A few months back, on a reasonably mild winters afternoon on the north coast of Northern Ireland, I arrived at Edwin May Coleraine to get the keys for a few different models of cars for review from their vast stock over a few brands and I must say there was one car in particular I was very excited about from the onset of the telephone call a week prior informing me that I was getting it.
This was the Volkswagen Mk7 Golf R, a pretty special car, as since the last R model Golf I drove several years ago, VW have moved away from the 3.2 V6 engine Seen in the R32 Golf’s, replacing it with a more potent 2.0L Turbocharged engine, different even to the one seen in the Mk6 R and it most certainly livens the latest offering up tenfold and in fact has helped create the fastest production VW ever.
For those who want more from their car than the Golf GTi can offer (which is a hell of a lot in fairness) this Golf R creates a harmony of power and torque through the four wheel drive system but yet has all the practicality of the most basic of Golf’s for the city living family man and with the 4 motion system it’s also perfect for the country gentleman with plenty of traction in all road conditions and added to both of the aforementioned strengths, the sheer grunt makes it ideal for the true petrol head who likes an all round epic driving experience.
For decades Volkswagen has prided itself on its GTi hot hatch models, so it is with surprise to some that they would want to outrank what was always seen as their flagship model within the hatchback range. Well for me and many others it is a good thing as when you have something so good and have it for so long when the chance comes to improve it into something else it can only mean the “something else” will be awesome.
The Golf R doesn’t disappoint in the awesome stakes I am glad to report, and indeed produces just shy of 300bhp with 280lb/ft via the TSi engine and either 6sp manual or 6spd DSG auto box transferring this power through the four wheel drive system and yet still able to return a combined economy just shy of 40mpg which is incredible to say the least.
Priced at circa £30k the Golf R is aimed primarily at the more mature market who have maybe outgrown the GTi models and in the words of VW’s head of design the aim has been “A balance between respectability and sportiness, restraint and differentiation”. Thus the R gets a new front bumper, bigger intakes, a tweaked grille, meatier sills, prettier wheels and a plethora of tail pipes keeping it respectable and not in your face. The R comes in either three doors or five door guises with limited body colours coming in a Pure White, Red, light and dark shades of Blue, Grey, Silver, Pearl Black and a special Oryx White.
Inside the Mk7 Golf is a classy affair as expected from VW and the Golf R has seen some upgrades to keep it in check with its sporty pedigree, these include a flat bottom steering wheel, different dial design and aluminium pedals as well as gloss black trims combined with all new seats are tailored in a bliss leather and alcantara mix that are mega supportive but incredibly generous when it comes to comfort.
The Golf R isn’t just about power and dynamics however, it is fully loaded with more toys than Santa could deliver and comes as standard with bi-xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, climate control, electric heated folding mirrors, Bluetooth, DAB radio with several input methods included, cruise control and automatic headlights with options available to add including a discover or discover pro navigation system. The Pro unit is an expensive choice however at £1,765 (around £1k more than the discover navigation)but it offers a staggering 8inch full colour touch screen with swipe technology for scrolling maps etc similar to that on a smart phone.
After an hour into my adventure around the mountain tops above Benone beach and in true Irish fashion the heavens opened abruptly which put paid to the image content slightly, however it allowed me to get to grips more with the mechanical workings of this amazing car on sodden tarmac for a good comparison to the dry conditions earlier in the day. Needless to say the technology within the 4 Motion system is so far complex that I won’t admit to understanding, nor will I try and explain it however of note is VW’s electronic XDS+ system within the Golf R that mimics the effect of a limited-slip differential.
You’d be forgiven in thinking that having a heavy four-wheel drive system means the Golf loses its nimble feel. But you’d be wrong; the R has every bit of the fluidity of the GTI, but with tighter body-control and sharper, more natural steering. The Golf’s system can send almost all of the power to the back wheels if the front’s lose grip, which comes together to make the R astonishingly fast and grippy on twisty Irish roads. Little else for under £50k can cover ground as fast as this, and I must say I was quite shocked at just how well it covered ground and cornered, combined with the braking power it was fun fun fun.
So in conclusion; if you are in the market for a fast, nimble and sleek looking car then most certainly consider the new Golf R, with a few extra options and the DSG box expect the cost to be closer to £36k however. The only drawback of the car I tested was that it was manual, don’t get me wrong the box was great and done everything as it should, it’s just that DSG technology is so fast and smooth I really wouldn’t buy one without a DSG, resale would be much easier also with the DSG and it may well hold its value better also as well as being a much more enjoyable drive.
Words & Photos: Graham Curry