2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR first drive: A very hot hatch

Welcome to the world of Touring Car Racing (TCR). The global race series was established in 2015 and, like Formula E, is rapidly becoming recognised as one of the most relevant with 12 TCR championships throughout the world plus TCR-specific classes in endurance races such as the Nürburgring 24 Hours. The main reason for this success? Cost. TCR cars use the same engine and basic chassis architecture as the production cars on which they’re based, and we’re not talking about Ferraris and Lamborghinis here. We’re talking about more humble models like the Audi A3, Honda Civic and Volkswagen Golf.

That’s because to qualify for entry, donor TCR cars must exceed more than 5,000 vehicle sales each year; they must have a maximum engine capacity of 2-litres (although turbocharging is acceptable) and they must weigh less than 1,285kg.

The series also observes what is known as the ‘balance of performance’; a core rule that limits any car’s capability and speed if it’s significantly faster than opponents. Not only does this help keep the racing close and development budgets low, it enables these race cars to have longevity beyond one season and remain competitive in a broad range of disciplines from sprint races to endurance runs.

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR

First impressions

The Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR is the model that won the TCR series in 2017 and, in keeping with the road car changes for 2018, has been updated for the new season. As the regulations dictate, it takes a run-of-the-mill GTI – if you could ever...