The 2021 Volkswagen Golf R has been officially unveiled, revealing the quickest and most powerful production Golf in the model's history.
The latest generation of Volkswagen's flagship Golf doesn't stray too far from the formula laid out by its predecessors: a powerful turbocharged engine up front, all-wheel-drive and a quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Under the bonnet is the same 2.0-litre ‘EA888’ turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that powered its predecessor – now upgraded to European-emissions-friendly ‘evo4’ spec – producing 235kW of power and 420Nm of torque (from 2100-5350rpm).
Those figures represent 22kW/40Nm increases over Australian-delivered versions of the outgoing model.
Drive is routed to all four wheels via a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions, though the former will be limited (at launch, at least) to North American markets.
The Golf R benefits from the same new-generation, Haldex-type all-wheel-drive system as the related Arteon R and Tiguan R, featuring R Performance Torque Vectoring that allows up to 100 per cent of the engine’s torque to be distributed between the front and rear axles, or between each individual rear wheel, in milliseconds.
Volkswagen claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.7 seconds, towards an electronically-limited top speed of 250km/h.
The R benefits from the same ‘Vehicle Dynamics Manager’ system as the lesser GTI, which controls the ‘XDS’ electronically-controlled front locking differential, ‘DCC’ adaptive dampers, all-wheel-drive system and other electronics systems in tandem to sharpen driving dynamics.
European buyers can option a new ‘R Performance’ package, which increases the top speed to 270km/h, and adds 19-inch wheels and a larger rear spoiler, with the latter intended to increase downforce.
The package also introduces two new drive modes: Special, which softens the adaptive dampers to cater for the undulating surface of the Nurburgring Nordschleife – enabling the Mk8 Golf R to shave 19 seconds off its predecessor’s lap time around the demanding circuit, to a time of 7 minutes 51 seconds – and Drift mode, which shuffles greater percentages of the engine’s torque to the rear axle to break traction and enable controlled drifts.
Under the skin, the new Golf R sits 20mm lower to the ground than standard Golf models, thanks to retuned suspension with 10 per cent stiffer springs, revised control arms and wheel mounts, increased negative front camber, and unique anti-roll bars.
Filling the arches are 18-inch alloy wheels, with the aforementioned 19-inch units wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 performance rubber available as an option. Hiding behind the alloys is a set of larger performance brakes, measuring 358mm up front and clamped by two-piston aluminium callipers.
60 per cent lighter brakes shave 1.2kg of unsprung mass off the car’s kerb weight, complemented by a further 3kg loss thanks to a lighter aluminium subframe.
Other available performance features include variable sports steering, an optional, 7kg-lighter Akrapovic exhaust system, and four additional drive modes: Comfort, Sport, Individual and Race.
Like its predecessors, the new Volkswagen Golf R opts for a more reserved take on the hot hatch formula when it comes to styling.
Differentiating the R from GTI and ‘base’ Golf Mk8 models from the outside is a restyled front bumper similar in appearance to the Tiguan R performance SUV, plus larger side skirts, a more aggressive rear diffuser, quad exhaust tips, a larger rear spoiler, a blue-accented LED light strip across the front fascia and a slew of R badges.
Inside, highlights include R-badged, nappa leather-trimmed sports seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel (with an ‘R’ button for easy access to Race mode), metallic pedals, paddle shifters for DSG models and blue contrast stitching throughout the cabin.
The 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and available 10-inch infotainment touchscreen mirror that of the wider Golf range, aside from a selection of R-specific displays for the instruments.
When will the 2021 Volkswagen Golf R launch in Australia?
While the new Volkswagen Golf R is set to land in European showrooms in the coming months, Australian customers will need to wait until 2022 to drive the hot hatch on local roads.
It should be worth the wait however, as when it does land Down Under, it is set to form part of a three-pronged R performance lineup, alongside the Tiguan R and T-Roc R performance SUVs.