mReview: Volkswagen Golf R – The Hottest of Hatches

Published by on . Updated on 19 May 2024
Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1700219059842 Mreview Volkswagen Golf R The Hottest Of Hatches Featured
For just about 40 years, the Volkswagen Golf has been the benchmark of the hatchback segment, with the hot GTi and even hotter R variants pushing the envelope of how much performance you can eke out from what is otherwise a simple city runabout. 

This is now the eighth iteration of the Volkswagen Golf but more specifically and definitely more excitingly, this is the latest Golf to carry the R badge. The R symbolises the epitome of Volkswagen’s performance offerings and this latest Golf R is no exception. 

I could waffle on about the interior quality and its looks and whatnot (I still will) but if you’re reading this, chances are you’re concerned mainly with how it drives. And the simple answer is that it drives very well. 

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Still powered by the now legendary EA888 2-litre, 4-cylinder, turbocharged power plant, this latest Golf R is now the fastest Golf ever. The updated four pot produces 315hp and 420Nm of torque powering all four wheels through Volkswagen’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive system and boy is it capable.

Slam on the gas from a standstill and it’ll take a mere 4.7 seconds to get you to 100km/h and with the throttle buried you’ll soon reach a top speed of 270km/h. Using the in-built launch control is probably advised for maximum straight line performance though as there is a noticeable lack of power below the 3,500 rpm mark. Above that though, and the engine just keeps pulling as the 7-speed DSG effortlessly slams home gear after gear. 

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But the real beauty of the Golf R becomes apparent when you start adding some corners into the equation. The rack is super quick and makes the car fantastically darty and direct on turn in. There is so much grip afforded to the driver and with the R-Performance Torque Vectoring that the Golf R has, you can absolutely huck it into a corner and use the power to fire it out the other end. The feedback you get through the wheel is acceptable in my opinion but it does feel a bit unnecessarily heavy in Sports mode onwards. 

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The most impressive thing for me about the Golf R was its suspension tuning. It’s not overly stiff to the point of losing contact with the road but it is so well damped that over bumps in the road, you get one compression and one rebound. End of story. There is zero secondary bounce, it just settles instantly and you can carry on. This is the ideal suspension setup for performance driving and I'm thoroughly impressed by just how good it is on this car right out of the box.

Of course, as with all car setups, there must be compromise and in this case, the compromise is my back. The ride quality is pretty harsh especially over low speed and high frequency bumps like drain covers, patchy asphalt, or speed strips. The other big compromise comes from that rack, as in the steering rack of course. The turning circle of the Golf R is actually hopeless with parallel parking especially becoming a real challenge. This was a source of some real annoyance over the few days I was driving the car and may be a grievance for owners too. 

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In terms of drive modes, the Golf R has plenty. There’s Comfort, Sport, Race, Individual, and if you get the R-Performance Package (which our test car had), you also get Drift and Nurburgring mode. Nurburgring mode turns everything up to 11 with VW saying that in this mode, “all key drive parameters are geared towards the legendary racetrack”, with lap times around the Nordschleife up to 19 seconds faster than its predecessor. That's all well and good but by virtue of not living in Germany, this mode wasn’t very useful for me during my time with the car in very un-Nurburgring-like Singapore but if you have the mindset of a 14-year-old boy (which I do), then it is undeniably a very cool gimmick to show off to your friends. 

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Drift mode on the other hand, uses the torque vectoring capabilities of the car to induce oversteer by directing power to the outside rear wheel. In practice, you need quite a bit of open space to get any meaningful “driftiness” going on and I couldn’t find a way to “dump the clutch” to get sufficient wheel speed from a standstill to spin the car around. 

The Golf R also features the adaptive chassis control (DCC) system that we’ve seen on other VW-Audi group products like the Audi RS3, Skoda Octavia RS, and Cupra Leon. In the Golf R, it works the same way, there’s a slider on which you can adjust how hardcore you want it to be on a scale of “mild discomfort” to “ow”. You can also individually adjust settings for things like the engine, gearbox, and exhaust sound. My driving mode of choice was Individual with the engine set to Sport and everything else as soft as it goes which makes the drive sporty enough to zip around yet soft enough to where I don’t need to end every drive at a chiropractor. 

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In terms of its appearance, the Golf R doesn’t stray much from the established Golf playbook. It still looks undeniably like a Golf, with styling cues like the front light bar taken straight from the standard Mk8 Golf. Only when you peer into the details do you notice the R specific items that make it a proper wolf in sheep’s clothing. The signature blue used on R models can be found on the brake callipers and the blue streak across the front. Out back, the quad tailpipes and optional Akrapovic exhaust system hint to the performance lurking within. Golf Rs with the R-Performance Package also get fitted with a larger rear spoiler for extra downforce as well as 19-inch rims in the “Estoril” design. 

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Inside, you can find contrast stitching in the R blue as well as the R logo emblazoned on the front seats. With the R, you also get larger shift paddles to show you really mean business and this isn’t your grandma’s Golf. The interior is finished in Carbon Grey which is specific to the Golf R and comes with sports seats with an integrated headrest. These are one of the more comfortable one-piece seats I’ve tried although I do feel that the seating position is a little too high up for my liking. The front seats are both heated and cooled which is great but only the driver’s seat is electric which is not so great. At this price point, having two electric seats hardly seems like an idea from out of left field. 

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Unfortunately, as is very annoyingly becoming more and more commonplace, the Golf R’s infotainment system is largely locked behind screens and menus. It’s made even worse in the Golf’s case by VW’s incessant use of these capacitive touchpads instead of physical buttons. It’s still infuriatingly hard to use and easy to activate by accident. These touchpads are used on the multifunction steering wheel as well which has led to so many unintentional presses of things as my hand grazes over the touchpad. 

It’s not all doom and gloom though, the quality of the interior is infallible and there’s loads of great features like wireless phone charging, cruise control, lane keep assist, and blind spot monitoring. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both wireless so you can groove to your favourite tunes through the brilliant Harman Kardon sound system. 

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Apart from a few niggling issues like the touchpads and turning circle that you’ll probably get used to, you just can’t overlook how capable it is as a performance vehicle. I believe most if not all owners will be happy to look past those little grievances and accept the Golf R for the fiery little pocket rocket that it is. Dynamically, it’s an incredible feat of engineering and refinement straight from the factory that in my opinion, has no equal. This is not just a hot hatch, this is the hot hatch.

Volkswagen Golf R TSI DSG Performance Pack
Price (at time of publishing): $348,900 including COE  VES Band: C2
Turbocharged 4-cylinder
1,984 cc
Power & Torque:
315 hp @ 5,350 rpm &
420 Nm @ 5,350 rpm
7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic
Driven Wheels:
11.9 km/L
0-100 km/h:
4.7 seconds
Top Speed:
270 km/h
Fuel Tank Capacity:
45 litres
Dimensions (L x W x H):
4,290 mm x 1,789 mm x 1,439 mm
2,628 mm
Cargo Capacity:
381 litres

Read More: MINI launches the limited-edition MINI Clubman Final Edition in Singapore

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