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Volkswagen Golf GTI: A look back at the powered-up limited editions

We take a look back at some of the iconic limited-edition GTIs over the decades, in the lead-up to the launch of the all-new Mk8 Golf GTI early in 2021.

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This week the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR hits Australian showrooms, a last hurrah for the lauded seventh-generation Golf GTI and the latest in a long line of powered-up special editions.

Here, we take a look back at some of the iconic limited-edition GTIs over the decades, in the lead-up to the launch of the all-new Mk8 Golf GTI early in 2021.

MORE: 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR review
MORE: 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR on sale from $51,490


1983 Volkswagen Golf GTI Pirelli (Mk1)

The Mk1 Golf GTI is widely credited as being one of the original hot hatches, and the GTI Pirelli of the early 1980s was the first-ever special-edition GTI.

Packing a whole 82kW, the GTI Pirelli was 1.5kW more powerful than the first run of Mk1 GTI thanks to its larger engine (1.8-litres v 1.6-litres) and offered bespoke appointments like Pirelli-branded alloy wheels, factory sunroof and a quad-lamp headlight layout.

The 112PS GTI could accelerate from 0-100 in 8.2 seconds and hit 182km/h flat out.

While Volkswagen remembers this special Mk1 GTI as the Pirelli edition, this very vehicle was sold under no less than five names depending on market, including GTI Pirelli (Germany), GTI Campaign (England), GTI Plus (France), GTI Trophy (Switzerland) and the GTI Special (Sweden, but without the Pirelli rims).

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI G60 (Mk2)

The second-generation Golf GTI maintained the 82kW 1.8-litre engine of the late Mk1 at launch before upgrading in 1986 to a more powerful 16-valve version of the 1.8-litre motor developing a healthier 95kW.

At the tail-end of the Mk2’s life-cycle Volkswagen introduced the Golf GTI G60, which featured a G-Lader supercharger bumping power to 118kW.

Zero to 100km/h took just 7.4 seconds, with top speed rated at 230km/h – very impressive for what was a humble family hatchback at the time.

Volkswagen also used a version of this engine to create the Rallye Golf homologation special in 1989.

2001 Volkswagen Golf GTI 25th Anniversary (Mk4)

While the Mk3 Golf GTI never got a beefed-up final edition, the fourth-generation Golf made up for it by offering the GTI 25th Anniversary, or GTI 25 Years, with two engines – one petrol, one diesel.

Taking the rather conservative base of the Mk4 Golf, the GTI 25th Anniversary scored chunkier, more aggressive bumpers, wider sills, and those eye-catching 18-inch multispoke BBS alloy wheels.

At launch, the Mk4 GTI was more of a trim level than standalone variant, offering a range of engine options with the most powerful offering 125kW.

The 25th Anniversary model pushed that to 132kW in 1.8-litre turbo guise and could hit 100km/h from rest in 7.9 seconds on its way to a top speed of 222km/h.

Meanwhile, the GTI 25th Anniversary 1.9 diesel offered 110kW and could hit triple figures in 8.6 seconds with top speed rated at 216km/h.

In keeping with the Mk4 Golf’s upmarket skew, the GTI 25th Anniversary edition was available with high-end options like satellite navigation, cruise control, and rear parking sensors.

2006 Volkswagen Golf GTI Edition 30 (Mk5)

The fifth-generation Golf GTI first hit the scene in 2003 as the near-production Golf GTI Concept, before going on sale in 2004. In 2006 the GTI celebrated three decades of hot hatch legend, so Volkswagen upped the Mk5 GTI’s 2.0-litre turbo’s power output by 1PS for every year – bringing it to 169kW, up from the standard 147kW.

With its more powerful engine, the Mk5 GTI Edition 30 could hit 100km/h from rest in 6.8 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 241km/h.

First seen as a design study at the 2006 Golf Record Day, the GTI Edition 30 was so well-received it was produced in the exact same specification – body-coloured bumpers, black 18-inch ‘Detroit’ alloy wheels and darkened ‘cherry red’ tail light lenses.

Inside, the GTI Edition 30 scored combination seat trim with leather bolsters and check fabric inserts, red contrast stitching, and ‘Edition 30’ insignia throughout.

2007 Volkswagen Golf GTI Pirelli (Mk5)

A year after the GTI Edition 30 acknowledged the 30-year legacy of the GTI badge, Volkswagen revived the iconic GTI Pirelli nameplate in 2007 – paying homage to the Mk1 GTI Pirelli.

Like the Edition 30, the reborn GTI Pirelli developed 169kW from its 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, and matched its 6.8-second sprint to triple figures as well as the claimed top speed of 241km/h. With the optional DSG transmission, the GTI Pirelli could hit 100km/h from rest in 6.6 seconds.

Four colours were offered on the 2007 GTI Pirelli, including the eye-catching Sunflower yellow seen here.

Like the original, the reborn special edition was fitted with Pirelli-branded alloy wheels shod in Pirelli P-Zero high-performance tyres, leather/Dinamica microfibre combination upholstery with tyre tread insert design, yellow contrast stitching, and a smattering of ‘Pirelli’ logos inside and out.

