The new Golf R is priced from $45,995 in Canada, and from $43,645 in the US.
The new R is one of two MK8 Golf models offered for sale in North America.
As always, the Volkswagen Golf R is a spectacular all-season all-around sporty car.
Look, if you’re a diehard Volkswagen Golf R enthusiast and are not quite yet in your 40s, there’s a strong chance you lust after an R32 or even an MK6 model. This isn’t because you can’t afford a new one, rather it’s because you want to do all the driving. The MK7 and, now more than ever the MK8, are not only the sportiest Golfs but they are also the most sophisticated.
The rare and extremely seductive 2012-2013 MK6 Volkswagen Golf R was the last mostly analog car of its kind and if you own one, baby it. I mean, beat on it hard but do take care of it. It struck a balance between power and driver involvement that made it quick but not fast. The MK7 R’s relative popularity was a product of refinement mixed in with extra power and premium features. And as a 40-something-year-old, it spoke to me on many levels.
The MK8 Golf R has further evolved to become a driving apparatus destined more for Golf R owners than enthusiasts. Based on its specifications alone, this may seem exaggerated.
Back for another round of good fun is the turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine, now loaded with 315 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 295 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,000 rpm if you opt for the $1,400 7-speed DSG transmission. With the standard 6-speed manual transmission, the output varies slightly to 315 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 280 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,000 rpm.
Statistically, the new R with the DSG is one if not the fastest production Volkswagen ever with a sprint time of only 4.7 seconds. The numbers prove the sensation this is in fact a very quick car. The boost, lag-free, boots the car forward with a ferocious thrust that makes a manual-equipped MK7 Golf R seem slow and underpowered. The DSG itself is a tower of engineering. It’s lightning-quick between shifts and melted-butter smooth when needed. It’s brilliant.
Another bit of brilliance comes from the included Dynamic Chassis Control with Driving Profile Selection. Through the DCC, the dampers can be set in no less than 15 ways, from ultra-comfort to spine-shattering stiff. Is this necessary? No. Does it work? Incredibly well. I get the sense that VW took notes from the FK8 Civic Type R where the dampers cannot be separately adjusted outside the drive modes and maximized customization. Do I like it? Very much so.
Similarly, the numerous drive modes, up to six, are shortcuts to driving moods. The existence of “custom” makes most others redundant, however, under “race”, the “drift” and “special” modes show a more playful side to both VW and the R. The latter amplifies torque vectoring and sets the damper to a softer setting. It also enables some fierce exhaust crackling.
Another item that makes this Golf R the greatest of all time is the 4MOTION AWD system with rear-axle torque-vectoring differential. The rear axle still receives up to 50% of the engine’s power however the new layout can take this power and send it all to one of the rear wheels via two multi-plate clutches.
Although I’d yet experienced it up until shooting my video, I did sample the impressive torque vectoring push through a series of quick switchbacks. My main regret is that I did not get the opportunity to test this out more. I hope I get to track this car next summer. I’d love to punish the powerful and responsive brakes and get even more intimate with the generally communicative steering.
One point I’d like to make: The new AWD Golf R needs all these fancy technologies to keep up with a FWD Type R on track…
What I do love about the new R is that it’s all Golf on the outside. The MK8 R carries on the proud tradition that states that visual excess is unnecessary. Oddly, only the original Golf “R”, the Rallye Golf, featured boxy fenders and other unique design touches such as the whole front fascia. The new R won’t be mistaken for anything else thanks to its 19-inch Estoril ally wheels and especially when painted Lapiz blue, and in North America. I must say however that I hope VW resurrects the Colour Spektrum
Onboard, the new Volkswagen Golf R is a series of hits and catastrophic misses. In brief, the Nappa leather “R” seats are great, and the fit and finish are spotless. The new interior is boring despite the 10-inch touchscreen and the number of materials used throughout. The center console is notably anti-climactic with its rectangular cut-out for the dainty shifter.
And now, the disaster that is Volkswagen’s latest MIB3 infotainment system. Despite a week with the ID.4 and another week with the Golf R, I found it difficult to work through the menus. The main issues were the slow processing speeds, uneven responsiveness from the touchscreen, and general lack of flow between the menus. As well, the haptic controls just below the screen and the ones on the steering wheel are overly sensitive, not designed to function with gloves, and poorly configured.
The Golf R?
No, I would not buy one because of the horrible and disastrous infotainment system. It baffles me that Volkswagen thought it was good enough to launch. There were issues early on, enough to delay product launches, but they’re far from being resolved.
All the R’s incredible technological driving aids make hero drivers out of anyone positioned behind the steering wheel, and I suppose, I take offense to that. Driving is a dying art and, although the new Golf R is available with a manual transmission, the R I would like, as a diehard fan, would be an MK6 or MK7.
Am I pointlessly writing words on my screen? Yes. Should you get a new Golf R? Yes, without a doubt. For all my complaints, will I do something about it? I have.