Considered by many to be the original hot hatch, the Volkswagen Golf GTI (with a capital ‘I’, this is not a Peugeot) remains an icon. Despite the tough and seemingly more focused competition, the Golf GTI is still a top-seller the world over. It is also a South African favourite and the dream of many regardless of being a petrolhead or not.
In honour of the success achieved by the GTI and more specifically the 7Th generation Volkswagen engineers were tasked with fine-tuning the GTI and the result is noteworthy. It is called the TCR which stands for Touring Car Racing and it is one of the best GTI’s ever made.
Available in three colours; Pure White, Pure Grey and, Tornado Red as seen here, the TCR is instantly recognizable thanks to unique honeycomb decals on the sides. I’m not the biggest fan of the sticky tattoos but because this is a special edition car, I will accept them.
When I say special I do mean it. South Africa was only allocated 300 examples, this being number 299/300. The car also features unique gloss black elements on the front bumper, black side-skirts, black rear spoiler lip and a black bespoke diffuser. The car sits atop 19-inch matte black Reifnitz alloy wheels. Behind them are drilled performance brake disks and the car also happens to sit about 20mm lower than a standard GTI. This is due to the standard fitment of the Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) system.
The interior is much like any other GTI on sale today however the TCR does get sports seats with a new microfibre fabric design, a perforated sports steering wheel and seat belts with red edging. There is also a little badge on the passenger side which indicates your allocation out of the 300. The interior is a very nice place to be, everything looks and feels top-notch and the tech is on point. There’s a digital instrument cluster as well as an Apple CarPlay friendly infotainment system.
I will admit however that none of that mattered. This is the GTI TCR, it’s all about the driving experience. Powering the TCR is a 213kW and 380Nm of torque turbocharged 2.0-litre engine which is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Zero to 100kph is claimed at 5.6 seconds and it will carry on up until 260kph.
There is more to this car though. It’s the way in which all the components come together to offer up a driving experience that is more refined, sharper and thrilling than before. One of the components which help achieve this is the VAQ front differential. It’s a mechanical limited-slip diff but on the right-hand side between the diff and the driveshaft, there is a clutch pack that is actuated by an electric motor to vary the amount of locking. The system is just brilliant in how it manages the rotation of the front wheels. It improves grip on the exit of corners, pulls the nose in and provides added confidence for a front-wheel-drive car.
How this car attacks a road is brilliant. Sure, it might not have the most power in terms of other offerings in the segment, it might not be a full-on track-focused car but it is one that is able to balance its performance, drivability on all surfaces and everyday practicality better than most. As far as final send-offs go, this is a standing ovation. Bring on the 8…