance when it comes to designing a really fast car: optimal aerodynamics and an
When it comes to aerodynamics, Volkswagen was able to draw on the modifications already implemented
in the Golf GTI Clubsport. Both the “Clubsport” and the “Clubsport S” have completely new front bumpers
that improve engine induction, front end aero, and downforce. At the rear, the roof-edge spoiler that was
perfected in the wind tunnel and is significantly larger on the Clubsport versions results in significant
amounts of additional rear downforce. In conjunction with a black rear diffuser, this two-part rear wing
generates more downforce on the rear axle than on the front axle. In the case of the Golf GTI Clubsport S,
this means that the understeer that is typical of front-wheel-drive cars is practically eliminated.
The new Golf GTI Clubsport S also has a special sport chassis. Karsten Schebsdat explains: “To
neutralize the understeer and at the same time boost grip levels, we counteracted understeer on the front
axle and specially designed the hub carriers,” resulting in higher camber angles. The negative camber
increases the potential for directional control, thus optimizing the grip on the front axle. The Clubsport S is
characterised by similarly good balance to the “normal” Clubsport, even at higher levels of lateral
acceleration, allowing even higher cornering speeds. Braking performance was also perfected, in particular
to prevent the rear end from breaking away: combined with the aerodynamic measures, this allows the
driver to brake into bends in a controlled way.
Even at full acceleration the car has even better traction due to the modified chassis tuning and the tires.
Volkswagen was also able to fine-tune the ESC software on this basis: even though the traction control
intervenes later in the Golf GTI Clubsport S and the torque is reduced less, "wheel hop" from the front
wheels, typical of powerful front-wheel drive cars at maximum acceleration, is practically eliminated. The
extra acceleration is also handled by stiffer engine mounts, a new coupling rod between the transmission
and front axle, and a reinforced transmission. Other important elements include the XDS+ system and the
electronically controlled, torque-sensing limited slip differential.
As is the case for the other GTI models, Volkswagen also offers the 'ESC Sport' function for very
experienced drivers. The system is activated by a two-stage switch on the center console. When the driver
presses this switch briefly, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) switches to the 'ESC Sport' mode. In very fast
driving with lots of bends—such as on the Nordschleife—ESC responds later and thereby gives even more
agile handling. If the driver pushes the switch for more than three seconds, the ESC system is completely
deactivated. As an alternative to the push-button switch on the centre console, the ESC can also be
activated or deactivated in the settings on the car menu.
Nürburgring Nordschleife setting.
Most racetracks in the world are smooth and relatively flat. That’s not the case on the Nürburgring
Nordschleife, where there are plenty of bumps and elevation changes, as well as a daunting number of
corners on top of that. So a car tuned to drive on the Nürburgring needs, on the one hand, to be able to
take bends at high speed, while at the same time being able to cope with extreme dips and crests. If a car
is fine-tuned for driving on a normal racetrack, where the suspension is very stiff, this isn't helpful on the
Nordschleife. Rather, the car needs to be fairly soft vertically, but at the same time stiff when it comes to
lateral damping. This is exactly what the Volkswagen engineers managed to take into account when fine
tuning the spring/damper package for the DCC system.
Chronology of a record-setting drive
Wolfsburg / Nürburgring, May 2016 – A cool spring morning. The Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Temperatures slowly rise. Warmed up, the car waits, crackling in the pit lane. The new Golf GTI Clubsport
S. The mission: to write history.
Race car driver Benny Leuchter (28) Leuchter puts on his helmet and gives Karsten Schebsdat a hand
signal: “I’m ready.” Schebsdat is the Head of Volkswagen Chassis Tuning and is part of the team that
developed the 165-mph Golf GTI Clubsport S. Passionate Volkswagen people from Development,
Marketing, Communications and Sales worked on this car. GTI fans. They spent many months refining the
“normal” GTI Clubsport and the Golf GTI TCR racer into a sporty jewel. Now they want to know what their
baby can do.
Schebsdat taps Leuchter’s helmet. He starts the car, selects the “Individual” driving profile mode and
thereby activates the setting for the Nürburgring Nordschleife (North Loop), which manages special
settings for the engine, steering and adaptive chassis control system (DCC). The Nordschleife has a
unique combination of bends and road bumps. “To break the record here, the GTI must be fast in the
bends while simultaneously handling the bumps and leaps”, explains Leuchter as he closes the driver’s
door. The Clubsport S specializes in this. The time will be measured by breaking a light beam. Leuchter
drives out of the pit lane. One lap. 20.832 kilometers. A flying start. The clock is running.
The Clubsport S thunders into the Hatzenbach. Into 4th gear. “The car has to absorb the curbs cleanly”,
Leuchter says via radio. “We have put a high priority on the GTI being stable on the curbs too”, says
Schebsdat in the pit lane with a glance at the clock. The Clubsport S flies through the Hocheichen section.
4th gear, at speeds up to just over 115 mph. Full speed ahead, a longer stretch of straightaway down to
Quiddelbach Höhe, then the Flugplatz. Two right-hand bends, very fast, 5th gear; good for 134 mph.
“Making sure that I am back on the gas early, because I am now heading towards Schwedenkreuz”, says
Leuchter. “Upshift to 6th gear.” At nearly 150 mph, the Clubsport S flies over the crest at Schwedenkreuz.
“The car is super at absorbing everything; it rebounds and immediately recovers.” Back to 5th gear.
