The Grand Tour Boys are just normal people after all. And like most normal people they prefer to drive normal and boring cars. Jeremy Clarkson has openly said that he prefers a dull Gray Volkswagen Golf over an orange Ferrari. During their time in North Yorkshire for their Whitby in-tent filming session, Clarkson, Hammond, and May had to figure out how to get to their destination and they ended up choosing very normal cars.
Per Clarkson’s column with The Sunday Times for the final leg of their trip, the trio decided to jump in some hot hatches, where Richard Hammond quickly claimed the Ford Fiesta ST, and James May jumped in the hottest of all hot hatches, the Ford Focus RS. This left Clarkson with a clear choice:
So I had a good long think and remembered that Volkswagen had recently smashed the front-wheel-drive lap record at the Nürburgring with a car called the Golf GTI Clubsport S.
In essence it’s a GTI, but, thanks to a lot of electrical jiggery-pokery under the bonnet, it produces a colossal 306bhp. And there’s more. The ride has been made priapic. The body shell has been stiffened. The back seats and the parcel shelf and various bits of carpet have been removed. And as a result it’s hard and tight and light and, as we saw when it broke that lap record, very, very fast.
This is exactly the sort of car that would be terrible to live with day to day but perfect for an afternoon assault on the North York Moors. I was very happy with my choice until I received word that the Clubsport S is a limited-edition special, and that none was available.
Instead I ended up with a car built to celebrate the GTI’s 40th birthday. Called the Clubsport Edition 40, it looks like a Clubsport S but it has carpets and back seats and all the luxuries you’d expect. You can even have it with four doors, which is a very un-Clubsporty thing.
All the power of the Clubsport version, which is 35 more over the standard GTI, means that the front wheel drive car will experience plenty of torque steer and traction control to freak out, or as Clarkson puts it:
Busybody mode. Which means that if you want this sort of power for this sort of money, you’re better off with the all-wheel-drive Golf R.
This is clearly a problem that the automotive engineers just hasn’t been able to perfect for front wheel drive cars. As the pedal is pressed all the way, the unevenness of the transaxle caused by the off center engine has a tendency to create a distinct pull to one side. To counteract this many cars rely on the traction control to mute some of the power to keep it going straight.
However. And it’s a big however. In my standard GTI — chosen because I can’t be bothered to explain to people at parties what an R is — there’s a definite hole in the power delivery. When you just want to go slightly faster, you put your foot down a bit and … nothing happens.
It’s almost certainly some kind of ludicrous emission program in the engine control unit, but it feels like turbo lag and it’s annoying. However, in the Clubsport Edition 40 it doesn’t happen. The movement of your foot is translated instantly into a change of pace. It makes the whole car feel more alert and alive.
I’d love to tell you that the chassis is crisper too, because it probably is. But the truth is that this car feels exactly the same as the standard GTI. Which means it is extremely clever at riding the bumps and then gripping as if it’s on spikes in the corners.
We have to agree with Clarkson here. We’ve driven the standard GTI sometime ago and agree that the car is brilliant for handling everyday bumps and standard curvy roads. However, the amount of power does leave a lot to be desired, something that the Golf R can easily address.
Of course it’s not as good as the Golf R. That’s a remarkable car. A brilliant car. But if you want a GTI because, well, you want a GTI, this Clubsport Edition 40 makes a deal of sense. It’s my own car, with a couple of neat styling touches and the performance hole caused by bureaucrats in Brussels filled in.
We’re curious if we’ll see these cars in the upcoming Grand Tour episodes, which will premier on Amazon Prime on November 18th. If you haven’t subscribed yet you can do so by going here. If you want to watch The Grand Tour for free, there are ways to do so…
(Source: The Sunday Times)
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