GTI 40th Edition powered by 265PS 2.0-litre turbo, the output of which rises to 290PS with overboost

GTI 40th Edition powered by 265PS 2.0-litre turbo, the output of which rises to 290PS with overboost

The special edition Clubsport was created to commemorate four decades of the Gran Turismo (Fuel) Injection. With an engine which can produce up to 290PS, this is the most powerful front-wheel drive Golf currently on sale.

It might have been announced some months back but the facelifted Golf range won't be in UK showroooms until the end of March. Obviously there will be revised versions of the three- and five-door GTIs as part of that initial roll-out, and these will be powered by a 230PS turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.

Should 230 horses not be enough, then best get in quick to see if you can nab one of the last of 1,000 special edition Clubsports. These have a 265PS version of the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine but there's a twist: a 10-second overboost function which allows power to rise to 290PS. The driver doesn't have to do anything other than give the throttle pedal a firm push to activate the extra oomph.

The anoraks out there will know that this isn't the most powerful FWD Golf yet, that honour being for the briefly-built Clubsport S. Its output was 310PS. Just 400 cars were made and the UK being such an important market for all generations of the Golf GTI, 150 were reserved for UK buyers. Needless to say, all were quickly sold.

The Golf GTI Clubsport gets to 100 km/h in 6.0 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox, but if you choose the optional dual-clutch gearbox (DSG), VW says the time is 0.1 second faster. The press test vehicle came with this upgrade and I would recommend it, even though you don't get the famous golf-ball gear knob. It has the same number of ratios as the manual. The changes are super-fast and always perfectly smooth, even when parking, which wasn't always the case with the Volkswagen Group's DSGs.

Top speed is 250 km/h (DSG: 249 km/h) and the CO2 average for the manual is 160g/km or 155g/km with the dual-clutch gearbox.

Volkswagen's design team gave the GTI Clubsport gloss-black mirror casings, dark black-red tail lights, lower bumpers (beware steep driveways and high curbs), side sills, a bespoke rear diffuser, a multi-piece roof spoiler and special 18-inch forged alloy wheels with 19-inch 'Bresica' rims optional.

VW has dug into its history with this car: the first generation GTI was characterised by a wide black trim stripe on the side between the front and rear wheel arches at bumper level. This stripe has now been transferred to the side area of the Anniversary edition. Imitating the look of the 1976 Golf GTI, it is also modified with the word 'Clubsport'.

They might be a touch on the tight side for some but the folding racing bucket seats look fantastic and feel even better. Partially covered with Alcantara, they feature a honeycomb pattern in the backrests and on the cushions. There also feature Alcantara trim on the gear lever and around the steering wheel (with GTI emblem, red seam and 12 o'clock marking) and custom floor mats with red edging. The three-door car isn't the best for these seats though, as the bases don't slide automatically when you tilt them for rear entry/exit.

I've driven all manner of Golf GTIs, as well as several generations of Golf R and have to say, this is the best riding/handling of any of the front-wheel drive cars. The overboost you won't even be aware of, other than for the speed with which is lets you overtake - there is no turbo whistle or anything like that. Even on rural roads and with the 19-inch wheels, this is not an uncomfortable car. Probably about the only thing I would say against the Clubsport is how hard it will be by now to get hold of one.

What's ahead for the GTI?

The eighth generation Golf should have its public debut at the 2019 Frankfurt IAA. The by then seven-year old Modularer Querbaukasten architecture will have been updated and used in newly refreshed form.

MQB was developed with compatibility for 48V electrics, and one of the reasons for this is said to be the supposed hybrid powertrain which the future Golf GTI. This should consist of a slightly more powerful (likely 250PS) 2.0-litre engine but its forced induction would come via an electric compressor, rather than one driven solely by exhaust gases.