The brilliant Victory Blue paint is attracting plenty of attention, possibly because people aren’t used to such a bright hue clothing a Golf R (or any Golf really), but they couldn’t also know that just a third of the 2020 Volkswagen Golf R Final Editions will be treated to custom, hand-painted colours.
We’re only getting 450 in total, so they will be scarce regardless of colour.
On the subject of paint, a crazy colour might not be my first choice for a Golf R – the whole Wolfsburg in sheep’s clothing thing – but it’s worth remembering that in hindsight it’s often the limited run of special cars that end up being worth more down the track. For what it’s worth, I also love the Violet Touch purple, and for me the Viper Green Metallic elicits memories of the Scirocco R – another car that has become more attractive with age.
VW Australia has form with successful limited-run models, too – the Golf R Special Edition flew out of the showroom in 2019 – and it goes to show that fans of popular vehicles like the Golf still value exclusivity.
So, the Final Edition signals – well, almost anyway – the end of the line for the seventh-generation (Mk 7.5) Volkswagen Golf. We say almost, because there is a special TCR edition still to come, but it’s just about the final stop on the seventh-generation journey. In typical Golf fashion, it’s been a broadly successful, performance-focused journey, too.
And by not sticking to the traditional Golf script, VW Australia has given the legendary Golf one hell of a send-off.
In a styling sense, I respect the way VW has avoided the temptation to festoon the Final Edition with graphics, silly wings and body kit additions, or any of the other nonsense that often accompanies a track-focused farewell to a model. Rather, it has given buyers a limited choice of custom colours, and it’s otherwise as you were for Golf fans.
If you like the custom colours, grab one. If you don’t, there’ll be a more subtle option available. But not for long, is my tip.
The only real visual differences, if you discount the paint colour, are the 19-inch ‘Black Pretoria’ alloy wheels and gloss-black door mirrors. It’s all quite understated, especially if you nab a Final Edition in a regular colour. Inside, there’s a premium Dynaudio system and nappa leather trim.
Pricing for the Golf R Final Edition starts from $57,990 – the custom paint finishes add $300 – while a regular Golf R hatchback starts from $55,490. There’s absolutely no doubt the Golf R is, and has been for some time, an aspirational hot hatch, and it’s unlikely the Final Edition models will sit in showrooms for very long.
While we know the vital stats for the Golf R well, it’s worth running over them quickly again here. The 2.0-litre TSI is a brilliant four-pot, with direct injection, stop-start and turbocharging all worked to within an inch of its technological life.
The TSI’s outputs of 213kW between 5400–6500rpm and 380Nm between 1850–5300rpm propel the 1450kg Golf to prodigious speed with relative ease.
The sprint from 0–100km/h in just 4.8 seconds is thanks in no small part to a slick-shifting seven-speed DSG and AWD, so the mechanical hardware is there to ensure the Golf R feels fast. It doesn’t just feel fast, though – it is fast.
If you get to a track day and open the taps on your Golf R, you’ll be blown away by how competent it is, and how well behaved it is at the limit, too. Sure, a FWD GTi might be more ‘pure’ in some buyers’ minds, but I’ll take the prodigious grip offered by the AWD Golf any day of the week.
First and foremost, though, the Golf R is a daily driver despite its pretensions of speed and capability. The 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment control centre is clear and concise, and it works beautifully with Apple CarPlay. What I thought might have been an initial connection glitch turned out later to be a faulty cable, and the system otherwise worked seamlessly.
The driver’s high-res 12.3-inch TFT instrument display is active and only adds to the premium feeling. You’re left wondering why this system isn’t a benchmark for other manufacturers in vastly more expensive segments. I don’t love piano-black inlays – fingerprints and smudges – but there isn’t too much in the Golf R.
My drive to the track proves one thing most obviously – there is real value in not attempting to reinvent the wheel when you’re onto a good thing. VW knows the Golf is a solid platform that resonates with buyers and brings them back in droves.
We know plenty of people who are onto their third, fourth or fifth Golf. That’s a proper indication that VW is keeping Golf buyers happy with each new iteration.
As such, the Golf R feels as premium, put together, and solid as it always has. From the driver’s seat, it positions itself as an effortless touring hatch that is both comfortable and functional. It rides over poor roads comfortably, never bottoming out, crashing through potholes or feeling uneasy.
On smooth surfaces, it’s almost silent, and rolls along at your chosen speed as easily as you could want. While small hatches are undeniably more city-focused, the Golf R handles a longer, Aussie road trip on the usual array of road surfaces as well as any larger vehicle from a larger segment.
In many ways, it is the Swiss Army knife of cars, with an adaptive cruise-control system that works as well at a trundle as the 4Motion system works on-track.
When you get to the track, though, you find out what the AWD R is really capable of – if you get the urge to scratch the itch, that is. Plenty of Golf R owners don’t, but they should. VW’s Adaptive Chassis Control runs through Normal, Comfort, Sport and Race, and comes into its own when you get to the track. Leave traction control on and the shifter in auto mode, and you can work your way ever faster through each lap concentrating mainly on braking and turn-in points.
There’s a temptation to shift manually, but I wouldn’t bother, such is the rapid-fire nature of the DSG at speed. It’s never in the wrong gear or caught out on the downshift, and it makes you faster.
And as we know, on-track, faster is most definitely better.
The electronic locking diff is playing its part here, too, but the platform is intrinsically sorted, before you even worry about the high-tech wizardry.
The steering, as close to perfect as you can get around town, sharpens up and feels direct and meaty at speed on the track, no matter how hard you’re pushing.
We played around a little with tyre pressures at launch, too, and you can really feel the rear axle come into its own when you do that. You feel as if you can almost slide the R into a corner, right onto the limit, as the fastest way through the corner.
The tyres on our tester provided a surfeit of grip – 19-inch rims shod in 235/35ZR19 Continental tyres that seemed to get better the harder you pushed despite being a road-focused tyre. You will find the limits of their adhesion after a lengthy track run, especially if it’s a hot day, but at that point you’d be thinking about semi-slicks.
There is little doubt that even though it is more expensive than traditional FWD hot hatches – as you’d expect – the AWD Golf R remains the standard-setter if a hot hatch is your ultimate car.
It’s as good as it ever was. Effortless, competent, comfortable, understated (aside from the limited colour run) and fast – very fast. It’s easy to say that there are too many Golfs on the road, and they don’t feel exclusive enough because of that. You’d only be saying that if you haven’t driven a Golf R, I’d wager.