A successor to the R32, the Volkswagen Golf R is similarly a GTI kicked up a few notches in terms of power, handling, braking and features. Unlike its precursor, which was only available with two doors, the Golf R comes in both two- and four-door hatchback forms. And in keeping with tradition, the Golf R commands a hefty price premium over the GTI, though standard all-wheel drive, more standard features and limited production somewhat alleviate the sticker shock.
For power the Volkswagen Golf R relies on an upgraded variant of the GTI's turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Power delivery is strong and smooth, though perhaps not as thrilling as that of rival sport compact cars. Rather than exhibiting a sharp-edged, somewhat frenetic personality, Volkswagen's top performance compact is more of a grand touring machine, fully capable of swiftly slicing through serpentine blacktop while also providing a comfortable and effortlessly relaxed demeanor for daily use.
Current Volkswagen Golf R
The VW Golf R debuted for 2012. Compared to the GTI, the Golf R comes equipped with all-wheel drive, a more powerful engine, a lowered sport suspension and more aggressively bolstered sport front seats. Of course there are the obligatory "sport" styling tweaks, such as notably more prominent front air intakes, a restyled rear fascia and twin, center-mounted exhaust tips.
Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 256 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque. Running through a six-speed manual (the only gearbox available), that's good enough to send the Golf R to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. It's respectably quick but not as speedy as a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution or Subaru Impreza WRX STI. That said, the Golf R makes up for its lack of all-out turbocharged thrust with its superior everyday livability by way of a less buzzy engine and a smoother, quieter ride. Handling is still athletic, as the Golf R is fully adept at sweeping around corners thanks to its buttoned-down suspension, seamless AWD system and precise, well-weighted steering.
The Volkswagen Golf R is considerably more expensive than the already competent GTI. For that money, you get the aforementioned upgrades plus an impressive number of standard features, including adaptive xenon headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker sound system. A sunroof and a navigation system are optional.
Some shoppers will no doubt still feel that the VW Golf R is overpriced for what you get. But seen as a limited-production car that provides a measure of exclusivity plus the extra security of all-wheel drive, it's money well spent for this ultimate GTI.
Used Volkswagen Golf R Models
The Volkswagen Golf R is new. Used car shoppers could look at its predecessor, the Volkswagen R32. It was produced for 2004 and 2008 only.
Read the most recent 2013 Volkswagen Golf R review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Volkswagen Golf R page.