The Volkswagen Golf-R maybe the fastest of the Golf Range but it is also the most expensive. Does this mean that buying one is a false economy?
The 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the GTI has been upgraded to 292hp in the Golf-R. You can choose from a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox or the extremely quick six-speed DSG auto gearbox. We’d say the manual is the way to go but since there wasn’t one available at that time of the test drive we had to settle with the DSG gearbox which isn’t a bad option either. The gearing of the gearbox is perfectly matched to the engine and doesn’t feel like it’s sapping the horsepower away like it does in the Scion BRZ, and the fact that you have a large amount of torque at low revs helps the Golf-R feel responsive at low revs and it does have plenty of pull where it matters the most.
You won’t have to rev it high to get the most of the engine because power delivery is smooth and seamless. It’s much better than the Subaru WRX we tested a while ago which felt like it had turbo lag for days. Our only complaint about the engine is that it doesn’t feel any quicker than the GTI, sure the horsepower figures suggest more horsepower but the all-wheel-drive adds weight and while the suspension is firmer than that of the GTI. You can still option for a similar suspension in the GTI and have almost identical results. However, in the argument for the Golf-R if you’re looking at it vs the Subaru WRX STI; you’re better off with the Volkswagen as it is a much better package and far classier inside.
Driving the Golf-R doesn’t feel like any Volkswagen. The turbo engine does spool well and there’s plenty of oomph when you kick it into high gear. We love that it doesn’t feel like a hot hatch driving on the highway or around town. It has such a grown-up feel to it while the performance is what you’d expect from a hot hatch. We do however agree that the Ford Focus RS is insanely quicker thanks to 365hp and is slightly cheaper. The only problem with the Focus RS is that it’s a bit too showy in terms of the looks, while the Golf-R is more discrete in appearance. Something you’ll appreciate because the less attention you attract the better off you are! Trust us when we say this!
Our Golf-R came pretty well kitted and it wasn’t much more expensive than we’d thought it would. The only expensive option that was fitted was the DSG auto gearbox. Bi-xenon headlamps, push button ignition switch, DCC adaptive drive chassis and Park Distance Control are all fitted as standard as well as; 19-inch alloy wheels, Fender Premium audio system and power-folding exterior mirrors. Active safety features include Blind Spot Monitoring system, Lane Departure warning and Adaptive Cruise Control with active distance control to help keep your distance from the car in front of you.
The Golf-R is just as roomy as the GTI so we will keep this portion brief. The front seats offer extra support thanks to the sport seats and the comfort they provide are exceptional. The rear seats offer good comfort for two passengers, adding a third person to the rear seat will be pushing it due to the high transmission tunnel. The boot space is what you’d expect of a hot hatch, there’s plenty of it and when you fold down the rear seats you’ve got a small cargo van. The infotainment system is pretty easy to navigate through, with many of the controls and dials within easy reach of the driver’s hand. The Golf-R certainly doesn’t feel any different from the GTI in terms of the interior layout, but this isn’t a bad thing because we love the way the Golf’s interior looks and feels. Some of the materials used are much higher in quality due to the higher price tag the Golf-R commands.
The Golf-R is great for those willing to dish out the cash and wants the most expensive Golf of the range. Everyone else will be completely satisfied with the GTI and the performance pack that you can option for. We love the Golf-R and would certainly buy one in a heartbeat but it just doesn’t feel special compared to the GTI and it doesn’t feel any faster either. But compared to the Subaru WRX STI and Ford Focus RS, we’d choose the Golf-R as it is the classier of the two and has the most discrete image, because you have a hot hatch doesn’t mean it should scream look at me!
Likes: It’s easy to drive as a daily commuter car and has the performance that you desire in a hot hatch, plus the boot is spacious for such a small thing. It’s easy to live with and the suspension isn’t harsh or punishing.
Dislikes: It doesn’t feel special or faster than the GTI, plus it’s expensive.