Just a few models ago, Volkswagen was criticized because the iconic Golf GTI had gone ‘soft’. Now fast-forward to today and the Golf is again delivers sone of the world’s best hot-hatches with a racy lineup that includes not only the GTI but also the new GTD and R models.
There’s not a dud in that range and clearly, with turbocharged four-cylinder models now in the global spotlight for their combination of rip-snorting performance and commendable fuel economy, Volkswagen has teed-up for a stunning round of Golf.
Volkswagen Golf R Overview
As the replacement for the acclaimed 3.2-litre, six-cylinder R32 model, the new Volkswagen Golf R is at the top of the Golf totem pole – the high-performance leader of the Golf Club. With 188kW, the Volkswagen Golf R is the most powerful of the current lineup.
Available in both three and five-door models, the Volkswagen Golf R is priced from $48,490 for the six-speed manual three-door. Our test vehicle was fitted with the optional six-speed DSG automatic.
With Volkswagen’s 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system and optional Adaptive Chassis Control, the Volkswagen Golf R is a high-tech, current generation high performance vehicle - like Subaru’s Impreza WRX and Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution. Where the Golf R scores are its beautiful European interior style and Volkswagen’s legendary build quality.
Volkswagen Golf R Engine
In eclipsing the R32 as the Volkswagen Golf performance leader, the Golf R had some big shoes to fill. Volkswagen opted for the turbocharged four-cylinder route because of reduced fuel consumption and emissions.
The Volkswagen Golf R delivers 188kW of power at 6000rpm and peak torque of 330Nm from 2400rpm. With the DSG twin-clutch automatic, the Volkswagen Golf R sprints from zero to 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds.
But the telling stats, from Volkswagen’s point of view are fuel consumption (8.7l/100kms for the Golf R versus 10.9l/100kms for the V6 R32) and emissions (197g/km for the Golf R versus 259g/km for the R32).
Compared to the 155kW/280Nm 2.0-litre turbo engine fitted to the Golf GTI, the Volkswagen Golf R boasts a reinforced block and stronger conrods to handle the extra boost (up to 1.2 bar in the Volkswagen Golf R). The Golf R also gains a twin tailpipe exhaust system acoustically tuned to provide the appropriate audio for performance car enthusiasts.
For the Volkswagen Golf R, the 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system features an electric oil pump to deliver constant pressure (previously the system was activated when a difference between front and rear axle speeds was detected). Under heavy load, almost 100 per cent of the drive can be transmitted to the rear wheels.
Volkswagen Golf R The Interior
The German giant has delivered a masterpiece for the interior style of the Volkswagen Golf R. With subtle ‘R’ logos (Volkswagen’s race division) in all the right places and the beautifully shaped, figure-hugging sports seats trimmed in contrasting grey/black cloth and leather, the Volkswagen Golf R successfully combines high performance and luxury…as you would expect from the Golf range-topper.
Electronic adjustment for the drivers’ seat is optional, but nevertheless, the combination of height adjustment for the drivers’ seat and rake/reach adjustment for the superb leather-wrapped, ‘D’-shaped sports steering wheel delivers a top-notch driving position. Instrumentation is the usual high-standard and conservative Volkswagen gauges (a 300km/h speedo and red needles for the Volkswagen Golf R) with the large format multi-function display (which includes the display for Volkswagen’s Optical Parking System) mounted center dashboard.
Audio is a MP3 compatible six-CD system with AUX input. Satellite navigation Bluetooth and a reversing camera are optional.
Alloy pedals and trim finishes highlight the superb European-look interior in the Volkswagen Golf R.
Rear seat accommodation is on-par with other sporty hatchbacks. Luggage space ranges from 275-litres with all seats in place to 1230-litres with the 60/40-split rear seat folded.
Volkswagen Golf R Exterior & Styling
While the Volkswagen Golf R is free of the massive wings that adorn the Lancer Evolution and Impreza WRX, it still exudes a raucous, racy look – but in a subtle, European way.
Immediately obvious are the massive 18-inch, five-spoke ‘Talladega’ alloy wheels, which fill the wheel arches. Behind are black brake calipers with the Volkswagen ‘R’ logo.
At the front, the grille and three large air intakes are painted in high-gloss black. Daytime running lights and the Bi-Xenon headlights (with dynamic cornering lights) also distinguish the Volkswagen Golf R from other Golf models.
There are side skirts and the rear features unique taillights, the twin tailpipes, a diffuser and roof spoiler.
Volkswagen Golf R On The Road
The Volkswagen Golf R maintains the familiar MacPherson strut front/independent rear suspension but features stiffer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars as well as a 25mm lower ride height. Optional Adaptive Chassis Control provides three driver-selectable settings for the dampers – ‘normal’, ‘comfort’ and ‘sport’.
Much like Audi’s A3 Sportback, the turbo 2.0-litre at work is a beautiful noise, highlighted by noticeable ‘pops’ as the DSG swaps cogs. Volkswagen’s twin-clutch self-shifter is an engineering masterpiece and regardless of whether you change gears yourself via the paddle-shifters or let the gearbox do the work, changes are rapid with none of the delay your sometimes find in rival transmissions.
Over our high-speed mountain roads loops, the all-wheel-drive Volkswagen Golf R was every bit as rapid and enjoyable as the Impreza WRX or Lancer Evolution. Chassis balance and poise was superb in both fast and slow corners.
In the city environment, the Volkswagen Golf R seemed as docile as one of its more mundane siblings – albeit with the scintillating 188kw/350Nm turbo 2.0-litre instantaneously available for rapid acceleration. Sure the ride was a tad firm over Melbourne’s train and tram track crossings – not unpleasant and just as you expect from a high performance European car.
Volkswagen Golf R Challenges
We only deduct points from the Volkswagen Golf R for its power steering, which was occasionally lacking in feel over our high-speed loops.
Volkswagen Golf R Verdict
By any measure, the Volkswagen Golf R is a brilliant high-performance package. We loved the R32 Golf, but we have to admit, its replacement is better – the chassis more balanced and the turbo 2.0-litre more responsive.
Volkswagen Golf R Competition
To be honest, the Volkswagen Golf R delivers a better value proposition than its more-pricey cousin the Audi A3 Sportback.
And while the Subaru Impreza WRX undercuts the Golf R, you’ll need more coin to step-up to the STI or Spec R versions.
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is also more expensive but – like the Subaru – delivers a more ‘in-your-face’ presence on the road that the subtle, European looks of the racy Volkswagen Golf R.
Volkswagen Golf R Likes:
Sharp price; beautiful interior; top-shelf high performance driving dynamics
Volkswagen Golf R Dislikes:
Power steering lacks feel at high speed