Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR review
The Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR is the quickest GTI you can buy, but loses none of the standard car’s excellent everyday usability. It’s more engaging to drive than the Golf R, but also slower
What's not so good
Find out more about the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
The Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR takes its name from VW’s Golf TCR race car and, fittingly, is the most powerful Golf GTI Volkswagen currently builds. Question is, would you choose it over a Golf R?
If you yearn for a GTI that’s got the race track cache of a special from Renault or Honda, then reach for your wallet – the TCR is as close as VW currently gets.
It has unique 18-inch forged alloy wheels, a ground-hugging front bumper, a rear diffuser, a boot mounted rear spoiler and subtle TCR stickers ahead of its rear wheels. Or, forget about subtle and spend £550 to add honeycomb decals that stretch from the front to the rear doors.
Inside, the TCR is more sedate, the only changes handed to it being a more dynamic take on VW’s classic GTI tartan seat upholstery (leather is optional) and a perforated leather steering wheel with a red centre stripe. There’s the same practical boot and great space for four adults onboard, too, and you get a lovely driving position with lots of adjustment at the seat and steering wheel.
As you’d expect of a Golf, the TCR’s cabin has more high-quality plastics than most cars this size and the logical design of the dashboard spills over into the infotainment system. It’s as intuitive to use as you could hope for, doesn’t suffer from lag and has clear graphics. You even get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay thrown in for good measure.
More significant changes have been made under the bonnet where the TCR’s 290hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is the most powerful motor fitted to a new GTI. You also get a pair of extra radiators to help keep the engine cool and a high-performance braking system with drilled and ventilated front discs.
Get the full decals and your TCR will look like its been dipped in super glue and then ram raided through Halfords front window.
Hit the road and the TCR’s standard electrically-locking mechanical differential picks up where the four-wheel drive system (you would have got if you bought a Golf R) left off.
Even on slippery roads, it gives you a surprising amount of grip at the front wheels, allowing you to swing the car’s nimble rear end into corners, before clawing your way out the other side by simply flooring the throttle.
It’s a fun car to throw around a familiar B-road even if it never feels as secure as the Golf R or as nailed-to-corners as a Honda Civic Type R.
That being said, the Golf is quicker in a straight line, shuffling a 5.6 second 0-62mph time just below the 5.7 second time posted by the Honda. But it’s the surge you get from low down in its rev range that makes VW such an easy car to drive quickly.
In fact, the Golf’s just an easy car full stop. Even on the optional 19-inch alloys with the suspension in it’s firmest setting, the TCR can take the edge of terrible roads. Its steering is direct but also light enough in town and the twin-clutch gearbox that zaps through its gears when you want it to, also changes very smoothly when you’re just cruising along.
Which all sounds very familiar. Very Golf R. And ultimately it’s the R you should choose if you’re looking for the most polished all-rounder. But if you fancy a Golf that’ll turn more heads and serve up a more rewarding drive, your best bet is this TCR.