The angriest Golf yet made has been launched in SA. The Golf R is a model becoming more important for Volkswagen as time goes on. The halo model in the Golf range would usually be introduced towards the end of a generation’s lifecycle, as a final flurry before a new Golf’s introduction, but this time the Golf R arrives just a year after the Golf 7 range was introduced here.
High-performance Golfs are popular with South African customers with around half of all derivatives sold carrying a GTI badge, while VW expects the R version to account for around eight percent of sales.
The latest Golf R follows quite an esteemed line, starting with the VR6 and R32 naturally-aspirated six-cylinder versions before VW swopped to force-fed four-cylinders in the last-generation car.
FIVE SECONDS TO 100
Dubbed as the most powerful Golf yet made, the latest R is 45kg lighter than the model it replaces; in DSG guise will get to 100km/h from standstill in a claimed five seconds (5.7 before); peak torque comes in at 1800rpm (2500rpm before), and consumption is said to be down from 8.4 to 6.9l/100km.
These credentials are courtesy of the same tweaked 2-litre turbo we’ve already seen in Audi’s new S3, which in detuned-for-SA guise makes 206kW and 380Nm. In comparison to the more run-of-the-mill 2-litre in the GTI, this engine underwent motorsport-like development – which resulted in a revised cylinder head (including different exhaust valves, valve seats and springs), harder-core pistons, high-pressure injection valves, and a stronger turbocharger.
In power terms the R is stronger by 44kW and 30Nm than the current GTI, it sits 5mm lower, the steering ratio is quicker, and at 8 min 15 sec it’s 11 seconds quicker than the current GTI around Nurburgring (it’s also 15 seconds quicker than the previous R, and one second quicker than Porsche’s current Cayman S, in case you were wondering). As before, this Golf R is governed to a top speed of 250km/h.
Power meets tar via VW’s latest-generation 4Motion all-wheel drive technology – coupled to either 6-speed DSG (available now at R486 200), or 6-speed manual (with a reinforced clutch and short-travel shifting) which will reach SA in July and should be around 15 grand cheaper (and two-tenths slower than the DSG to 100km/h).
The 4Motion system will primarily run power at the front wheels, but can move up to 100 percent of the power to the back, or split it between the two axles as the situation dictates. Complementing this are two specific traction systems – which work with the traditional Electronic Stability Control (ESC) – in the form of XDS+ and EDS.
VW describes EDS as a more-advanced version of ESC, which will brake a specific wheel that’s losing traction; while XDS+ is an electronic torque-transfer system performing the same function as a limited-slip diff, on either front or rear axle.
VW has also thrown in ESC Sport in the R, which is an intermediate traction setting for more liberal excursions. There’s a tighter sports suspension with sportier damper and spring settings too; and the R’s more-direct steering ratios offer a progressive steering rate which lightens at lower speeds.
A cool option Golf R buyers should consider is Dynamic Chassis Control with driving profile selector, which affords various driver modes via a touchscreen on the centre console. More exciting though, and specific to the R, is the Race mode which affects damping, engine response and gearbox shifting points for optimal slicing and dicing. Or there’s the Individual profile, for your preferred mixes and matches.
Recognising the range-topping Golf shouldn’t be too difficult thanks to different front bumper with larger air intakes, revised head lights, exclusive 19” wheels, black brake calipers, matt chrome-finished side mirrors, smoked tail lights, four tailpipes, rear diffuser, and lots of R branding. There’s also an exclusive colour – Lapiz Blue Metallic. The cabin gets leather sport seats and steering, contrasting grey seams and stitching, stainless steel foot pedals, blue needles in the dials, and R logos in most areas.
The Golf R’s media launch in the Eastern Cape last week revealed an impressive car displaying a nice balance between power and handling. With all that torque available so early this R startles with its low-down aargh, and has no problem churning power well into the angrier side of the rev counter. You’d battle to get it to lose some composure through the corners, and it offers impressive grip at insane speeds.
I’d also go so far as to say it’s the best-sounding R yet, with a deep drone coming through those tailpipes. -Star Motoring