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
Set to debut sometime in the second quarter of 2015 as a late 2015 model, the Volkswagen Golf R will return with updated styling, more power and a new automatic transmission. Initially, the lone body style will be a four-door hatchback. Based on the latest-generation Golf, the new Golf R will likewise be wider and longer than its predecessor. This translates into more cabin room for both passengers and cargo, while a lower load floor and wider hatch opening ease loading of the latter.
Output from the turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine will be 290 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, handily outgunning the outgoing model by 34 hp and 37 lb-ft, respectively. Unlike before, an automated manual transmission (VW's "DSG") will be offered along with the expected six-speed manual. Assisted by the grip of its standard all-wheel-drive system, the new Golf R, according to Volkswagen, will sprint to 60 mph in about 5 seconds flat.
In keeping with tradition, the new Golf R will come loaded, as standard features will include sport-tuned suspension and steering, bi-xenon headlights, dual exhaust, sport seats and leather upholstery. Both the audio and available navigation systems will use a 5.8-inch touchscreen display. An optional adaptive suspension with three different ride settings will further allow the Golf R to balance its dual duties as a composed commuter and entertaining hot hatch.
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 previous-generation Volkswagen Golf R was produced for just two years ? 2012 and '13. Both years are identical, as no changes were made during this brief production run.
Compared to the GTI of the time, the Golf R differed in that it boasted all-wheel drive, a more powerful engine, a lowered sport suspension and more aggressively bolstered front sport seats. Of course, there were the obligatory "sport" styling tweaks, such as much larger front air intakes, a restyled rear fascia and twin, center-mounted exhaust tips. Under the hood, the R sported a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 with 256 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. Running through a six-speed manual (the only gearbox available), that was good enough to send the Golf R to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. That's respectably quick but not as speedy as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution or Subaru Impreza WRX STI of the same time period.
Though a used Volkswagen Golf R will be considerably more expensive than a GTI in equivalent condition and mileage, that premium is justified. In addition to the aforementioned performance upgrades, the R also came with an impressive number of standard features such as 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 were optional and will likely be seen on most examples you find for sale.
The Golf R's predecessor, the Volkswagen R32, was produced for 2004 and 2008 only.
Read the most recent 2017 Volkswagen Golf R review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Volkswagen Golf R page.