Volkswagen’s ultimate Golf 7 GTI TCR is a performance record bargain

Volkswagen has always managed to keep its Golf GTI a little more special than the rest. Right from the beginning, when the very first GTi was introduced back in 1976, to the 16V ten years later. Then came the special R32 early in the New Millennium, before various renditions of the Golf R, to the stripped down Edition 35 and most recently the Clubsport S, to mention but a few.


It may be a bit late with the new Golf 8 GTI just around the corner, but there’s far more to this TCR than it just being the first car launchd in SA after lockdown. First of all, this car is the ultimate Golf 7. Not only in that it’s the last, but it’s also the finest and fastest. So no — this is not the all-new Golf Eight — that one is due any moment now. This one is more a last blast keepsake to bid the 7.5 GTi farewell.

A street machine spun off the ethos of the Golf TCR racer is nothing new though. Complications around right hand drive homologation and then lockdown saw the local launch delayed quite a bit, which is why it’s taken so long to get our grubby paws on the thing. But that matters none.

Based on the standard 189 kW 350 Nm Mk. 7.5 GTI, the 213 kW 380 Nm Golf GTI TCR comes with an almost seamless 6-speed DSG double-clutch transmission driving the front axle. It gains perforated brake discs and driver selectable Dynamic Chassis Control. They promise zero to 100 km/h in just 5.6 seconds with a 16 km/h boosted, unrestricted 264 km/h top end to add to an impeccable tradition of highly pedigreed collectors über-Golfs.


But there’s far more to the Golf GTI TCR than just record-breaking performance. Set apart by cool black 19-inch alioys, TCR front and rear splitters below those LED headlights, sill extensions, a roof spoiler, a rear diffuser and matt black wing mirrors, it is a wolf in wolf’s clothing from Wolfsburg. Add that all-important unique numbered tag under the GTI tailgate logo and even pool lighting, never mind a personalised certificate of ownership.

Step inside and you’re greeted by the expected quality build, highlighted by a red centreline sports steering wheel and seats with a new GTI-esque fabric design. The Alcantara-rich cabin gets GTI TCR detailing, black stitching and red ambient lighting. Climatronic air con and Active Info Display is standard alongside all the regular high GTI spec and tech. Surprisingly enough, it has a good old key start, which kinda goes with the territory.

GTI TCR is still packed with brilliant tech that stretches from Parallel Park Assistance to among the best infotainment systems of its kind in comparison to its rivals. Albeit that it still suffers from finger smudging and is too sensitive to touch on rougher roads. We look forward to how the next revolution filters down to Golf generation 8, very soon.


So how does she run? Well, firing it up by twisting the old key in the ignition is old school cool in this overly automated world. TCR settles into a low-pitched grumble while idling. That already hints at versatility, practicality and value.

It’s a pedigree that immediately shines through on the road and while it may be long in the tooth, TCR quickly comes across as a very good car. Power delivery is smooth yet brutal, while the suspension and brakes feel very sharp and race car-like when you push on. That said, one TCR aspect that surprised us, is ride comfort. Which is something we actually found amiss in the stock GTI when we tested it a couple of years ago.

Despite its track orientation, this TCR is quite surprisingly an easier daily driver than stock, despite it at the same time delivering an even more pointed track day poise once provoked. Even my mom — who loves this car — was happy with that everyday pliability. Those brakes are impeccable too, even if they feel a bit too sharp at low speeds. But that’s a compromise we can live with.


Put to the test, Golf TCR’s extra grunt challenges its launch control. Unlike the stock Golf, it grapples a bit with wheel spin and was a couple of tenths off to 60 km/h. That did not however prevent the TCR from flying from here, to smash our 5.7-second front-wheel drive record with a 5.56-second run. TCR is a second and a half quicker than GTI to 160 km/h and while is quarter-mile is half a second quicker, terminal speed is 8 km/h faster.

Overall performance is brisk and exciting — 80-120 km/h traction is six-tenths quicker and it finds more than a second between 120 and 160 km/h. You actually feel the car challenging its chassis. Wonderful. It’s pretty thirsty when asked though, but I did find TCR capable of being most economical. Even if I really had to work to achieve that!

A very good car all round, the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR builds on an impeccable base to deliver something rather special all round. Not only did it break our performance test records, but this über GTI also turned heads everywhere it goes as it stunned us in its versatility. An all round practical king, TCR is a wonderful daily driver too.


But the best thing about Golf GTI TCR has be its price. At just R689K — if you can still find one — it delivers supercar challenging performance and all the trimmings in one of the finest performance bargains of recent times. — Giordano Lupini

Images: Philip Makhonde

ROAD TESTED: Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR
Engine: 213 kW 380 Nm 1998cc turbo petrol I4
Drive: 6-speed DC auto FWD
0-60 km/h:        3.23 sec
0-100 km/h:       5.56 sec
0-160 km/h:       11.68 sec
400m:             13.5 sec @ 174 km/h
80-120 km/h:      2.88 sec
120-160 km/h:     4.23 sec
VMax:             264 km/h
Fuel:             7.5 l/100km
CO2:              172 g/km
Warranty/Service: 3y 120K/5y 90Kkm
LIST PRICE:       R689K
RATED:            9
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