In some regards, it's hard not to feel a bit sorry for the Golf GTI TCR. The valedictory special for the Mk7 GTI - a very good car in its own right - was meant to draw upon the influence of the tin-top racing car with which it shares its name.
Trouble is, that influence seemed pretty mild - to say the least. And the problems for the TCR as a result were two-fold: this Golf had already delivered as a memorable driver's car, in the form of the Clubsport S, and the hot hatch market is currently fiercely competitive. It finished fourth in our recent group test, never looking to trouble the top spots, as rivals offered more excitement, better value or sharper dynamics. With the Mk8 Golf GTI presumably not far off, the TCR didn't look like the best celebration of the Mk7's success.
Perhaps this might help. The team at sportauto has recorded a spectacular 8:04.97 at the Nurburgring in a TCR. That's on the optional Cup 2 tyre, yes, but that's not a figure to be sniffed at: sportauto has recorded similar times with an original R8 V8 (8:04), a 996 GT3 (8:03), the previous Aston Martin DBS (8:02) and even a Lamborghini Diablo GT, which also needed eight minutes and four seconds to complete the lap back in 2000.
Furthermore, while the Golf hardly requires Diablo-like hustling skills, it's clear that Herr Gebhardt is trying about as hard as he can. Note the huge commitment up through the Foxhole and into Adenauer Forest, using every inch on the run between Kesselchen and Klostertal, doing the same again out of Brunnchen II. There's no doubting the effort and, beyond a little understeer and the DSG's changing up with wheelspin, the Golf looks pretty composed. Impressive.
Now, of course, it would be remiss when talking about Golf Nurburgring lap times without mentioning that Clubsport S. While this TCR puts in an impressive show, it goes to show just how good the CS is that it went 16 seconds quicker with precious little extra power and not a great deal less weight. So the TCR is perhaps more competent than you thought, but the Clubsport S, by experience and by the numbers, indisputably remains the best fast Golf there is. By a margin.