Dismiss the Edition 35 as a cynical marketing ploy at your peril. Although a price hike of £2,200 over the standard GTI will be too much for some customers to swallow, this car is even more fun to drive. The subtle badges and slightly modified bodywork are barely noticeable, but the extra 25bhp makes more of a difference than you’d expect, without affecting the handling. On the downside, it’s a shame that black leather is the only seat trim on offer; we’d like to see the traditional tartan cloth seats. And opt for the manual gearbox, not the DSG, to add an extra layer of involvement.
To celebrate the Golf GTI’s 35th birthday, VW has given the current car a new lease of life. The Golf GTI Edition 35 is designed to sit neatly between the standard 207bhp GTI and the 266bhp four-wheel-drive Golf R, and is an enticing proposition – and this is the first time we’ve driven a right-hand-drive version on UK roads.
The Edition 35 is something of a hybrid, combining a detuned 232bhp version of the Golf R’s older 2.0-litre turbo with the front-wheel-drive layout from the GTI. It’s also the most powerful model ever to wear the GTI badge.
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The special edition gets plaques with the ‘35’ logo on the door sills, unique 18-inch alloys finished in Dark Steel and logos embossed into the headrests of the leather sports seats. There’s also a red stripe on the seatbelts and a golf ball gearlever.
Deeper side sills and a revised front bumper give the bodywork some extra muscle, but it’s not until you find a quiet, straight road that you really notice the changes. On full throttle, the acceleration feels familiar up to 4,000rpm, but beyond that it takes on a more savage character. In terms of raw pace, it feels closer to the R than the GTI.
In corners, it steers, grips and resists body roll beautifully, while the ride is firm but not crashy. The big surprise is the negligible torque steer, despite the power being sent to the front tyres.
Our only quibble is with the DSG box, which fires home the gears quickly and smoothly in manual mode, but is jerky and ponderous as an automatic. We’d pocket the £585 difference and stick with the manual.
Better news is that, from the driver’s seat, it’s hard to fault the build quality and functionality of the cabin, even if the combination of black leather and dash feels a bit dark.
These problems aside, though, the Edition 35 is every bit as sweet to drive as the normal car, and offers something extra when you up the pace.
You can even order it as a more practical five-door, and there’s no rush to get your deposit down, either – VW hasn’t placed a restriction on how many it will build.