When it comes to performance models, there are few which are held in quite such high esteem as Volkswagen’s all-conquering Golf R. The previous-generation was arguably the most successful to date, bringing all-wheel-drive capability to the masses.
Now, there’s a new one. Underpinned by a new platform being used on the latest eight-generation Golf, it promises to be the most capable yet. Let’s dive in and find out what it’s like.
As we’ve already mentioned, the Golf R sits on a brand-new platform which also sits under the standard Golf. As a result, the interior of the R is more spacious than ever before, with clever packaging ensuring that cabin occupants have got enough room to stretch out.
There are also large sports seats up front for better support, while carbon-fibre-effect panels have been used throughout the cabin for a go-faster feel. It’s an interior which is dominated by screen and displays, but we’ll look at those in a little more detail later on.
Though the exterior of the R is new, it’s still recognisable as one of Volkswagen’s performance models. The hallmarks - like a quad exhaust system - remain while standard-fit 18-inch alloy wheels give the car plenty of presence. There are also chrome mirror housings - another trademark feature found on the previous Golf R - while the car’s ride height has been dropped by 20mm over the standard car.
Drivers also have the option to upgrade those wheels to larger 19-inch versions, while semi-slick track tyres can be fitted too.
As we mentioned earlier, the interior of the Golf R is absolutely jam-packed with tech. It’s based around a 10-inch infotainment system which uses Volkswagen’s latest software, and it’s here where you’ll access all primary media functions, as well as controls for your phone and - in this button-less new world - the heating and ventilation controls.
It’s backed up by a large digital cockpit screen which sits ahead of the driver. The readout features plenty of customisation options and you’ll be able to relay all sorts of information through it. Not only speed and revs, but satellite navigation readouts and media settings.
Here’s where the Golf R really gets into its stride. It’s powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a massive 316bhp. Driven to all four wheels through a DSG automatic gearbox, it means that the R can go from 0-60mph in just 4.7 seconds before hitting a top speed of 155mph (increasing to 168 mph with the optional R-Performance pack).
Volkswagen has also equipped the Golf R with a clever all-wheel-drive system which can actively distribute torque through either axle in order to deliver the most grip. A new ‘Drift’ mode can put all of the engine’s power to the rear wheels, too, for an even more exciting driving experience.
What is it?
The new Volkswagen Golf R arrives with a rather fearsome reputation to uphold. The older car made a name for itself as an all-weather monster, delivering huge performance no matter what the conditions. This latest car, based on the new eighth-generation Golf, looks to do the same, increasing both performance and in-car technology too.
But the question is, can it achieve this? We’ve been behind the wheel to find out.
Volkswagen has reworked many crucial aspects of the new Golf R while retaining some of the aspects which attracted people to the previous-generation car in the first place. For instance, the engine has received tweaks to boost power - though we’ll look at this in more detail shortly - yet the car’s useable, five-door bodystyle has been kept the same.
The interior is far more tech-heavy than before, too, while the exterior styling has a more futuristic look.
What’s under the bonnet?
The new Golf R uses fundamentally the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that you’d find in its predecessor, but some tweaks and revisions have increased power to 316bhp while torque stands at a healthy 420Nm. Power is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox.
Volkswagen claims that it’ll take just 4.5 seconds for the R to go from 0-60mph before hitting a top speed of 155mph. Meanwhile, when it comes to efficiency, the Golf R should return up to 36.2mpg and records CO2 emissions of 177g/km.
What’s it like to drive?
The Golf R’s acceleration is one of the things you notice first when driving the car. It feels far, far quicker than the official figures suggest and you’re able to put the power down even when it’s wet underfoot. The all-wheel-drive system also helps to give plenty of traction in the corners, while a new torque vectoring system takes this even further.
It’s a superbly easy car to drive, in fact, and means that anyone - regardless of experience - will be able to get the best from it.
How does it look?
The understated look of the previous Golf R has been carried over to this latest generation, with only the car’s now recognisable four-exit exhaust pipe showcasing this car’s performance. However, apart from this, it looks largely ‘normal’,
That said, if you’d like your R to look a little more flamboyant, then you can add the ‘Performance Pack’, which brings a larger wing and bigger alloys.
What’s it like inside?
We’ve already experienced the regular Golf’s technology-laden interior, so it’ll come as no surprise that the cabin in the R is much the same. There are a variety of blue accents applied throughout it, however, alongside more sporty, figure-hugging seats. We’d like there to be a little more flamboyance, in truth, but the general fit-and-finish is good while the material quality is excellent too.
When it comes to boot space, the R ticks the boxes again. With the rear seats in place, you’ve got 374 litres to play with, while the boot’s square opening will make loading larger items a little easier. You can, of course, extend the boot further by lowering the rear seats.
What’s the spec like?
The R, as the range-topping Golf model, boasts a comprehensive range of standard equipment. Highlights include Volkswagen’s digital cockpit with configurable dials, a 10-inch infotainment screen incorporating both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Matrix LED headlights.
We’d recommend choosing the Dynamic Chassis Control option, however. It allows you to soften off the car’s ride and makes it well-suited to the UK’s roads. At £300, it doesn’t break the bank either.
Replacing an icon was never going to be easy, but it would appear that Volkswagen has done just that with its latest Golf R. It’s stupendously fast, but composed and easy to live with on a daily basis, making it the ideal performance hatchback.
It might not be a car that bristles with feedback, but as a car that’ll add a bit of sparkle to even the dreariest of drives, it’s hard to beat.