Volkswagen Golf R Review
The VW Golf R is a hot hatch with attitude. It’s powered by the same engine that’s fitted to the Golf Clubsport S which holds the Nurburgring record for fastest front-wheel drive car. Enough said?
- Blistering pace and driving dynamics, plus all-wheel drive
- Styling matches its performance
- Available with three or five doors
- Could be too hot to handle
- Quite noisy at higher speeds
The VW Golf R is not for the faint-hearted. Billed by VW as the ‘ultimate performer’ with sheer unadulterated power, it is driven by a 2.0-litre 310PS TSI petrol engine and can blast its way to 62mph from a standing start in just 5.1 seconds meaning it’s awesome performance and handling capabilities are guaranteed to put a smile on any driving enthusiast’s face.
It is available in three or five-door guise and with the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed DSG automatic transmission. And the 4MOTION all-wheel drive means the car stays firmly planted no matter how hard it’s pushed. There is also an estate version priced from £35,840.
The Golf R stands out from the crowd thanks to uniquely shaped bumpers, a rear roof spoiler, side sills, a grille with matt chrome strip, black brake calipers, four tailpipes, along with distinctive ‘R’ badging inside and out.
On the Road
We tested the five-door Golf R 2.0 TSI 310PS 4MOTION model with six-speed manual gearbox and it certainly lived up to its reputation as being VW’s hottest performance hatch. The acceleration is blisteringly quick as it sprints from 0 to 62mph in 5.1 seconds maxing out at 155mph. If those times are not quite appealing enough then the DSG version might be better suited with its launch control feature that takes half a second of the 0-62mph dash.
The Golf R is guaranteed to turn heads thanks to its dynamic styling but it’s behind the wheel that the fun really begins. The acceleration seems effortless as the car accelerates swiftly through the gears and the benefit of all-wheel drive means there is always plenty of grip. Should the front wheels begin to slip then the Golf’s 4MOTION system directs all the engine’s power to the rear in in the blink of an eye and full control is quickly restored.
VW has increased the power output in the latest Golf R from 300PS to 310PS (just like the Golf Clubsport S) and that makes it the joint most powerful Golf made to date and the most potent on offer currently.
The great thing about the Golf R is that it can offer the best of both worlds (if you’re prepared to pay the hefty asking price of course). Driven in a composed manner at lower speeds, it behaves in a very suitable and somewhat adult manner. The engine tone becomes less raucous and the ride also feels more sophisticated. In this mode the car is similar to a well-behaved teenager, but it’s itching to show off its delinquent side.
So, when unleashed on the open road, the character changes dramatically. It’s hard not to drive the Golf R in an ‘enthusiastic’ manner. The steering is precise with ample driver feedback and the gear shifting rapid.
The car sits 5mm lower than its stablemate the Golf GTI and that becomes more evident when travelling at speed when noise levels within the cabin are amplified. The suspension is firm so expect to feel a few bumps and dips along the way, but it’s by no means a bone rattler.
The car also features VW’s driver profile system which allows you to alter the throttle and steering responses by switching through the varied modes called Eco, Normal, Race or Individual.
The VW Golf R is beautifully constructed and the interior features a raft of elegant styling traits. The three-spoke steering wheel and sports seats proudly boast the R logo and there are carbon fibre and piano-black decorative inserts in the dash and door panels. Also look out for a unique R instrument cluster and gear lever knob, stainless steel sports pedals along with a generous amount of on-board technology and infotainment features.
The Golf R has the same dimensions as any other Golf so all occupants are treated to exemplary levels of comfort with lots of light flooding into the cabin.
But it’s worth remembering that the Golf R is a performance hatchback so peace, quiet and refinement are not that high on a buyer’s priority list. With that in mind the four tailpipes can emit quit a rasping, growling pitch. Switch into Race mode and it’s like feeding time in the Serengeti. However, if you want to stay on speaking terms with your neighbours, volume levels can be dropped to a gentle rumble in other driving modes.
In the car
VW always produces models that are well thought out with great ergonomics and the Golf R is no exception. From a driver’s point of view there is plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment available to find the best position and the layout is driver-focused with all controls and instrumentation perfectly placed for ease of use. The large windows are a bonus too as they help deliver excellent all-round visibility.
The infotainment system is elegant and modern in its design with a smart touchscreen and the likes of gesture control. There is an easily-programmable sat nav system, full smartphone link-up that creates a Wi-Fi hotspot for up-to-the-minute traffic reports, fuel price information and other useful prompts.
In addition, there is a great sound system should you want to drown out the raspy exhaust tone.
Despite its hot hatch performance capabilities, the Golf R doubles up as an everyday model that can be used for family breaks. The five-door test car offered plenty of leg, head and shoulder space for a couple of rear adult passengers (three for a short journey) and the boot is also generously sized with a capacity that is the envy of rival manufacturers. It can swallow 343 litres of kit – a volume that increases to 1,233 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
The boot also has a wide opening which is a bonus for anyone who wants to take their Golf to the golf course laden with clubs and trolleys etc.
Door pockets, a practical glovebox, cup holders and convenient trays complete the on-board storage options.
The test car was priced at £33,505 but as with most VWs there were some options fitted and that meant the price-tag rose to £37,720. However, that was for the five-door version with the most powerful engine. The R line-up starts from £32,850.
The Golf R could deliver combined fuel economy of 37.7mpg with carbon emissions of 180g/km and that would translate into a Vehicle Excise Duty cost of £800 for the first year which is reduced to £140 after that.
The insurance group rating for the car is 34.
As the advertising campaign often reminds us there are few cars that boast such a solid build quality as the VW line-up and that’s true of the Golf R too.
The Golf is now in its seventh generation and in 2017 was the second biggest-selling vehicle in the UK with 74,600 units. Over the decades the car has built a good reputation for reliability and the Golf R uses proven parts and components so shouldn’t pose any problems. The materials are upmarket and will show little sign of ageing and all the switchgear is made of sturdy stuff so should also survive the test of time.
All Golf R models are sold with a three year/60,000-mile warranty.
The Golf R gets the same maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating as its Golf siblings and features a number of airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes, a driver alert system and adaptive cruise control.
There is a Front Assist system that monitors the traffic situation in front of your car, warning you visually and audibly if you get too close and even applying the brakes if necessary.
The Golf R is also equipped with an alarm and engine immobiliser to keep any uninvited attention at bay.