What is the Volkswagen Golf MK7?

The Golf R is, as most people know, a hugely capable, practical and downright fast hot hatch. However, Volkswagen has seen fit to give it the smallest of upgrades with a new Performance Pack. Accompanied by a £2,300 premium, this extra brings with it additional features designed to make the Golf R even more capable, and even more exciting to drive. The regular R was hardly a soft, sedate hatch to begin with, but do these extras give it just a little more sparkle? Let’s find out.

What’s new?

So, as we mentioned the new Performance Pack brings with it a range of updates designed to breathe a bit more character into the Golf R. For starters the car’s speed limiter has been upped, with the R now topping out at an impressive 166mph. Is this particularly applicable here in the UK? Not particularly. But it does show the true overall power that the car’s engine has.

You also get stylish 19-inch ‘Spielberg’ wheels, which add to the car’s overall looks. However, behind these are where the best additions lie – performance brakes. It’s likely that these will make the biggest difference out of all of the Performance Pack’s features.

What’s under the bonnet?

It seems odd that the Performance Pack doesn’t add any, well, performance – but that’s the case here. The Golf R’s 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine kicks out an impressive 306bhp and 380Nm of torque, combining to send the car rocketing to 60mph in just 4.4 seconds thanks to the car’s all-wheel-drive system. Despite the high power outputs economy figures are respectable, with Volkswagen claiming 39.8mpg on the combined cycle, while emissions are set at 163g/km CO2. We saw around 35mpg during our time with the car, and this was over a mixture of motorway and country driving routes.

Our test car also came with an optional exhaust system. Build by exhaust legends Akrapovič, this all-titanium component may be expensive at £2,975, but the amount of character it adds to the car is absolutely worth it. An option we’d thoroughly recommend.

front view of Volkswagen Golf R driving on a road

What’s it like to drive?

The Performance Pack option may not add anything in the way of brute force to the Golf R, but in truth, it was never really lacking in this respect. There’s traction wherever you want it and in pretty much all conditions. Even in heavy rain or when the road is relatively wet, you can extract more performance from this car than you can with most conventional hot hatches.

The steering doesn’t have to the most amount of feel to it, but it’s accurate and you can place the car easily. The seven-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox fitted to our car shifts crisply too, either on its own or via the steering wheel-mounted paddles. It’s a well-rounded package, though still lacking somewhat in that driver-vehicle connection that you look for in an accomplished hot hatch.

How does it look?

Subtlety is the name of the game when it comes to the Golf R. Yes, those new alloy wheels do add a certain amount of drama to the whole affair, but it’s still very much an under-the-radar type of car. Those after a more out-there styling approach will likely lean towards the Honda Civic Type R. There’s something to be said of a car that can travel this quickly and out-perform so many other vehicles on the road while looking pretty much like a ‘regular’ Golf, however.

The new exhaust system does certainly give the R an air of menace, though. The four enlarged pipes stick out considerably and do help to differentiate this car from the regular R.

acropovic exhaust

What’s it like inside?

The Golf R’s interior is solid, well-built and feels like it’s made to last – but it’s not what you’d call exciting. That’s no bad thing – we can’t fault a car simply for not being exciting enough – but it just leaves you feeling a little cold. However, the basics are done exceptionally well; the seating position is good, with plenty of adjustment while the major controls have a decent amount of weight to them. Even the buttons on the multifunction steering wheel operate with a pleasing amount of solidity.

There’s plenty of room in the cabin too. Those in the back won’t be wanting for head or legroom, and the boot’s plenty big enough for most tasks as well – you’ll find 380 litre with the rear seats in place, rising to 1,233 litres with them folded down. More than enough for a few suitcases, then.

What’s the spec like?

There’s a wealth of equipment fitted to the Golf R as standard, which should mean you don’t have to trouble the options list all that much. Features such as an electronic differential, 12.3-inch infotainment display and full climate control stand out among a variety of other fitments.

Our test car came with a smattering of optional extras, however. Some, such as door mirror housings finished in carbon-fibre may not tickle your fancy that much, but we’d opt for the dynamic chassis control. This, though accompanied by a £850 price tag, allows you to adjust the car’s ride according to one of three settings – Eco, Normal and Race. In whichever mode you pick, however, the Golf R rides impressively well, toeing the line between too hard and too soft impressively so.

side view blue vw golf r interior


The Golf R has never been a car that needed all that more and has always been a well-rounded package. The additions that the Performance Pack bring do add to its appeal somewhat, though features such as a raised top speed and additional alloy wheel design don’t really add too much to the car overall. If it were our choice, we’d stick with the regular R and just add the optional exhaust – it brings the added character the R really needed, without sending its price too far north.

Facts at a glance

  • Model: Volkswagen Golf R Performance
  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol
  • Power (bhp): 306
  • Torque (Nm): 380
  • Max speed (mph): 166
  • 0-60mph: 4.4seconds
  • MPG: 39.8
  • Emissions (g/km): 163



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