Sometimes we forget that the Volkswagen Golf was intended as a replacement for the Beetle, a no-nonsense three-door hatch with an 1100cc transverse four.
Until some petrolheads in Wolfsburg shoehorned a 1.6-litre Audi 80 engine into an early Golf and the GTI was born. Peugeot, Renault and Opel soon responded and the hot-hatch power race was on - with the somewhat ridiculous result that we now have a VW Golf that sells for half a bar, near as dammit.
But what a Golf!
The 2014 Golf R is based on Golf 7 architecture, which is a very good place to start, with a two-litre TSI turbopetrol four, derived from the familiar EA888 series, but with an uprated cylinder head, exhaust valves and springs, revised fuel-injectors and a bigger turbo - all of which is good for 206kW from 5500-6200 revs (the Golf GTI, by comparison, is rated for 162kW) and a 30Nm increase in maximum torque to 380Nm, available from 1800-5500rpm.
That gets channelled to the tarmac through a six-speed dual-clutch transmission (the six-speed manual version will only be available in the second half of 2014), a hydraulically operated fifth-generation Haldex coupling and 4-Motion permanent all-wheel drive.
Volkswagen quotes 0-100km/h in five seconds flat and top speed electronically limited to 250km/h, at an average cost of 6.9 litres per 100km and 159g/km of CO2.
As always, we'll take those figures under advisement…
Standard kit includes an EDS electronic differential on each axle; actually that's a bit of a cheat, since EDS actually works by simply applying the brake on whichever wheel is trying to slip, rather than by locking up the diff, but the power loss is negligible anyway.
The same system also compensates for understeer by measuring the loads on the inside wheels in a corner and applying the brakes commensurately - how well it works we'll find out later this week when we see our print colleague Denis Droppa's driving impressions
The Golf R rides 20mm lower than the base Golf (5mm lower than the GTI) on specially developed MacPherson strut front suspension with a completely new lower wishbone, and a tweaked multilink rear set-up.
Braking is by 340mm front and 310mm ventilated discs and monogrammed black callipers.
SHE'S GOT THE LOOKS
Nobody would ever mistake the R for a vanilla-flavour Golf 7 - not with that deep front bumper with gaping air intakes, modified (and monogrammed) grille, and special u-shaped daytime running lights.
The profile view is dominated by wheel arch-filling 19 alloys shod with 225/35 rubber, while the rear end has dual chromed auspuffen either side of a special rear diffuser, smoked tail-light clusters and an R monogram on the tailgate.
The R guys have kitted out their pet Golf with leather sports seats, complete with grey top-stitching. There's more leather on the grip areas of the three-spoked R steering wheel with a chromed R logo on the bottom spoke, and 'carbon touch' trim elements on the dash and door panels, blue ambient lighting in the door sills, and door panels and stainless steel-look pedals.
The needles of the special R gauges are illuminated in light blue, and the infotainment centre touch-screen, available in either 150mm or 200mm sizes, wakes up automatically whenever somebody waves a hand near it; the 'home' screen is reduced to bare essentials, with menus available at a sweep of the fingertips.
AND NOW FOR THE REALLY BIG NUMBERS
The 2014 Golf R DSG is available to order now in South Africa at R486 200, which includes VAT, emissions tax, a three-year or 120 000km warranty and five-year or 90 00km service plan; service intervals are 15 000km.