This here’s the new Golf R (think of it as the GTI’s madder brother), the hottest production Golf ever to come from the fevered minds over at Volkswagen’s skunkworks, R GmbH.
It comes armed with a 2-litre turbocharged engine similar to the one used on the ‘lesser’ GTI, but in the R’s case, it’s been tuned to produce 280bhp, or 60bhp more. Torque is also up over the GTI – 350Nm versus 380Nm. And it also rests on all-new mechanical underpinnings, along with an improved all-wheel-drive system.
So what does all this car nerd gibberish mean, exactly? It means that the new Golf R has performance that will make you sit up and say “R” (or “AHHHHH”).
Aside from the floor-scraping ride height (it’s 20mm lower than standard Golfs), quad tailpipes, and appropriately racy bodykit, the hottest Golf on sale today doesn’t exactly shout about its performance potential. Against the GTI, which has a garish red stripe bisecting its grille, the R’s silver grille strip and notable lack of bodywork makes it look remarkably subdued. Whether this is a good thing or not is entirely dependent on your point of view.
The surest way of telling the Golf R isn’t your average Golf (if you’re too far away to spot the R badges) is how it’s sporting a pair of LED daytime running lights in each headlight cluster. Lesser Golfs, the GTI included, get just one, or (the horror) none at all.
As with its exterior, the Golf R’s understated interior belies how fast the car can go. Even the glossy black trim strips, R badge on the steering wheel, and R-exclusive Race driving mode (the GTI’s most hardcore mode is Sport) do little to lift the sense of occasion. Of course, being a range-topper, there’s a whole host of goodies as standard, including a touchscreen infotainment system with an 8in screen, and a sat-nav system.
It’s also a good thing the Golf R comes with deep, supportive buckets seats. Otherwise, you’d be sliding all over the place when driving it hard, to say nothing of how silly you’d look with your face plastered on the windows.
Ride the lightning
Yes, the way the Golf R clears its throat on startup and the lovely rumble screams “performance”, but drive it gently and you’ll be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is all about. There’s a lovely float to the proceedings, and it positively glides across even severely scarred tarmac. However, open the throttle and marvel at how the car still has that unruffled cool, and you might also realise the scenery has suddenly become very blurry too. A selection of drive modes also helps to tailor the ride to your current mood.
The Golf R’s motor is, on paper at least, an evolution of the one used in its predecessor, but tweaks courtesy of the mad scientists at R GmbH now sees it develop more power and torque through a broader spread of the rev range. This means not only is it quicker, it feels less strangled when wrung hard.
The bad news? Despite the new Golf R delivering 24bhp, 50Nm and completing the century sprint 0.7 seconds quicker than its predecessor, it's so stable you’d be hard-pressed to feel it unless your bum has an accelerometer hardwired into it. Still, it’s a mighty rapid thing, and with a 0-100km/h time of five seconds dead (not too far off a Porsche 911), anything short of a bona fide supercar will be left wondering where that innocuous-looking hatchback went.
Engine: 1,984cc turbocharged four-cylinder engine
Power: 280hp @ 5700rpm
Torque: 380Nm @ 1750rpm
Acceleration: 5.0s (0-100km/h)
Top Speed: 250km/h (electronically limited)
Fuel Consumption (combined): 14.1km/L
Transmission: 7-speed DCT (A)
Dimensions: 4276 x 1799 x 1436mm
Once more, with fueling
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Golf R is how, in spite of delivering performance comparable to a supercar from a decade or so ago, it can return fuel economy and CO2 emission figures equivalent to a supermini from the same era. The Golf R claims to be able to return 14.1km/L and emits just 164g/km, which isn’t too shabby at all. That’s almost as good as some regular compacts today.
The Golf R is a stupendously good car. Hilariously fast both in a straight line and around corners, the amount of traction it manages to summon boggles the mind. The bad news is, it might be a victim of its own success – the absence of dramatics might come off as boring. But the good thing is, it makes drivers of all abilities look like heroes, and if it can flatter even folks like us, we’d take boring any day.
This review first appeared in the June issue of Stuff Singapore. Pick up a copy every month to get them hot off the press!