What sets the TCR apart from the standard Golf GTI?
Emerging this time, as a farewell to what we might call the GTI mk7.5, is an ode to the FIA’s now globally popular Touring Car Racing motorsport formula. The GTI TCR is also a clear attempt to keep VW’s evergreen hot hatchback competitive. In a field of increasingly powerful fast front-drivers, the regular GTI Performance version’s 242bhp (the 228bhp GTI having been removed from sale in the UK last year) doesn’t cut much Grey Poupon these days. So, here, power jumps to a peak 286bhp, and torque to 280lb ft, courtesy of a version of the 2017 GTI Clubsport Edition 40’s ‘EA888’ 2.0-litre turbo four pot that’s been updated with new software management, furnished with a couple of extra radiators, and made WLTP-emissions compliant. Unlike the pre-facelift GTI Clubsport 40, however, the GTI TCR only comes in two-pedal, DSG-gearbox form – and it uses the mk7.5’s seven-speed twin-clutch transmission rather than the Clubsport’s six-speed paddle-shifter.
Like the GTI Performance, the GTI TCR gets VW’s electronic locking ‘eDiff’ as standard, but it adds the sizable composite brake discs and 17in calipers of the old GTI Clubsport S, as well as forged 18in alloy wheels. It comes as standard with passive suspension developed from that of the GTI Performance, with revalved, firmed-up dampers, and with shortened, stiffened coil springs that drop the car 5mm closer still to the Tarmac.
“The Clubsport S was even stiffer again,” explained VW touring car racer Benny Leuchter (who had a hand in the development of the road-going GTI TCR), “but the bigger difference between them is how much more negative wheel camber the Clubsport S had. The TCR has been developed primarily for road use but also for more typical racing circuits. The Clubsport S was set up especially for the Nordschleife.” The Nordschleife – and just about any British B-road you cared to hurl it down, as it turned out.
On the GTI TCR, you can choose between two optional rolling chassis upgrade packages. The first adds forged 19in rims and beefed up adaptive dampers, the second a slightly different set of forged 19in rims, the same sports adaptive dampers and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres (the latter appeared as standard on the Clubsport S, you may remember). Both upgrade packages also see the car’s 155mph speed limiter removed. While UK prices on the GTI TCR and its options are to be confirmed, the more expensive of the two upgrade packages is likely to add about £3000 to your order.
Exploring the TCR's visual upgrades
Outwardly, the TCR is probably best distinguished from the lesser GTI by its matt black alloy wheels, and the extended front splitter, rear diffuser and roof spoiler that make up its new TCR racer-inspired aero kit. Well, those and the car’s motorsport-tastic hexagonal side decals (which are effectively a no-cost option – so you can dispense with them if you prefer). You can add carbonfibre door mirror caps, which make for a classier-looking extra identifying visual touch; or you can opt for ‘pure grey’ paint if you like, which is exclusive to the TCR – but, in this tester’s opinion, looks about as exciting as a pallbearer’s cravat.
On the inside of the car, meanwhile, a new pair of microfibre-and-cloth sports seats appear, as does a modified steering wheel with perforated leather grips and a competition-style dead-centre marker in red. VW insiders say the interior of the eighth-generation VW Golf, which is due for a public airing later this year, is a big step on from this car. But, while that’s an entirely believable claim, it’s not as if there’s much wrong with the cabin of the seventh-gen car. The TCR’s driving position is near-perfect for a hot hatchback. Its new sports seats are almost ideally, oh-so-comfortably clenching, and its interior fittings look and feel absolutely first class, showing very few signs of age. But most of that’s also true of a regular GTI, of course, and wouldn’t be a good reason for find an extra £5000. So what would be?