Volkswagen Golf Review: Golf R Takes Things Up a Notch
21 October 2014 - Shawn Jooste
I sat recently reminiscing about the Golf. A staggering amount of them have been built, over 30 million in fact. That’s a lot of the same car. And through the years, we’ve seen some really good ones, and some not so good ones, but as an average, the Golf has always been a good car.
Of course, we’ve been treated to a healthy dose of the performance versions. From the very first MK1 GTi, we’ve seen a GTi model in every single range. But why stop with the GTi? VW have made a Golf R, again (first one was a Golf 6). We spent some time with it to see if it really is worth the hot hatch badge it so proudly carries.
Under the bonnet you’ll find a 2.0-litre engine, which isn’t too dissimilar to the GTi engine. In fact it’s near identical to the Audi S3 engine. Dropping in 206kW, it’s a significant upgrade on the standard GTi. It’s married to that lovely DSG gearbox that VW have perfected, and boasts some of the best gear changes in the business.
Launch control makes the Golf R a ridiculous straight line performer, and gets to you 100 in a little over 5 seconds, as you’re mildly aware of the world streaking past you while you cling to the steering wheel for dear life.
The Golf R is a thirsty car, but not as thirsty as one would think. It’s no secret that I have a heavy right foot, and on more than one occasion I’ve been omitted from an economy run, and my treatment of the Golf R was no different. Yet, I managed to keep the figures near as makes no difference to 10 L/100km.
Now this is significant because I distinctly remember testing the Golf 6 GTi, and struggling to keep the economy figure below 12 L/100km. So despite an extra 50kW, VW have improved the economy by nearly 20%, which is a HUGE step forward in emissions control.
The Golf 7 took a few strides forward in the tech department. The big burly LCD screen in the centre of the dash that changes when your finger approaches is arguably one of the coolest pieces of tech in any car available on the market today.
The steering wheel is multifunctional, allowing you to control a fairly large amount of the entertainment system without taking your hands off the wheel, which is always a good thing in the Golf R, as your hands are needed on the steering wheel when driving properly.
Comfort in the Golf R comes at a little of a premium. The ride is lower, and harder, as it should be for a performance hatch that spits out 206kW. But it’s a lot more rigid than a regular Golf 7, or even the GTi. Truth be told, you’re not likely to worry about it too much, you’ve bought a Golf R to go fast, not give the passengers a comfortable ride.
Apart from the ride itself, the rest of the setup is ergonomically perfect, as Volkswagen manages to do in their cars.
The beauty of the Golf R, is that it’s still a Golf. It’s got a good sized boot, spacious back seats and packs a whole family in without breaking a sweat.
Despite the “buckety” seats that you’ll find in the Golf R, it’s still a practical everyday car – almost.
See, the Golf R is built as a boy racer, and VW have seen fit to give it to us in one mode, Sport mode. So you have no comfort setting, and when you’re doing menial tasks like taking kids to school, or running errands, the permanent I-want-to-go-flat-out feeling can be a little impractical.
Undoubtedly the best car in the Golf 7 range. Sure, I’m happy to drive a flat-out boy racer all day long, and the addiction I developed to the crackling spitting exhaust isn’t healthy, but the handling, power, performance and acceleration is incredible for a car that starts at less than R500,000.
It’s wilder than the previous model, not as controlled as the S3, and you have to keep a good eye out for it, because it wants to kill you. The other versions of the VW Golf 7 are still great, but the Golf R takes things to another level.
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