2014 Volkswagen Golf R road test review
HOW much better can the Golf get? Volkswagen keeps answering the question.
Regarded as the benchmark hatch of the small car genre for its drivability and practicality, it also has an evil personality.
Those naughty folk at Volkswagen HQ in Wolfsburg have tickled this 2.0-litre turbocharged powerplant to deliver a hefty dose of giggles to the driver every time the right pedal is exercised.
Getting it on the road isn't cheap, though, and will set you back nearly $60,000 once you pull out of the showroom.
Slide into the bucket sports seats and immediately you know this is no basic Golf.
Nicely bolstered at the sides and base, they perfectly suit this brutish little hatch's ability. Given the car's athleticism it's vital those seats hug you into place nicely when the going gets twisty, and they're also supple enough to be comfy for highway journeys.
The sports steering has height and reach adjustment so the driver has ample flexibility to for the perfect position.
Volkswagen has used some additional "R" features throughout the cabin, yet for the most part it's fundamentally Golf.
The dark dash colour scheme has a few chrome features, with the main highlight a colour touch-screen.
That screen can look bereft of detail with some functions, but it does have sensors which detects when your hand is near to reveal the pop-up menu.
Ease of use is a key feature of the Golf and the R is no different, with straight forward dials and buttons within close reach.
On the road
You know there is fun to be had when one of the drive modes is "race".
Just pressing the start button generates a sound synonymous with performance. There is a wonderful burble from the quad pipes which is accentuated with each squirt of the right foot.
Full use of the aforementioned race functionality only makes it better.
The Golf R generates some intoxicating sounds on shifts as it goes about its business. The soundtrack encourages right ankle extension and a jab of the accelerator is accompanied by a rapid response.
Beneath the bonnet is a 2.0-litre engine which delivers a massive 206 kilowatts of power and 380 Newton metres of torque. That's 44 extra kilowatts and 30 more Newton metres of twist than the Golf GTI.
Sitting on the brilliant MQB platform, this R version really shows what the Golf can do. Beautifully well weighted steering and all-wheel drive enables the driver to carve up bends like a hot knife through butter with the timely shifts of the DSG automatic doing a stellar job of meeting the driver's demands.
There are steering wheel paddle shifters for manual control of the dual-clutch automatic transmission but this is one slick shifting unit. You can opt for a manual box but the self-shifter does a cracking job and its daily usability makes it easy to justify the extra $2500.
Given the four doors and ability, the closest competitors would include the Subaru WRX STI ($54,990), Audi S3 ($59,900), BMW 235i ($64,930) and Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport ($50,400).
What do you get?
While the basic shell is distinctly Golf, the this variant does get five-spoke "Cadiz" alloy wheels, R-specific sports seats, brushed aluminium pedals and "R" details throughout the cabin, different bumper, four exhaust tips, LED daytime running lights as well as a combination of fabric and Alcantara trim.
There is a price to pay at the pump for the R's performance. Some highway travels improved the fuel consumption figures drop, but most would be lucky to get better than 10litres for every 100km.
In fairness, if you are buying a car with this kind of ability it's a small price to pay.
It does also drink the more expensive premium unleaded.
Insurance could be an issue for some drivers and may need some shopping around.
Capped price servicing is available over six years; expect to pay about $500 for each maintenance check-up which isn't bad for a performance car.
Just because it can handle a race day doesn't mean the Golf R is strictly for the track.
This will happily be a useful chariot on weekdays and chicane challenger on weekends.
Not forgetting these are family cars in Europe, the Golf can easily cope with four adults with room in the boot. The folding rear seats make for a handy load area.
Aficionados will know the badge well, but for many the R is just a good looking Golf. The quad pipes and five-spoke alloys provide terrific sporting touches which make it look a little meaner than your stock-standard runabout.
Cruising with the bride, she was singing the praises of the Golf R. That was until she found out the price tag. And that's the bugbear for those who don't fully appreciate its ability.
For the uninitiated it's a very expensive Golf. But explore its ability, put the all-wheel drive to work, get the pipes singing by pushing up into the rev range and this is one awesome machine.
What matters most
What we liked: Awesome exhaust soundtrack, cornering brilliance, functional athleticism.
What we'd like to see: This mechanical package in a sleeker skin, upmarket graphics for the touch-screen.
Warranty and servicing: Three years, unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is every 15,000km or annually. Capped priced servicing for six years or 90,000km, average price is $482. Additional costs include pollen filter $47 (every two years), brake fluid $127 (every two years), Haldex fluid $165 (every three years).
Model: Volkswagen Golf R.
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive performance hatchback.
Engine: 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder with intercooled turbocharger generating maximum power of 206kW @ 5100-6500rpm and peak torque of 380Nm @ 1800-5100rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed DSG automatic (as tested).
Consumption: 7.1-7.3 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100km in five seconds.
Bottom line plus on-roads: Golf R (m) $51,990; Golf R (a) $54,490.