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Volkswagen’s 310-hp Golf GTI is the new king of the ‘Ring

Volkswagen’s iconic Golf GTI hot hatch is turning 40 this year. The Wolfsburg-based car maker is celebrating the milestone by unleashing the most powerful series-produced GTI it has ever built.

Christened GTI Clubsport S, the special-edition model is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that uses a large turbocharger to pump out 310 horsepower, ten ponies more than the vaunted Golf R, and 280 pound-feet of torque from 1,700 all the way up to 5,300 rpm. Unlike the R, the Clubsport S retains the GTI’s front-wheel drive setup. A six-speed manual transmission is the only unit available, and a limited-slip differential helps keep torque steer in check.

Volkswagen has lowered the GTI’s weight to just 2,833 pounds by tossing out the rear bench, the parcel shelf, the floor mats, and most of the sound-deadening material. It has also fitted the S with a smaller battery, as well as numerous aluminum components including the brake covers and the front sub-frame. The diet helps the GTI reach 62 mph from a stop in 5.8 seconds, and go on to a top speed of 162 mph.

The engine is only half of the story. Special brake pads, Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires, an adjustable suspension, and a sport-tuned chassis help keep the Clubsport S on four wheels and pointed in the right direction. Visually, it gains roughly the same body kit as the regular Clubsport model. The cabin is spruced up with a flat-bottomed steering wheel wrapped with Alcantara, and a numbered plaque on the center console that tells the passengers they’re not sitting in a run-of-the-mill GTI.

Volkswagen took the Clubsport S to Germany’s famed Nürburgring track to prove what it’s capable of. The hatchback went around the grueling, 12-mile long track in 7:49, setting a new lap record for production front-wheel drive cars. The previous record of 7:50 was set last year by a Honda Civic Type R prototype.

Read more: Volkswagen takes advantage of new regulations to build a faster Polo rally car

The Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S will go on sale in the fall. Production will be limited to just 400 examples, and no less than 100 of those have been earmarked for the German market. Pricing information hasn’t been published yet, but it’s of little interest to us because Volkswagen spokesman Mark Gillies told Digital Trends that the Clubsport S will only be sold in overseas markets.

Updated 05/04/2016 by Ronan Glon: Added information about US availability.