So, I finally got my hands on what some would consider the pinnacle of hot hatches. After getting some time behind the wheel, it is really easy for me to see why the Golf R receives all the hype it does.
The model I drove only had about 40,000 miles on the clock, so it was a near perfect specimen for me to test. While I didn’t get to drive it around as much as I would have liked, the half hour or so was still enough time for me to put the Golf R through its paces a bit.
Going down straights is oddly exciting with the little hatch. If you push the throttle to the floor, the Golf R wants nothing more than to thrust you into the seat and haul ass. This isn’t exactly a shock, as the turbo 2.0L is cranking out 292hp and 280 lbs of torque. Combine that with the Golf R’s all-wheel drive, and you’ve got a performer that just hooks the road and flies. Obviously, you can go easy on the gas and drive it like your everyday Golf as well, but why would you want to do that?
This excellent delivery is also partly due to this Golf R’s dual-clutch transmission. While I generally prefer my performance oriented cars to be stick shift (because I’m a snob like that), I can’t deny the advantages of Volkswagen’s DSG transmission and dual-clutch technology overall. The shifts were fast and incredibly smooth, allowing the Golf to hit it’s full performance potential without the possibility for human error when shifting. It’s mechanically spectacular, albeit a little boring for those that like to row through the gears themselves.
Handling is about what you’d expect out of a Golf R. It sticks to the road like glue and allows you to carry speed through corners that daily driver cars couldn’t. The ride was nice and stiff, and really makes you feel at one with the road as you throw it into a corner. Again, this isn’t exactly surprising, as Volkswagen does have a habit of taking handling extremely seriously. Just look at literally any generation of GTI for an example of that.
The interior is pretty standard for a modern VW. It looks and feels very refined, with nothing overstated or understated in the design. Everything felt well made, the touchscreen worked well, and all the other crap I don’t care about was pretty good too. But this is VW’s top of the line performance model, so it thankfully wasn’t just fancy stuff I honestly don’t care about. The Golf R also included the stock seats and steering wheel; both of which feel like they were designed to be in line with the sporting aspect of the car. The seats have terrific bolstering to hold you in place when sending it through a corner, while the wheel had an excellent 9-3 driving position (which is THE position for spirited driving. Fact). It’s a perfect little sports car wrapped in the body of a fairly standard looking Golf.
Speaking of the body of a Golf, the Golf R’s looks are still very much that of a Golf. It is subdued, respectable, and less boy racer than other offerings in similar price point (*cough* WRX STI and Civic Type R *cough*). I like my boy racer style of cars, but I definitely have a soft spot for the more “grown up” nature of the Golf R. The fact that this particular one was black-on-white, which is one of my favorite color combinations, surely helped me see the best in it as well though. It gives it just enough of a different look to make it not blend in with the other Golf offerings, while looking just sexy enough.
Since this is a “Used Review”, I wanted to look up any common issues that you’d experience with this generation of Golf R as well. I need to be honest and not let my love for fun blind me to the real factors of owning the car. Out of all the forums and owner reviews I’ve looked through, the only “major” issue I could find is that you will get a “low coolant” warning at around 10,000ish miles. According to the owners, the car isn’t actually leaking coolant, but it may come on anyway. But warning lights when nothing is wrong is just the VW way, so that’s almost normal.
I’ve now finally seen and experienced the hype that everyone has talked about, and I have to say, I’m very impressed by the Golf R. From the power, to the handling, and to the excellent interior, it definitely checks almost all the right boxes for me. The Golf R is a practical performer that deserves all the praise it has gotten. Hopefully I’ll be able to get behind the wheel of one again very soon.
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