CAR REVIEW | Volkswagen Golf R (2017)22nd June 2017
VW Golf R | ★★★★
It might not be the best GTi out there but the Golf GTi does all things to all men and it is where manufacturers set the benchmark. So when you make the most emulated GTi out there, what do you do?
What you do is not redeveloped your current GTi and make it the best, instead you make another GTi and call it the R. For £32,110 as tested, you also make it compellingly cheap compared to the current GTi at just £4000 more.
Let’s get the basic stuff out of the way first. Inside the Golf R it is all very much as the rest of the Golf range. It’s an ergonomic delight and everything feels built to last. Now though in the relaunched Mk7 we have new larger infotainment screen and adaptive dials too. The quality of fittings, while not all improved have had some VW engineering work carried out on them. It has moved Golf up higher in quality feel over its rivals.
Everything is to hand. The dials are easy to read and with the new active info display graphics, it’s still as easy to read but this time you are given extras. The ability to allow the sat nav display within the fascia is a keen selling point for me. It allows split second glances and all the information you require is there. This is also true for the speed you are travelling at. In the Golf R it is something you need to keep a keen eye on. The display itself has 4 user settings. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing with a shared car. Sometimes you want to keep your driving styles when alone a secret.
In the R model, we are treated to supportive seats with cloth inserts. I find cloth a much better option to have in view of leather being a bit slippery on hard cornering. In the Golf R you don’t want a loss of traction between your bottom and the seat when the cornering G’s are rising fast!
There are little touches around the cabin to remind you that you are in the R model. Little touches that make it very distinctive. These also stretch outside too with blue being the colour choice instead of the GTi’s red that blends into the headlights.
Back to the nitty gritty and £4000 of anyone’s money sounds a lot and if truth be told, the Golf range with any street cred isn’t cheap these days. You can get all the fun of having a Golf GTi with the £10,000 cheaper GT. What you don’t get though is a Golf R.
The Golf R is a serious road warrior. I opted for the longer test route VW had set out during the relaunch of Golf 7. There were a few moments where l had to slow up the fun for the head rush was something else. The magic of the Golf R is that it does all this while also retaining a sense of normality. I’m not sure how Volkswagen has managed this but it is deep within the DNA of Golf.
The GTi we tested had this ability to be humble to its basic principle and then a savage monster. It’s just that in the Golf R it is, even more savage when you want it to and it sounds it too.
Now don’t think that being 4 wheel drive makes this an agricultural tractor. Remember the VW group have an enviable developments history with all-wheel drive systems. The 4 motion 4 wheel drive system adds about 119kg in weight and it doesn’t hinder its go fast forward motion. I’d go as far to say that the extra weight in the rear from the differential makes it a far more balanced chassis.
With this in mind, the Gold R really can handle the power And that power is increased from the GTi’s 230 PS to 310 PS. That’s not just a bit more power but a bloody bucket full of moist making power.
There is also no penalty either. While all this fun comes in at higher up the rev range, the pulling power of torque comes in much lower and lasts for what feels like it will never end starting from a lowly 2000 to 5400 rpm. It does it quickly but it has almost 1000 rpm more of a power band over the GTi to make it so worth while. 0-60 time is also smashed to just over 5 seconds. Remember then that this is all in a 5 door family hatchback! Or a 3 door hatchback and now in a very practical load-lugging estate!
So as you can see then I am taken by the Golf R and that extra £4k is making sense. And it does. It’s blisteringly quick. Will put a MASSIVE smile on your face and then it will settle back to do the daily commute and sit in traffic like butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth.
Would I have one? It’s a difficult six million dollar question but the answer is no. I’ll keep my £4k and go with the GTi. It’s less frenetic when it needs to be but also feels more in keeping with being a hot hatch. Somehow the Golf R with its 4 wheel drive and beautiful weight distribution just feels like I am cheating a bit.
Ability to drive like a bat out of hell or a commuter car
Practical hatchback or estate
Not enough exterior differences to make it look different to the GTi
Comes in estate form too. Absurd. (I’m clutching at straws to make a list of 3 here)
Too many choices of body (That’s actually a good thing too)
Car – VW Golf
Price – £ 32,110 (as tested)
MPG – 37.7 mpg (combined)
Power – 310 bhp
0-62mph – 5.1 seconds
Top Speed – 155 mph
Co2 – 180 (g/km)