Throwing more than 200kW and all-wheel drive into an already super-sporty hatch was always going to create a beast of a car. But nothing can prepare you for how much fun the new Golf R really is.
The new Golf R mounts a convincing argument that you don’t really need a Porsche, because the all-wheel Drive Golf is a quicker car.
Head out of town, select ‘Race’ on the Driving Profile Selection (which firms up the dampers and tweaks engine response and shift points for the DSG) and you discover this car is as agile as it is fast on twisty stretches of road.
Put the transmission into ‘Sport’ mode and the Golf R responds with aggressive intent. Holding each gear for maximum effect and then seamlessly sprinting through rapid DSG gear changes, it dares you to push it harder.
The shifts are sharp and noisy, emitting a fantastic-sounding ‘Braap!’ each time you change up. And then there’s the familiar, rock-solid chassis, sports suspension (lowered 20mm for better handling) and intuitive 4MOTION all-wheel drive system.
As good as a Golf GTI is on a spirited drive, the addition of all-wheel drive to its fantastic underpinnings was always going to make a difference. The amount of grip the Golf R can carry through corners, and the way it gets its power down out of those bends, is astonishing. Even at the very edge of adhesion, when the tyres start to complain loudly about being tortured, the Golf R feels safe and assured.
All the while, the driving experience is made more enjoyable courtesy of progressive steering. It facilitates muscular and precise responses to steering commands, while reduced lock-to-lock distance means hands can remain planted for greater steering control.
The new Golf R doesn’t feel the need to proclaim its intent—brashness isn’t its style. Rather, observers are left to read subtle visual cues to understand that this five- door car is all about understated menace. A chrome-stripped front spoiler, large glossy black air intakes and ‘double U’ LED daytime running lights are all Golf R hallmarks.
New 19-inch ‘Cadiz’ alloy wheels look like savage slicing blades, and black brake callipers with subtle Golf R logos add a touch of racing style. The car also comes with body-coloured side sill extensions, matte chrome wing mirrors and tinted rear and side glass, which is up to 65 per cent light absorbing.
The rear roof spoiler has subtle aero extensions while the glossy black rear diffuser is broken up by four chrome exhaust tailpipes, which sit beneath dark tinted LED tail lights.
Once inside you get sleek ‘Carbon Touch’ panelling and leather-finish gear shift knob (because you can opt for a manual transmission if you prefer), as well as a special R-leather multi-function sports steering wheel.
Other nice touches include aluminium-finish pedals and blue ambient lighting strips, which look the business come night-time. The sports seats are super supportive, which you’ll appreciate at the cornering speeds this car can achieve, and are available in a black fabric/grey Alcantara combination or optional Black Vienna leather.
This is a car that exudes just enough warning of what it is capable of. Casual viewers might be forgiven for thinking it’s just another good-looking Golf, but keen observers will know better. Built to impress on every level, the new Golf R unashamedly raises the bar when it comes to performance, precision and pure driving exhilaration wrapped up in one neat package.
You know what? It succeeds—and then some.