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166-MPH VW Golf GTI Clubsport Takes Aim At Civic Type R, But Regular GTI Has Closed The Gap

  • Clubsport version of latest Mk8.5 Golf GTI makes 296 hp, versus 262 hp for regular GTI
  • 0 to 62 mph drops from 5.9 to 5.6 seconds; top speed is 166 mph with optional Race package
  • No manual transmission option, and DCC adaptive dampers and 19-inch wheels are options, not standard

VW might have killed off the GTI’s manual transmission option after 2024, but at least it hasn’t sent the Clubsport badge to the junkyard with it. The GTI for VW fans who find the standard GTI a little too soft is back for ’25, and thanks to a 166 mph (267 km/h) top speed, it’s also the fastest front-wheel drive Golf yet.

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But beyond that headline stat, which is only achievable if you order the optional Race package, by the way, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the regular GTI has upped its game, while the Clubbie seems to be treading water.

Related: 2025 VW Golf GTI Drops Manual But Gains More Muscle And AI Smarts

Take the duos’ EA888 evo4 2.0-liter turbo engines. The latest GTI now delivers 262 hp (265 PS), up from 242 hp (245 PS), and its zero to 62 mph time has dropped from 6.2 sec to just 5.9 seconds despite the torque output being unchanged at 273 lb-ft (370 Nm). But the new CS makes the same 296 hp (300 PS) and 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) it did last time around, and still needs the same 5.6 seconds to hit 62 that the old car required.

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We don’t doubt that the Clubsport feels quicker, but the gap has definitely narrowed – and there’s still a big gap between the Clubsport and its most obvious hardcore front-wheel drive rival, the Honda Civic Type R, which has 326 hp (329 PS; 315 hp / 319 PS in the U.S.), gets to 62 mph in 5.4 seconds and doesn’t stop until it reaches 171 mph (275 km/h).

Both the GTI and Clubsport come only with VW’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and this time there’s no mention in the press blurb about the hot version getting a shorter final drive or any detail explaining exactly how different the springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars are between the two cars. Last time out, the Clubsport felt noticeably tighter (at the expense of some ride comfort) and we imagine the new one will, too.

Clubsport buyers will still have to fork out extra for the DCC adaptive dampers, much like GTI buyers do, and – in Germany, at least – both the 19-inch Queenstown wheels seen in these pictures and also available on the base GTI, and the sexy 19-inch forged wheels seen in the teaser images released last week that are 20 percent lighter, are relegated to the options list. The GTI comes standard on 17-inch Richmond wheels, and the Clubsport gets an 18-inch version of the same to clear its bigger brakes.

 166-MPH VW Golf GTI Clubsport Takes Aim At Civic Type R, But Regular GTI Has Closed The Gap

But even if Clubsport buyers don’t splash for the big hoops, there are a few other styling details that help their cars stand out from the GTI crowd, including a more aggressive lower bumper design with little body-colored, arrow-shaped sections, and a much larger, two-deck spoiler above the rear window.

Clubsports also get gloss black, instead of plain black, diffuser plastics, the option of an Akrapovic exhaust that comes with the Race Package along with the raised speed limiter, and a subtle graphics kit running along the base of the doors. Interior differences are limited to the standard ArtVelours fabric on the 296 hp car’s otherwise identical sport seats and door cards, as well as an additional ‘Special’ driving mode supposedly honed at the Nurburgring – though you’ll need the optional trick dampers to really get the most out of it.

 166-MPH VW Golf GTI Clubsport Takes Aim At Civic Type R, But Regular GTI Has Closed The Gap

We like the ClubSport’s more in-yer-face visuals and the promise of that extra power, but we’re looking forward to trying both versions out to see which is the better package.

Whichever GTI you choose, though, you’ll get proper physical steering wheel buttons instead of the awful, over-sensitive versions fitted to the Mk8, illuminated temperate sliders to go with your newly-illuminated grille badge, and a large 12.9-inch touchscreen featuring VW’s much-improved operating system, and a ChatGPT-powered voice assistant on European cars.

Do you think VW should have pushed the Clubsport harder? Which GTI would you pick, or would you drive right by them both to get to your Honda dealer?

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