I had the pleasure of testing the 2016 Golf R last year and it was one of my favorite road tests to date. The screaming banshee of a car blew my socks off in just about every way I thought possible and made me consider becoming an owner when that thought hadn’t previously crossed my mind.
Fast forward one year and My Precious has returned for another test, this time without the beloved manual transmission. Now it was my turn to experience the 6-speed DSG transmission and I have to say it was nowhere near as much fun as the manual. I knew it wouldn’t be as much fun but for some reason my level of disappointment was higher than I expected. The DSG’s rev-matching ability is a treat and coupled with the paddle shifters you can get maximum performance from the 292 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo inline four-cylinder motor. Unfortunately maximum performance doesn’t equal maximum fun so do yourself the favor and get the manual.
Ranting aside, the Golf R is one quick machine. It will push you back into your seat while getting up to 100 km/h in just 5.1 seconds. The quarter mile time is just 13.1 seconds and with a little ECU reprogramming the car can be in the 11s on street tires. Not only does it accelerate fast but handling, traction, agility and braking are just incredible and combine for a seriously wild and confidence-boosting experience. The Golf R has the uprated brakes from the GTI Performance Package model with 13.4-inch diameter vented discs in the front and 12.2-inch rotors in the rear. 4MOTION all-wheel drive means this fun can be had during winter as well. The system uses torque vectoring and can send up to 50% of its power to the rear wheels. Not only that but the system will take into account speed, acceleration and lateral motion to determine exactly how much power will be needed to shift around.
For us Canadians, the vehicle is mostly the same as last year. There is only one package available ($1945) which includes adaptive cruise control, an 8.0″ touchscreen infotainment system, voice control, satellite navigation, two SD card slots, front assist emergency braking, lane keep assist, and park distance control. The standard features list is impressive with 19” wheels, bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED turn signals, keyless entry, push-button start, driving mode selection, leather sport seats and dual-zone climate control.
The interior of the Golf is equipped with front sport seats with 12-way power adjustment for the driver and leather seating surfaces integrated with “R” logo embroidering. A flat-bottom, leather wrapped sport steering wheel integrates a chrome “R” logo on its lower cross bar. The decorative inlays of the dashboard and door trim panels feature the “Carbon Touch” design and ambient lighting is also integrated in the door trim panels as standard. The doorsill kickplates, pedals, and foot support are designed with a stainless-steel look. I still feel that there are a few too many hard plastic dash panels but it’s a race car not a Maybach so this is tolerable. The seats are comfy but firm and work to keep you planted during any hard cornering. Ergonomically I find that the Golf is excellent with all functions easy to use and within reach.
What many people will like about the Golf R is that it’s a bit of a sleeper. Volkswagen fans will be able to pick it out almost immediately thanks to the front, side and rear “R” badging, different grill and quad exhaust tips but to the casual observer you’re just driving a regular Golf. If you’re looking to turn heads with your 40 grand then maybe this isn’t the car for you but if you want to be able to blow the doors off a good majority of the cars at the local drag strip this car is definitely for you.
There has been a bump in price to $42,095 (up from $39,995 last year). I think Volkswagen recognized that a sub $40K MSRP was too much of a steal for their little powerhouse considering the Ford Focus RS is $48,418 and the Subaru WRX STI is $41,260. Keep in mind the Honda Civic Type R is joining this group of performance compacts in short order so if you’re not brand-loyal it may be worth it to give that a try before committing.