With VW finally having agreed to respond in kind to customer demand, by offering the Golf GTi TCR in South Africa, it seems to appropriate to remember other great Golfs that have gone before.
Although the GTi is iconic, VW has expanded its offering of go-faster Golfs over the years, with some truly memorable cars – all of which have become modern classics.
A car denied to local buyers, but one which established the reputation of VW’s hot hatches beyond the GTi moniker.
This evolution of the Golf2 platform was powered by a G60 series engine. At 1.8-litres of capacity, and featuring boost generated by a supercharger, it was good for 118kW – which was plenty in the late 1980s.
Syncro all-wheel drive gifted the Golf Rallye excellent traction, which meant that most of its engine power could be converted to performance. As such, it was quick for a 1.8-litre car of the time: capable of running 0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds.
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This was the car which revolutionised the idea of what a high-performance Golf could be for South Africans. In an era where turbocharging was not the priority, VW’s narrow-angle 2.8-litre V6 gifted the Golf3 immense performance and character.
Beyond the terrific V6 growl, this VR6 was plenty quick for its time too – powering up to 128kW, with the added driver engagement of a manual gearbox.
An evolution of the VR6 concept. The fourth-generation Golf platform housed VW’s large capacity 3.2-litre V6 engine and upgraded the traction offering to all-wheel drive.
The engine’s output was deeply impressive, with power peaking at 177kW. It also made a tremendous noise, especially on throttle overrun.
A deeply impressive robot-to-robot racer, but perhaps ultimately flawed due to the sheer mass of that large V6 engine above its front axle. The R32 was astonishingly entertaining in a straight line, but could be a bit of an understeering bother into and through tight corners.
Before the arrival of TCR, this was the high-art of all things Golf GTi. An exceptionally rare Golf special edition it is, like the TCR, front-wheel drive.
Eschewing the GolfR’s all-wheel drive traction solution meant that VW engineers were required to significantly redesign the Clubsport’s front differential and suspension. With power from the 2-litre engine capable of peaking at 213kW (on overboost), torque steer could potentially become bothersome.
To counter any front-wheel drive waywardness, VW’s engineers revised the XDS electronic limited-slip differential’s intervention threshold and fitted bespoke front suspension springs. The result was new front-wheel drive handling standards for the Golf7 range.
For those who found the Clubsport a touch too tame, there was an even more exclusive ‘S’ version. The most focussed of all Golfs in recent memory, it swiftly claimed the title of quickest front-wheel drive vehicle around the Nürburgring on debut, in late 2016
This remains a purist Golf, with a six-speed manual transmission only (no DSG option), 30kg less mass and more power. VW’s engine gurus allowed the 'S' to gain 15 units of power over the standard Clubsport, with this ultimate front-wheel Golf boosting 228kW.