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We could pretend that we requested the keys to this Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR because we knew VW was about to pull the plug on its combustion-engined racing development programmes.
But it was simply fortunate timing.
The TCR series, which this model celebrates, replaced the World Touring Car Championship in 2015 with a promise of lower costs and cars as close to roadgoing stock as possible.
That may sound familiar – like the Touring Cars of old, maybe. Volkswagen was among the many that built a cash cow/car, selling to privateers and offering factory assistance at a cost.
Volkswagen was rarely seen in Touring Cars, but for the brief Passat tenure in the BTCC and the early Mk1/2 privateers, or in motorsport in general, in fact.
But still, this TCR edition is the last bastion of VW’s motorsport heritage as we know it and should be collectable for that alone.
That translates on to the road by means of a 44bhp power hike compared to the 242bhp GTI Performance, a door decal, and the TCR logo being projected on to the floor when the doors are open.
A race-inspired rear splitter extends out the back and the front bumpers are reworked, while Alcantara covers the door cards and seats.
Via an option pack the 18in wheels gain an inch, the suspension is lower (by 20mm), the shock absorbers are tweaked and the speed limiter is removed (up to 164mph).
Until the eighth-generation Golf comes on stream, this is the peak of the hatchback’s range, price-wise. The limited-run two-seat Clubsport is long sold out, and the faster R is some £1500 cheaper.
The TCR is certainly quick enough, causing the traction control light to become a familiar flicker as the front wheels struggle to lay that turbocharged 286bhp down.
There’s no four-wheel-drive here like in the slightly more powerful Golf R, but it still hits 60mph from standstill in just 5.6 secs. And it feels every tenth.
The ride is harsh, calling into question how much use the five-door’s rear two will get, and road noise can be intrusive. But there’s enough space for a full allocation in the back – comfort is another matter.
Perhaps its best role is as a weekly commuter and only sometime family transport.
The handling is excellent, with kart-direct steering through bends that is light when necessary and weighty when called upon or pressed hard.
The dual-cluch DSG is responsive when in the right mode – with Sport selected it will rarely be anything but primed for the hammer down, in Eco it requires a bit more advance notice and is more progressive.
It wasn’t conceived as Volkswagen’s sayonara to racing, but for the Mk7 Golf instead. Happily, it’s a worthy farewell to both.
Images: Luc Lacey
- Engine 1994cc turbo ‘four’; 286bhp @ 5000-6200rpm; 280lb ft @ 1950-5300 rpm
- Transmission seven-speed DSG, FWD
- 0-62mph 5.6 secs
- Top speed 155mph (164mph derestricted)
- Mpg 36.5
- Price £37,830