It all started with just a humble hatchback really. The Volkswagen Golf Mk1 Typ 17 (or Rabbit, as it was fondly known in the US of A) was an indirect replacement to the real people’s car, the Beetle. But some engineers thought it would be nice if the Golf has more power so they went on to create the Golf GTI. Apparently after four generations of the GTI, it still wasn’t enough; no siree bob. The dials were then turned up to eleven to create a hotter Golf that sits above the GTI.
The R badge (R32 to be specific) first appeared on the Golf Mk4. The first Golf R32 packs a huge normally-aspirated 3.2-litre VR6 engine under its bonnet, producing 237 hp and 320 Nm of torque driving all four wheels via the 4MOTION all-wheel drive system. It was also the world’s first production car equipped with a dual-clutch gearbox (DSG). The identical badge reappears on the Golf Mk5 where the similar package is applied but the power has climbed to 240 hp.
On the Golf Mk6, the sonorous 3.2-litre VR6 gave way to a more compact turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder powerplant, thus dropping the “R32” moniker in favour of just a single letter R. Even though the engine is smaller, it dishes out 266 hp and still driving all four wheels. The baton is then passed to Golf Mk7 with the same recipe but with more power and around 45 kg lighter than before.
|Name||Volkswagen Golf R 5-door Tech Pack|
|Segment||C-segment performance hatchback|
|Engine||1,984 cc 4-Cylinder TSI|
|Max Power||276 hp @ 5,700 – 6,200 rpm|
|Max Torque||380 Nm @ 1,750 – 5,600 rpm|
|Price||RM 291,888.00 (OTR without insurance)|
The Golf R Mk7 landed in Malaysia in June 2014, costing some odd RM50,000 over the GTI. But then again the R does pack some serious hardware underneath, and not to mention the increased amount of horses under the bonnet. GC has already driven it in Sepang and his first impressions were nothing short of awe inducing. With all the goodness crammed into a compact and convenient hatchback, is the Golf R all the car you ever need?
Volkswagen’s hottest Golf never really carried a fierce styling. The Golf R is all about subtle hints but at the same time you don’t need a keen pair of eyes to tell it apart from its lesser brethren. While it’s easy to tell that this is the most powerful Golf in the range by its exclusive Lapiz Blue hue, there’s not much aesthetic addenda to indicate that it’s the crown jewel Golf.
The GTI may be boasting its hotness by the trademark red strip across the grille, but the R simply wears a single strip of chrome on the grille. The Golf R’s face is fuller though with its square-jawed front bumper and air intake vents, and they’re not merely for visual effects as it needs those vents to keep its internals cool. There are no fake blanked out vents here, all holes are literally openings large enough to swallow an Eurasian Tree Sparrow.
The gorgeous 19-inch Cadiz wheels add a bit of bling to the overall package, and other bling factors to be found on the R are the LED indicators inside the Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED Daytime Running Lights, and the LED tail lights that most GTI owners are envious of. The letter R is peppered around the exterior too, on the front grille, on the front fenders, on the boot lid, and even on the brake calipers.
Most people will only catch the rear view of the Golf R on the highways, and the telltale sign that you’ve been overtaken by one is the OTT quad tailpipes that farts rudely as it disappears into the horizon.
It’s mainly dark and sombre in here, which is good especially if you want to focus on your driving. It’s not that the interior is boring, it does have some eye candy to remind you that you’re in a special Golf. For instance, the dials feature the same clock face with other Volkswagen vehicles and that’s fine because they’re sharp and clear, but in the R it gets blue needles to sweep round the clocks.
The flat-bottom steering wheel itself is shapely with the obligatory shift paddles and the letter R at the 6 o’clock position. The letter R also can be found on the deeply bolstered front seats but the weird thing is that only the driver gets electronic adjustments, whilst the front passenger’s seat adjusts manually. At night, the front occupants are accompanied by the blue strip of LED that adorn the front door panels.