Backfire from the exhaust system. Now left into Schwedenkreuz. Applying the brakes, 3rd gear. Aremberg
and then into the Fuchsröhre. Leuchter: “It all works at full throttle. Going very fast. But the car must be
perfectly aligned when it enters the Fuchsröhre.” The GTI reaches the Adenauer Forest. Towards
Metzgesfeld now. Fast left bend. He stays on record time, because the GTI has tremendous downforce.
Through the Kallenhard section, “it is possible to brake hard at the last instant, but it still remains fully
steerable”, Leuchter would later report. He continues: “I can trust the car. Even on the bumps. That is
important to be really fast on the Nordschleife.”
Wehrseifen now, nearly halfway around at 9 kilometers. At Ex-Mühle, a fast uphill right: “Normally, a front-
wheel-drive car understeers here. The GTI Clubsport S only exhibits it slightly at the entrance to the bend.
Ex-Mühle is also bumpy. The Golf handles it superbly.” Out of this bend and towards Kesselchen.
Kilometer 12. The GTI flattens out the bumps and curbs, and doesn’t jump a single millimeter. Kilometer
13. The Karussell. Leuchter: “Concrete, very bumpy, the GTI doesn’t jump here either.” Hohe Acht. Now
the Eifel hills become more alpine, and the Nordschleife gets even more challenging.
Leuchter’s favorite passage: “Every meter from Hohe Acht down to Brünnchen is demanding on car and
driver. Wippermann, for example: Enter very fast. Just touch the curbs on the left slightly, then full over to
the right. Even here this GTI remains true to its line. That is the key to a really fast lap.” Final sprint.
Pflanzgarten, the second jump over the crest. The GTI lifts briefly, comes back down and can be driven
very quickly through the double right that follows. Leuchter: “Even when it rebounds to the limits, the GTI
follows steering inputs.”
Kilometer 17, the Stefan-Bellof S bend. Bellof set the record on the Nordschleife in Porsche 956.007 with
650 PS. Leuchter is following Bellof’s wheeltracks with 340 PS less, but in the same spirit.
Schwalbenschwanz, Galgenkopf: “The Galgenkopf is also crucial for a fast lap. If I can drive out of it at high
speed, I can reach the Döttinger Höhe at a speed of more than 155 mph” Seconds later, the Golf GTI
Clubsport S shoots through the light beam at the finish. A time of 7 minutes, 49.21 seconds. The fastest
front-wheel-drive time around the Nordschleife. Ever.
40 years of the Golf GTI – a retrospective
Golf GTI / 1976. In 1974, six men forged the secret plan to develop a 'Sports Golf'. They carry the project
through to the end, although there is no recorded date for when the first full-production GTI was built in
1976. With its 110 PS and 112 mph top speed, it stirred up the world of compact cars and redefined what a
sports car represents. In 1983, the first special edition makes its debut—the 112 PS 'Pirelli GTI'.
Mk2 Golf GTI / 1984. A strategic stroke of genius follows one year later with the Mk2 Golf GTI. Still with
112 PS, it continues the conceptual course of the first generation. As a result of the introduction of the
catalytic converter, the power output briefly goes down to 107 PS in 1984. Two years later, Volkswagen
compensates for the reduced power with a new 16-valve engine, which delivers 129 PS even with a
catalytic converter and matches the agility of the original GTI (139 PS, no catalytic converter). In 1990, a 'G-
Lader' supercharger in the Golf GTI G60 increases power output to 160 PS.
Mk3 Golf GTI / 1991. In 1991, Volkswagen transfers the GTI insignia to the third generation. This begins
with 115 PS. A year later, the power output goes up with a new 16-valve engine to 150 PS. In 1996, a
turbodiesel version (TDI) delivering 110 PS enriches the GTI concept. In 1996 the '20 Years of GTI'
anniversary model is launched.
Mk4 Golf GTI / 1998. The fourth GTI generation, introduced in 1998, is very conservative in appearance.
Technically, however, the 150-PS Mk4 Golf GTI is a car that keeps the competition at bay with its agility and
quality. The four- and (in one case) five-cylinder petrol engines deliver up to 170 PS, while the diesels
manage 150 PS. In 2001, the 180-PS '25 Years of GTI' turbo model heralds a renaissance of the sporty
Mk5 Golf GTI / 2004. With the debut of the fifth generation, the Golf GTI 2004 celebrates a grand
comeback. With a much sharper look, a 200-PS turbo engine and superb driving characteristics, it
catapults the GTI concept into the future. In 2006, to mark the cult car's 30th birthday, Volkswagen gives its
fans the 230-PS '30 Years of GTI' model. Identically powered, the reincarnation of the 'Pirelli GTI' is then
launched in 2007.
Mk6 Golf GTI / 2009. With the sixth-generation in 2009, the Golf GTI redefines the subject of traction with
an electronic transverse differential lock (XDS). Now with 210-PS, the GTI is even more fun and features a
redesigned exhaust system that creates a dynamic sound as well. For the first time it is also available as a
Convertible. This generation's crowning glory comes onto the market in 2011 for the 35th birthday: the 'Golf
GTI Edition 35' with 235 PS.
Mk7 Golf GTI / 2012. The seventh generation of the GTI launches in 2012 with two levels of power output:
162 kW / 220 PS from the base version and 169 kW / 230 PS from the Golf GTI Performance, the latter
being equipped with a new electronically controlled, torque sensing limited slip differential. In early 2016 the
Golf GTI Clubsport, delivering up to 213 kW / 290 PS, goes on sale.