Positioned above the legendary GTI in Volkswagen's Golf model range, the latest Golf R sticks with an all-wheel-drive configuration and a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine, but brings more power and drivetrain capability to the table. Though still not the quickest or most performance-focused car in its class, the Golf R boasts tight handling, a smooth-shifting transmission and a well-trimmed interior.
The Golf R features a turbocharged, 2.0-liter inline-four making 292 horsepower and 280lb-ft of torque. For the first time, Volkswagen is offering the Golf R with both manual and dual-clutch transmissions in the United States.
Aside from improving the weight distribution, the Golf R's all-wheel-drive system (lesser Golfs make do with front-wheel-drive) improves traction and contributes to a 4.9-second zero-to-60 mph run on the way to a 155-mph top speed. Fuel economy is rated at 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway (26 mpg combined) for the dual-clutch model.
The Golf R's brakes are shared with the Performance Package GTI's (13.4" rotors in front, 12.2" in the rear) but sport R-branded calipers. 18" and 19" wheels are available, both fitted with summer performance tires.
Those who want to extract the most handling performance from the Golf R should opt for the loaded models, which come equipped with VW's Dynamic Chassis Control system for the first time in the U.S. market. Also for the first time, Electronic Stability Control is fully defeatable.
Signaling the Golf R's performance prowess is a unique, more aggressive front fascia featuring standard bi-xenon headlights, while around back a quad exhaust setup and a diffuser spice up the look. The interior is quite similar to the high-quality unit in the GTI, though the steering wheel, R-branded seats, shifter knob and doorsills are specific to the Golf R.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Golf R is available in base trim or with DCC & Navigation.
The base vehicle comes standard with Bi-Xenon adaptive front lighting, daytime LED running lights and LED turn signals, keyless access with push-button start, Driving Mode Selection, heated leather front sport seats and dual-zone climate control. Standard entertainment features include a touchscreen radio with CD changer, SD card reader, Bluetooth connectivity, SiriusXM compatibility and MDI with iPod interface.
The Golf R with DCC & Navigation adds 19" wheels with wider tires, DCC adaptive dampers, touchscreen navigation, park distance control (front and rear) and the Fender audio system.
All Golf R models are outfitted with front, side and side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and ABS. Post-collision braking is also standard.
Buyers can order an optional Driver Assistance Package that adds a long list of safety features such as a Forward Collision Warning system with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system, and parking sensors on both ends.
Rivals to the Golf R include the Subaru Impreza WRX STI and the Ford Focus RS, which both share the VW's all-wheel-drive, turbo four configuration.