Remember how excited we were last year, when Volkswagen finally released the Golf GTI Performance Pack on local shores? Here we had a GTI with all the easy-driving user-friendliness of the normal version, but with the added dynamic abilities afforded by the standard inclusion of adaptive dampers, upgraded brakes and a brilliant electronically-controlled limited-slip differential to help the car around corners with awe-inspiring confidence.

Remember how excited we were last year, when Volkswagen finally released the Golf GTI Performance Pack on local shores? Here we had a GTI with all the easy-driving user-friendliness of the normal version, but with the added dynamic abilities afforded by the standard inclusion of adaptive dampers, upgraded brakes and a brilliant electronically-controlled limited-slip differential to help the car around corners with awe-inspiring confidence.

The Performance Pack (PP) completed the GTI's package, finessed it with entertaining yet forgiving handling, and created our favourite hot hatch of 2015. But just when we thought that we had finally reached GTI Nirvana, along came another new, even hotter version of this iconic hot hatch: the most powerful series-production GTI in history, as well as one of the most exclusive variants to ever reach our shores.

See, the GTI has been around for 40 years in Europe, and to celebrate, Volkswagen decided to give themselves a little birthday present. They started with a GTI PP, turned up the heat from the engine bay, and fettled its cosmetics to create the GTI Clubsport (also known as the Edition 40 in Europe). That all sounds brilliant enough, but there's actually a little bit more to this story than just a PP with extra power, right down to quite a few plot twists.

First the good stuff. When Volkswagen decides to spoil themselves, they do it properly. “Extra power” could easily have meant, say, only an adding 10 kW or so (like the barely noticeable 7 kW difference between a normal GTI and a PP), but not this time. Output figures jump from a sturdy 169 kW (in the PP) to a naughty 195 kW, even though the torque stays pegged at 350 Nm. 26 extra kilowatt certainly isn't to be sneezed at, but the engineers didn't stop there either. From third gear onward, squashing the accelerator pedal into the carpet activates an overboost function for 10 seconds at a time, bumping the peak power to a Golf R-beating 213 kW, and upping the peak torque to 380 Nm.

As a result of all this extra shove, the 0-100 km/h sprint time drops by half a second to only 5.9 seconds, and the top speed increases to 249 km/h (up from 246 in the PP). All this from a road-legal, unmodified Golf... However, it soon becomes clear why you can't have overboost in the first two gears: at the sight of any surface irregularities or the slightest sign of dampness, the front tyres give up their fight for traction and erupt into rather un-gentlemanly wheelspin. It's not dangerous by any means (especially not if you keep the stability control switched on), but it does highlight the downside of sending that much power to the front wheels.

It's unlikely that the GTI Clubsport was really intended to be a robot-to-robot racer though, for it really comes into its own at higher speeds. Floor the throttle above about 110 km/h, and you really feel the profound effect of the added oomph. It accelerates with apparently boundless energy, picking up speed with an enthusiasm which will land your backside in jail quicker than you can say: “Do you want a Coke with that KFC, officer?” Oh yes, the Clubsport's power boost is genuinely obvious when the road opens up.

Good thing that the GTI is so sure-footed, then. At no point (apart from the aforementioned wet or uneven surfaces) does it raise a sweat when you deploy the power; and when the time comes to shed some speed, the brakes (unchanged from the PP's already-upgraded items) are more than up to the task of slowing down the proceedings. Twisty roads are dealt with in a similarly fuss-free manner, because that magical limited-slip differential and firmer suspension keeps the Clubsport planted and controllable, and adds its own measure of agility and controllability. You'd imagine that a front wheel driven car with this much power would push its nose wide in dreary understeer, yet the GTI Clubsport hangs on with iron resolve and simply goes exactly where you point it – just like the normal GTI PP does, in fact.

Much emphasis is placed on the GTI Clubsport's enhanced aerodynamics as well. Starting at the front, there's a new bumper with an integrated splitter underneath (the latter is finished in a rather fetching gloss black), while the rear end is adorned with a new double-decker tailgate spoiler, with a diffuser (again in gloss black) framing the beefier exhaust tailpieces. It not only looks good, but is also claimed to add aerodynamic downforce at speed. The effect of these add-ons are difficult to detect on the road, though – but it's not like the normal GTI PP is exactly an unruly handful in any case. And in case these aero bits aren't enough to mark the Clubsport as a very special Golf, there are some big stickers applied down its flanks to remind everybody of the fact.

So it appears as though the GTI Clubsport is an all-round improvement on the GTI PP from which it is developed, but there's a slight downside hidden in the specification sheet as well. Part of the standard GTI PP package is an adaptive chassis system(ACC), which allows the driver to select varying levels of stiffness for the computer-controlled dampers. The Clubsport doesn't feature ACC as standard equipment, and returns it to the options sheet. It's a strange omission, especially considering that the Clubsport costs about R40 000 more than the PP.

With its list price of R544 740 (before options), the GTI Clubsport resides in the middle of the performance Golf range, slotting in about midway between the GTI PP and the all wheel drive Golf R. Sure, the Clubsport is quite expensive, but with limited production numbers (it will only be available until the end of 2016), exclusivity is pretty much guaranteed. While the extra power and upgraded cosmetic bits are certainly welcome, they don't really add as much to the experience on offer from the GTI PP as you'd imagine.

The smart money will probably still go to its slightly less well-endowed sibling, but die-hard GTI enthusiasts and collectors will still grab every Clubsport they can lay their hands upon. It is after all still the most powerful, most exclusive GTI to date, and to the right buyer, that will be all that matters.