It’s well-equipped with creature comforts too, you get keyless entry with push-start button, leather seats, dual-zone climate control, reverse camera, seven airbags, and even a sliding glass sunroof as standard. An 8-inch touchscreen takes prime estate on the glossy piano black center console, featuring GPS navigation with 3D map and Bluetooth connectivity.
Since it’s a Golf, space is not an issue here, but seriously do you really care about the space in a Golf R? Well if you insist, the back seats three at a squeeze with sufficient leg room and head room. The rear passengers get a couple of aircond vents, and there are ISOFIX mounts for any yummy-mummy carrying their pride and joy (I’m referring to their kids of course, not their LV bags).
The backrest split 60/40 as usual, and there’s a door behind the fold-down center armrest giving access to and from the boot. The 380 litre boot may not be the biggest around, but it’s practical with useful side compartments and hooks and even a 12V power outlet.
The EA888 unit in the GTI is already producing 217 hp and 350 Nm of torque; but with new cylinder head, new injectors, and a bigger turbo, it now serves 276 hp and 380 Nm of torque in the R. The superfast 6-speed wet-clutch Direct Shift Gearbox is the only option for the Malaysian-market Golf R, and it allows the Golf R to rocket from zero to hundred km/h in less than five seconds. Top speed is capped at 250 km/h, but who’s complaining?
The pièce de résistance has to be the 4MOTION all-wheel drive with electronic differential locks (EDS) and the latest version of their cross differential system, XDS+. Under normal driving, power is sent to the front wheels but the 4MOTION all-wheel drive system uses the fifth-generation Haldex clutch to distribute power to the back wheels by up to 100 percent when needed.
With EDS and XDS+ working in harmony, they apply brakes or send power to any specific wheel to reduce understeer. And for the first time ever you can finally switch the traction control off, should you ever feel like manhandling the R by its metaphorical horns.
Another party piece is the Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) that alters the damper, steering, and throttle response accordingly for each driving mode. On the Driving Mode Selection, you can choose from Eco, Comfort, Normal, Race, or even Individual.
The Individual mode lets you get creative with the setup, so you can customise each attribute to be in the lowest or the sportiest setting. I’m in Eco mode most of the time, where it utilises the Stop/Start technology and it even decouples the gearbox from the engine when coasting, saving every drop of precious amber nectar in the fuel tank. If you must know, the average fuel consumption is rated at an astonishing 6.9 l/100 km, given how performance-oriented the R is.
By thumbing the starter button you will be greeted by a bassy din from the 4-cylinder. Yes, the sound from the engine may be synthesized by the Soundaktor but it gives out a mean staccato that fuses a boxer four rumble with a hint of V8 grunt to be heard inside the cabin. I don’t mind that they’re (partly) fake, and personally I find the DSG farts never get old especially when you’re powering away from the toll booths. On the other hand, the constant bassyness that permeates the cabin can be rather annoying when you’re in a mood for just a relaxed cruise.
There’s no need to get to know the Golf on the normal streets. I’m not going to say its as comfortable as the 1.4 TSI, but you get the idea of how easy it is to drive as any normal hatchback in its class. Fitted with those 19-inch wheels the ride is not rock-hard and surprisingly pliable yet composed than what you would expect.
Even in Eco mode, there’s gobs of pull from the turbo four under the bonnet. With 380 Nm of torque at your disposal from just 1,750 rpm, a flex of your right ankle will treat you to a blurred scenery and you’re warped into three-digit speeds in no time.
The rapidness of the acceleration makes it second nature for the Golf R to hog the fast lane. While AutoBuzz.my does not condone such acts, highway warriors will be delighted by the Golf R’s ability to obliterate (almost) anything in its sight. It gathers pace in an atrocious manner so don’t be surprised if you receive a few love letters in your mailbox.
