The “R” as it’s affectionately known by its owners is a 188 kilowatt, 2-litre turbocharged pocket rocket in semi conservative attire.
The R sits at the top of the Golf range, with subtle styling cues hinting that it’s something more special than your neighbour’s base model Golf. From centre dual tailpipes, a more aggressive body kit, a lower ride height and large 18-inch rims (or optional 19-inch rims if you dare). The not so subtle cue that it’s an R is when optioned in Rising Blue metallic paint, the trademark hero colour of the R.
A direct comparison to the R is the Audi S3. While shopping around in 2012 the S3 interior appeared dated compared to the R and the R was also better value.
Inside the R is a great place to be with small touches going a long way. Sitting in front of the driver is a perfectly sized flat bottom leather steering wheel. Behind it, bright blue needles glide from 0–300 km/h and 0-8,000 RPM and back each time you turn the key.
The leather seats provide a level of sophistication over the standard cloth seats with the R logo stitched into the headrest up front, soft and durable leather all round and amazingly efficient heated front seats. They also provide a good mix of sportiness and practicality with excellent side and thigh support for spirited cornering, while still being comfortable for daily driving.
The optional reverse camera cleverly pops out of the VW badge and then after reverse is disengaged, retreats back inside.
The Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) gives you lightning fast gear changes. A handy feature is Hill Start Assist that holds the brake to avoid rollbacks. While the DSG is amazing when moving, in stop/start traffic it can be jerky as it engages and disengages. Manual shifting is best using the steering wheel paddles (they are albeit on the small side).
There is some lag in the turbocharger generating boost, so keeping the revs above approximately 2700 will keep it ready to provide that addictive slingshot effect that can power you from 0-100km/h in 5.7seconds. It’s best though to warn your passengers if you are going to test this out!
Inside the soundtrack from the R is great with blips and pops on gear change adding to the excitement. Outside when pushed the volume goes up a few notches, great as a long range doorbell when arriving somewhere.
I am impressed at how well the 4MOTION four wheel drive and the unobtrusive stability system works at keeping the R stuck to the road in all conditions. The saying “like its on rails” is very true here.
The 19-inch rims look great, but practicality goes out the window. A reduced steering lock results in some annoying forced 3 point turns where a U-turn should be possible. Add in sports suspension, low profile tyres and no adaptive chassis control (optional) it becomes a firm ride where you soon become a pothole avoidance expert. The firmer ride also results in some annoying cabin rattles.
Night time driving doesn’t disappoint with LED daytime running lights and Bi-Xenon cornering headlights lighting the way with crisp white illumination. LED number plate and tail lights also round out the modern look. The instrument cluster is illuminated in white with contrasting red for the dash, controls and ambient lighting.
Pulling up to the loading bay after your weekend purchases you may find the salesman laughing at you. Simply drop the 60/40 split fold seats and in goes a dryer, washing machine, or whatever your weekend purchases are. The rest of the time five adults can fit comfortably. Who says a hot hatch can’t also be practical?
For a sensible driver official fuel consumption figures are, 8.7L/100km (Combined), 11.9L/100km (Urban) and 6.8L/100km (Extra Urban). However for anybody testing the R on a frequent basis with the transmission in sport or manual modes, around 11-13L/100km is a realistic figure. Remember also 98 octane petrol is required.
A 3-year warranty and a 15,000km service interval (or annually, whichever occurs first) are standard. Servicing costs do vary, but as a guide: 15,000km ($453), 30,000km ($647), 45,000km ($678), 60,000km ($1442) and 75,000km ($453).
The R is still at low kilometres of just over 30,000 and has been trouble free motoring to date. If you’re looking for an everyday driver that doesn’t scream “boy racer”, but still allows you to turn on the fun factor whenever you require, the Golf R is for you.