The 2007 Golf GTI Pirelli was also the first of the limited-edition Golf GTIs to officially be sold in Australia.

2011 Volkswagen Golf GTI Edition 35 (Mk6)

In 2011, Volkswagen celebrated 35 years of the GTI. As has become tradition, a special anniversary model was created based on the Mk6 Golf GTI – the Edition 35.

Like the Edition 30 before it, the GTI Edition 35 was more powerful than the standard model, this time tuned to deliver 235PS (173kW) and 300Nm from its 2.0 TFSI turbo petrol engine.

With the extra grunt, the GTI Edition 35 could accelerate from 0-100 in 6.6 seconds, and reach a top speed of 247km/h.

The Edition 35 offered numerous bespoke appointments, too, including a unique front bumper, gloss black side mirrors, smoked LED tail lights, privacy glass, special 18-inch ‘Watkins Glen’ alloy wheels (named after the New York race track), and the option of leather/microfibre seat trim. Plenty of ’35’ logos were scattered throughout the cabin as well.

Volkswagen offered the GTI Edition 35 in Australia from September 2011, with just 200 units imported.

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport/Golf GTI 40 Years (Mk7)

The 40th anniversary of the Golf GTI saw the introduction of a special edition based on the seventh-generation model – known globally as the GTI Clubsport but named the 40 Years in Australia.

Released in 2016, the GTI Clubsport was more powerful and more racy than even the 169kW GTI Performance, developing a healthy 195kW (265PS) from its 2.0 TFSI four-cylinder turbo engine, with an electro-mechanical differential lock from the GTI Performance fitted as standard.

An overboost function allowed for short bursts of 295PS (213kW) lasting around 10 seconds.

With the added grunt, the GTI Clubsport was capable of hitting 100km/h from rest in just 5.9 seconds when equipped with the optional six-speed DSG transmission, on its way to a 250km/h top speed.

Forged 18-inch alloys were standard, with 19-inch rims optional, while the model-specific enhancements included revised body work, a gloss black roof extending into a more aggressive gloss black rear spoiler for improved aero, larger exhaust tips, darkened LED tail lights, along with Alcantara trim for the sports bucket seats and steering wheel (including red 12 o’clock marker).

In Australia, the GTI Clubsport was known as the 40 Years. Limited to 500 units and five-door only, the 40 Years Edition lacked some of Europe’s options like the optional racing seats and lightweight alloy wheels.

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S (Mk7)

Building on the GTI Clubsport, the GTI Clubsport S was a stripped back track special that once held the title of fastest front-drive production vehicle around the Nurburgring Nordschleife (7 minutes, 49.21 seconds). Think of it as the people’s Porsche 911 GT3 RS.

The most powerful GTI ever produced even more power than the ‘standard’ Clubsport, developing a whopping 228kW (310PS) of power from its 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine. It was limited to 400 units globally, all with three doors and a six-speed manual transmission.

In an effort to keep weight as low as possible for optimum track performance, the GTI Clubsport S had no rear seats, a smaller battery, and removed insulation, the variable-height trunk floor, the rear parcel shelf, as well as the floor mats.

When combined with the lighter three-door body, manual transmission, lightweight 19-inch alloy wheels, an aluminium front sub-frame and brake covers, the GTI Clubsport S was 66 pounds (30kg) lighter than the equivalent three-door GTI Clubsport.

Thanks to the extra power and weight savings, the Clubsport S claimed to hit 100km/h from rest in just 5.8 seconds on its way to a top speed of 162mph (260km/h). A new exhaust system enriched the experience further with a more raucous soundtrack, too.

Unfortunately, the Clubsport S was never offered in Australia.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR (Mk7.5)

And now we reach the present day. Like the GTI Clubsport before it, the 2019 GTI TCR brought motorsport-inspired performance upgrades to the Mk7.5 GTI range – it’s billed as a road-going version of the TCR race car, after all.

In European specification, the Golf GTI TCR develops 213kW (290PS) and 380Nm from its 2.0 TFSI petrol engine, mated as standard to a seven-speed DSG and locking differential. VW claims a 0-100 time of just 5.6 seconds – the fastest of any GTI ever – and a top speed of up to 260km/h with the electronic limiter removed.

Available in three- and five-door bodies overseas, the GTI TCR ups the ante with lightweight alloy wheel options (18-inch standard, 19-inch optional), two additional radiators for enhanced cooling (straight from the R), a more aggressive gloss black body kit with roof spoiler extension for added downforce, a stainless steel exhaust system, lowered suspension with sportier damping, a perforated leather steering wheel with red 12 o’clock marker, and a special microfibre seat trim with a new take on the red check pattern.

The TCR also introduced the exclusive Pure Grey paint option (pictured), one of three finishes available (alongside Pure White and Tornado Red).

The Golf GTI lands in Australia this week as a 2020 model, available in five-door guise only and a slightly altered drivetrain – 213kW/350Nm with a six-speed wet-clutch DSG transmission. Claimed 0-100 time is marginally slower at 5.7 seconds, with local allocation capped at 300 units.

Read CarExpert’s review of the 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR here.

Which GTI special edition is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below


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