All-wheel drive, 18″ alloys and LED clusters in the VW Golf R
VW Golf R overview
The VW Golf pretty much defines its class and the Golf is the quintessential hatchback that all buyers of this category will judge the others against. It has just about all that a hatch buyer seeks, and the variety of models in the Golf range satisfy almost everyone. The new Mk7.5 Volkswagen Golf R version is lighter than before and, in its most recent 2017 face lift guise, the Golf offers a huge range of improvements from a new self-driving-in-traffic function to and updated engine and a superior new gearbox.
Traditionally, adding an R badge and all-wheel drive to the Golf made it fast, but also somewhat ponderous to get going, heavy, and altogether not as satisfying at the cheaper, racy GTI. That has all changed with the 2016 Mk7 and the more recent Mk7.5 update.
This four-wheel drive R variant adds better traction and boosts power from VW’s 2.0 TSI petrol engine to 306bhp, which can deliver a 0-62mph time of well under five seconds, as low 4.6 seconds is the claim from VW. And, of course, there’s still all the usual creature comforts you’d associate with a Golf.
The Golf R comes as either a Hatch or as an Estate, the former is obviously the most popular but either version is a wolf in sheep’s clothing with only the discrete R on the back and a serious exhaust giving the game away. The working components remain the same between these two variants, including very little change in performance figures. The only real difference is the obvious body length increase which is some 300mm longer in the Estate, and gives a correspondingly significant increase in boot space.
Because the R Hatchback is no different in dimension or design to any other Golf, there are lots of positives about its interior. There’s plenty of manual height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, and the seats can be adjusted so that even the tallest driver can sit comfortably. Lumbar adjustment is standard for the driver, the pedals line up neatly with the driver’s seat (not always a given for a hatch) and the dashboard is extremely user-friendly.
All Golf Rs get front and rear parking sensors as standard (a rear-view camera is an inexpensive and recommended option), so you’ll have no problems slotting the car into tight parking spaces in town, while the standard LED headlights light up the road brilliantly at night.
An 8.0in high-definition, glass-fronted colour touchscreen is standard. Either side of it are touch-sensitive shortcut buttons allowing you to swop between the main functions, and two knobs: one for volume control and the other for scrolling through lists or zooming in and out of maps on the sat-nav. Upgrading to a 9.2in screen is probably not worth the extra lay out.
Either way, the menus are easy to figure out, so you won’t need to resort to the handbook to connect your phone or create radio station pre-sets. You can also see the sat-nav maps on the excellent 12.3in digital instrument binnacle. This standard feature replaces regular instrument dials and displays lots of useful information right in front of your eyes – where it should be!.
All versions of the Golf R get an eight speaker (four woofers and four tweeters) and a relatively modest 4×20 Watt power output. However, listening to your music is straightforward thanks to a DAB/AM/FM tuner, single CD player, Bluetooth connectivity and a USB connection. You can add the Dynaudio stereo upgrade that includes an eight-channel digital amplifier with a healthy 400 Watt output, now that’s more like it!
The Golf is known for its decent space and this hot R model is no different. Four tall adults will have more than enough head, leg and shoulder room inside, while three small people can sit side by side in the back. The middle passenger’s backrest isn’t especially comfy, though, and there’s a small hump in the floor that they must straddle, although this is no worse than in most rivals but if you are the smallest of three siblings, you know where you are going to sit!.
Snazzy LED interior lights, exterior puddle lights, LED headlights and classy dials add to the Golf’s upmarket feel, while the standard kit tally also includes parking sensors and adaptive cruise control. The driving position in the cabin blends the sporty feel of a hot hatch with the luxury feel of an upmarket executive car. The standard Golf’s dashboard is upgraded by a gloss black centre console and carbon-look decorative trim. Sports seats and aluminium pedals come as standard, while the sporty multifunction wheel and first-rate switchgear make everything you touch feel spot-on.
The Hatchbacks boot is decent but smaller than others in the class. The standard variable boot floor means there’s no lip to lift heavy bags over, while the rear seatbacks can be split 60/40 and folded flat to maintain a smooth surface from boot opening to the front seatbacks. (The Estate, as you would expect, has a huge boot area, particularly with the rear seats down)
The Golf’s boxy design helps with visibility. The large, tall windows mean excellent visibility out of the front and the back, while a good view out of the side means you can see what’s going on at roundabouts and T-junctions.
At the back, you’ll spot LED light clusters and the quad exhausts, which are the biggest giveaway to the R’s performance. The optional 19-inch alloy wheels add an aggressive look and, combined with the 15mm lower ride height, they contribute to the Golf R’s purposeful look.
Engine and Drivetrain
The standard DSG auto gearbox has a clever launch control system that allows even the most ham-fisted driver to make the perfect getaway. Just tap a couple of buttons, press the brake pedal, floor the accelerator, release the brakes and all four tyres claw at the road to slingshot you to 60mph in well under five seconds.
The Golf R’s Mk7.5 automatic gearbox is lightning quick and the new 7 speed automatic is a noticeable improvement on the previous edition where shifts are blink-of-an-eye but sure and solid with the added bonus that you can also take control yourself by using paddles behind the steering wheel.
Even without the expensive Akrapovič sports exhaust system you get a rasping howl on the outside, with a deep bass roar in the interior when the drive mode selector is switched to Race.
Fuel economy is reasonable for such a powerful car, running at about 40.4mpg and CO2 at 163g/km
Perhaps the best thing about the Golf R is that it really makes use of all of its performance. If the front tyres slip, the 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system can send virtually all of the engine’s power to the rear end in a fraction of a second.
There’s loads of grip, traction is excellent and, unlike front-wheel-drive rivals, you won’t find yourself troubling the traction control very often.
Safety and Insurance
Every Golf R comes with a three-year warranty, The Golf managed five stars in its Euro NCAP safety crash testing, and you get the important safety aid of automatic emergency braking as standard. It fits into Insurance Group 34.
Blistering performance, agile handling and rock-solid composure make the Golf R a great hot hatch. On the road, the hatch and estate feel effortless and equally quick, with the added reassurance of all-wheel drive allowing you to exploit all of the available performance.
This really is the definition of what used to be called a “Q-car” – a vehicle that doesn’t draw attention to itself but offers searing pace that will surprise passengers and other road users alike. Beware the Wolf!
If you are interested in a Golf R, contact your friendly Prestige account manager on 01254 916 450 or simply email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, we always have a number of Golf Rs in stock either in the form of the excellent Mk7 or the even better 7.5 and you can find some great examples here which are fantastic value ahead of the anticipated launch of the new Mk8 in 2020.