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2018 volkswagen Golf R

Positioned above the iconic 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.

Recent changes
Volkswagen gave the Golf R more tech features -- including a standard digital instrument cluster -- for the latest model year. It also expanded the list of standard equipment.

Overview
The Golf R features a turbocharged, 2.0-liter inline-four making 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet 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 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.

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 door sills are specific to the Golf R.

Standard and optional features
The Golf R is a mono-spec model. It comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, Volkswagen's DCC adaptive chassis control technology, parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, automatic LED headlights, 19-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone A/C, adaptive cruise control, a digital instrument cluster, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated front seats, leather upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, a Fender sound system, and an eight-inch touch screen.

The only factory option is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Safety
All Golf R models come with front, side, and side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and ABS. Post-collision braking, lane departure warning, and a blind spot monitoring system are also standard.

Key competitors
Buyers in the market for a Golf R can also look at the Subaru WRX STI and the front-wheel drive Honda Civic Type R.