Quick and mature, in the Volkswagen Golf hierarchy, the Golf R sits above the GTI. In 2004, the first R Golf, the R32, appeared in the United States and featured a narrow-angle V-6 3.2-liter. In the sixth generation, the name changed to Golf R when it lost the silky six in favor of a high-output, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. The R treatment is now received by the forthcoming eighth-generation Golf. The only Golf models sold in the U.S. will be this and the GTI. In Germany, we drove the latest R, where it will soon go on sale, but Americans will have to wait until the third quarter of 2021 to see it here.
Now, 315 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque are produced by the familiar turbocharged 2.0-liter four, up from 288 horsepower and 280 pound-feet. With the automatic dual-clutch, plan to see 60-mph in the low-to mid-fours periods. The six-speed manual transmission, which will only be available in North America, will be chosen by true believers. With the manual clipping a 4.8-second time, the quickest previous generation dual-clutch Golf R we checked reached 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The power delivery of the turbo four is not explosive, but it is reliably powerful and relentless, and turbo lag is barely noticeable.
The dual-clutch automatic transmission is able to get into the highest gear in regular mode to save power. Move to race mode and the transmission is violent, downshifting to redline under braking and holding gears. Like the GTI, the actual sound of the engine is intensified and fed into the cabin by a diaphragm attached to the intake. If you want to mute it, the sound is good and customizable. A fast release of the accelerator leads from the exhaust to a delightfully boisterous crackle.
The frame and all-wheel drive of the Golf R are supremely capable of adding power to the lane. The turn-in is accurate and sharp, and the handling up to the lofty limits is neutral. The optional Performance Kit that adds two extra drive modes that we thoroughly enjoyed was fitted with our German-specs car. The special mode is designed to meet the unique specifications of the Nürburgring-Nordschleife and is a perfect environment for any back lane. It sharpens the throttle, livens up the reactions of the gearbox, but dials back the adaptive dampers’ hostility. A Drift mode, which sets up the all-wheel-drive system and stability control to allow some wonderful oversteer, is the second mode. You can also completely turn off the stability control.
The new Golf only comes as a four-door, and the redesign is evolutionary, as we’ve already seen. The shape is really realistic. There is enough space for front and rear passengers, and the cargo room is SUV-like. The interior demonstrates a significant change over the previous century. The engineers and designers of VW have succeeded in covering their cost-cutting, and the transparent surfaces still appear better than most rivals of the Golf. The driver is surrounded by optical instruments and capacitive switches that are determinedly futuristic. Hopefully, in manual models, VW can set the pedals correctly. We recently drove a six-speed GTI that had a brake-pedal position that practically made heel-and-toe downshifts difficult.
With the practicality of a hatch and the soul of a sports car, the Golf R continues to be a sophisticated compact car. The Golf R remains a Subaru WRX STI and Civic Style R rival, as with the previous generation, but in a mature nature, it provides more everyday refinement.What the Golf R gives up in track-day fun it more than makes up for on your commute.