The new Golf R is lighter, faster, more efficient and bigger than its predecessor and comes packed with technology (like an ESP system you can fully disengage).
On paper, what is essentially a Golf GTI with more power and four-wheel drive doesn’t sound all that exciting yet, in the R, VW has made a genuinely rapid car with that rare knack of feeling totally secure and, at the same time, fantastically biddable, as if it were always working out the best way to extract the most pace from any given input on any given road.
When I stepping behind the wheel, I plugged a SanDisk Cruzer Blade and a HTC One on the USB port, and start playing Rachel Platten's Fight Song on the Discover Pro navigation system. I also have brought a The Peanuts Movie: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack inside the cabin.
The interior of the regular Mk7 Golf is a pretty straightforward, classy affair, and the R receives the kind of changes that are par for the course on a rapid but refined hatchback; a slightly different dial design, a heavily sculpted steering wheel, aluminium-finished pedals and some gloss plastic trim are the highlights.
There are also new seats, finished in Alcantara and leather, which grip and support a driver without the long-term discomfort of something racier. Allof our testers found a comfortable driving position, with only one complainant, who’d have liked the wheel to reach closer to the seat, to avoid an overly upright seatback. All of the switchgear, in typical Golf fashion, is easy to indentify and use.
With a heavily reworked version of the GTI’s 2.0 TSI engine, producing 296bhp and 380Nm of torque (identical to an Audi S3, 69bhp more than a GTI with the performance pack and 30bhp more than the previous Golf R) this latest version is the most powerful, and fastest production VW Golf ever.
Order the six-speed DSG gearbox and it can cover 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds (the six-speed manual we drove takes 5.3), before slamming into the limiter at 155mph.
Well, should I care about it. Again, less money but less car too. Is the Golf R really worth a 14% price premium over the GTI? VW is bullishly saying so – it claims the new R will could constitute up to 5% of Golf sales – twice its previous ratio.