Even though the Golf R is a useful tool to educate the poseur ricers that tries ever so hard to tailgate you, it doesn’t really make full use of the 4MOTION all-wheel drive capabilities on the long highways. For this you need to find the B-roads to exploit the broad talents of the car has to offer.
On the twisties the Golf R clings to the road like a baby koala to its mother. On corners where you’d normally ease the throttle, in the Golf R you can gun it ASAP without hesitation. Initially you will encounter some understeer but the 4MOTION all-wheel drive system with the XDS+ work their magic to shoot the Golf R out of any corners without drama.
Body roll is non-existent, and the progressive steering loads up nicely when you’re attacking the bends. It felt quite surreal but at the same time it’s confidence-inspiring that after attacking your favourite stretch of twisties, you will want to have another go at it; thinking where could you carry more speed to shave your previous timed run that you set using the on-board lap timer. It’s like playing Gran Turismo but way better.
And yet it gets even better. After you’re done playing you’d expect the fuel consumption to plummet to more than 15.0 l/100 km, but take a glance at the multi-info display and you’ll find you barely stray more than 10.0 l/km. This is a fine example of having your cake and eating it.
IS IT FOR YOU?
Are you looking for a practical continental hatch for your daily run that you can also enjoy it for your weekend blast on squiggly B roads? Already tested the Golf GTI but still left wanting more? The Golf R could be the car for you. Some might say it’s a bit too much to be used as a daily car compared to the GTI but the R makes for a better proposition because even though you might not use it to its fullest potential, there’s always time for you to explore what it has to offer.
Although at this price range there are a lot of other (more sedate) choices, there’s no other vehicle that has the beguiling mixture of talents as the Golf R. It also looks discreet enough and if you’re all about subtleties the Golf will definitely complement your style. Then again, if you find the Golf R is excessive for you, there’s always the GTI or if you’re environmentally conscious the Golf GTE is coming in a few months time with 201 hp and 350 Nm while sipping just 1.5 litres of fuel per 100 km.
There’s another German hatch with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and 4WD in (official) Malaysian market; and it’s called the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG. Both packs a 2.0-litre turbocharged powerplant driving all four wheels and both are using dual clutch transmission.
The Merc has the upper hand with 360 hp versus just 280 hp from the Golf. It’s quicker to get to 100 km/h by 0.4 seconds but shares the same limited top speed of 250 km/h and the average fuel consumption of 6.9 l/100 km. On paper the AMG outshines the R with its power figures (and price), and in the metal it looks flashier than the R.
|Volkswagen Golf R 5-door Tech Pack||Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG|
|Type||4-cylinder direct injection turbo petrol||4-cylinder direct injection turbo petrol|
|Max Power||hp/rpm||276/5,700 – 6,200||360/6,000|
|Max Torque||Nm/rpm||380/1,750 – 5,600||450/2,250 – 5,000|
|Type||Electrical power-assisted||Electrical power-assisted|
|Transmission||6-speed Dual Clutch DSG||7-speed Dual Clutch AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT|
|Type (Front / Rear)||MacPherson struts / Multilink||Spring strut and control arm / Control arm and trailing arm|
|Front||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc|
|Rear||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc|
|TYRE & WHEELS|
|Tyres||235/35 R19||235/35 R19|
|DIMENSIONS & WEIGHTS|
|Max Kerb weight||kg||1,495||1,555|
|Luggage Capacity (VDA)||L||380||341|
|Consumption||6.9 L/100 km||6.9 L/100 km|
|0 – 100km/h||sec||5.0||4.6|
WILL I BUY IT?
Most people said the GTI is sufficient for a daily ride, but if you have the money why settle for just that? This is quite the most complete Golf to date and I’d get one in a heartbeat if my bank account allows me to. The Golf R is like a best friend, providing you with the comfort and assistance when you’re in need and encouraging you to push harder and do better when you’re faced with a challenge. Upon returning it I felt like I was missing my best friend. Until our paths cross another time; see you again, friend.