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Driven: Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR. Image by Volkswagen UK.

Driven: Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
Sending the Mk7 Volkswagen Golf GTI off in style is the awesome TCR. But it is expensive, mind...

 



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Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: the best-driving Golf GTI of all? Quite possibly

Not so good: do you pay too much for it? Quite possibly

Key Facts

Model tested: Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
Price: Golf GTI Performance from 33,015; GTI TCR from 37,665, car as tested 38,204
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive with XDS electronic diff-lock
Body style: five-door hot hatch
CO2 emissions: 153g/km (VED Band 151-170: 530 in year one, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 36.2mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited; option to raise to 164mph)
0-62mph: 5.6 seconds
Power: 290hp at 5,000-6,200rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1,950-5,300rpm
Boot space: 380-1,270 litres

Our view:

With production of the Volkswagen Golf Mk7 on wind-down, as there's an all-new Mk8 inbound for 2020, it's impossible not to view the mega TCR (that stands for Touring Car Racing, by the way, being a link to the customer competition Golf) as a goodbye for this incarnation of the GTI.

It has all the hallmarks, arriving right at the end of the Mk7's life. It comes with an absolutely bizarre set of hexagonal side decals (555), which some people seem to loathe and others (us among them) don't mind as much, while some of the GTI's subtlety is lost to black lower body addenda that makes the Golf look properly aggressive. And, finally, it riffs off two former super-hot seventh-gen Golf GTIs, in the form of the 290hp-but-only-for-a-brief-period-of-time Clubsport and the rather more intense, stripped-out, 310hp Clubsport S.

You see, unlike the four-wheel-drive Golf R, the TCR sends drive to the front axle only. Power is a Clubsport-matching 290hp, only the TCR delivers that figure always, rather than on a time-limited overboost function, and torque is pegged at 380Nm. Traction-limited, it can't dip beneath five seconds for its 0-62mph sprint like the AWD Golf R, but with a 5.6-second run and the ability to go to 164mph flat out if you opt to cancel the 155mph speed limiter, this is one mighty quick Golf.

And one mighty brilliant one, too. It's a more involving, invigorating experience driving the TCR fast than it is a Golf R, because you're acutely aware that the front tyres are having to manage everything, so if you hook it all up correctly you feel like you're doing the work, rather than the car; however, don't for a minute think that the subtext here is that the TCR is blighted by torque-steer, wheelspin and a load of nose-heavy understeer antics, because it absolutely is not. In fact, it's tremendous to drive in all areas - still lovely and refined and cultured like any Golf GTI when you want it to be, but more demented, more razor-sharp and more captivating when you decide to open the taps on that stunning EA888 motor. We'll sum it up by saying we managed to get a creditable 35.3mpg from the Golf while cruising in it, compared to an average of just 25.9mpg across a few wonderful days and 130 miles in its company - regularly exploring just what, precisely, it was capable of in terms of handling. Turns out it's capable of a flippin' lot. To paraphrase the old Spinal Tap chestnut, it's a Golf GTI with everything turned up to 11. You can probably imagine precisely how good a car the TCR is, then.

So why not full marks for such a thrilling, brilliant machine? Well, mainly, it's the price. At 37,665 basic and 38,000-plus as tested, the TCR actually has a higher starting price than the AWD R (from 36,180), while it's a ridiculous ten grand beyond a Hyundai i30 N Performance and even a meaty 4,115 up on the base price of a Honda Civic Type R in top GT spec, two rivals we list below which we think provide almost as much - if not more - driving involvement than the stellar TCR for less cash. Admittedly, the Golf Mk7, for all its venerable age, has a nicer interior than either of its Asian competitors, but we think that your judgment of a hot hatch's standing in the world ought to be predicated on driving enjoyment first, interior finishing second.

Nevertheless, the GTI TCR is a technical tour de force and a simply marvellous high-power hot hatch; one of the best Golf GTIs we've ever driven, that's for sure... and possibly THE best, thinking about it. Its relative rarity compared to other, lesser GTIs could also mean its residual values are stronger, perhaps off-setting some of its initial and imposing costs, but whichever way you cut the TCR conundrum, the fact that remains is this: as poignant farewells go, this is one hell of a send-off for the Mk7. It's a truly marvellous machine.

Alternatives:

Ford Focus ST: monster engine and lovely chassis... in Normal mode. Harder modes are disappointing on road, though, and the ST now starts at 32 grand, so it's not exactly cheap any more. Third out of these three rivals.

Honda Civic Type R: divisive exterior looks (we love 'em, though) and an interior not on a par with the Golf GTI TCR, but the 320hp CTR (read carefully, here) is even better to drive; it's mesmerisingly good.

Hyundai i30 N Performance: an absolutely astonishing debutante in this arena, while the i30 N's interior might not quite be up to the Volkswagen's, its chassis and drivetrain both most assuredly are. Magnificent.


Matt Robinson - 5 Jul 2019









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2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.








 

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