If the standard car is a little too tame, the 35 does offer an attractive compromise between the GTI and the four-wheel drive Golf R

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Built to celebrate 35 years of Golf GTI production, the Edition 35 is ours to drive on UK roads for the first time, following our initial impressions in Germany last month.

Power jumps by 25bhp to 232bhp over the standard car, and torque rises by 7 percent, although the 2.0-litre TSI engine is a detuned variant of the unit seen in the Golf and Volkswagen Scirocco R models, rather than an evolution of that found in the current GTI. Apart from a tweaked exhaust actuator, there are no other mechanical changes.

The 35 proves the GTI chassis is more than up to the task of handling the power upgrade

Exterior trim upgrades include black gloss wing mirrors, front splitter and rear diffuser, plus side skirts from the R and new 18in wheels (with a 19in option) in place of the standard car’s 17-inchers.

In the cabin there are ‘35’ embroidered tartan seats (leather and part-leather upholstery are likely to be optional), honeycomb dash inserts, and a retro golf ball-style gear lever in both manual and DSG examples.

Those new design details add a little more aggression to the car’s image, while the various ‘35’ badges contribute a limited edition feel.

The golf ball gearknob reinterpretation is less effective, though, and looks out of place. While the trim is new, the seats share the same well bolstered but softish structure of the normal GTI pews.

In DSG guise, the reworked exhaust yields the characteristic ‘whump’ sound we enjoy from the Scirocco R, though the engine note is generally more purposeful than inspiring, and drones a little at cruising speed.

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While the electric steering still lacks true feel, it is quick and enables you to attack tight corners, while the XDS electronic front differential function does an excellent job of maintaining a tidy arc, despite the extra grunt passing through the wheels. Only under duress in really wet conditions did we break into understeer. Torque steer is also very well regulated, with gentle tugs at the wheel becoming negligible above second gear.

Our car was equipped with the optional adaptive damping system, also noticeably adding steering weight and throttle sensitivity as you move from softest ‘comfort’ mode, through ‘normal’ and into the firmest ‘sport’ mode. The latter provides impressive composure, with taut body control, and even in that setting the rise is surprisingly comfortable.

Although the package still lacks outright involvement, a 25bhp shot in the arm has certainly increased the fun factor.

If the standard car is a little too tame, but you want to retain the engagement that front-wheel drive brings, the 35 does offer an attractive compromise between the GTI (around £2600 cheaper) and the four-wheel drive Golf R (over three grand more expensive).

Economy and emissions suffer a little over the GTI, but are still respectable for a car of this ability, and no worse than those of the Mk5 GTI.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Edition 35 2011-2012 First drives