I did a lot of research on the R, including comparing the 2012/2013 model mk6 with the current mk7. I bought a used mk6 with 21k miles for about $12k less than a new one and I couldn't be happier. The AWD is fantastic, especially in cornering. It has plenty of power, any more and you run the risk of multiple speeding tickets. The 6 speed is the best I've ever used. The turbo sound is beautiful. The pervasive criticism of the mk6 R has been mainly that it should do more and offer more, such as offering a DSG transmission (as in Europe), more aggressive styling and the ability to turn off stability control and more HP. Not for me. I'm not going to take it to the track. I hate automatics (even DSG's) and I prefer the understated styling. I want people to think it's just a Golf. Further, the new mk7 doesn't offer a sunroof (my mk6 does) and has limited and basic colors to choose from (none that I liked). My dark grey/greenish understated R mk6 is perfect. My only complaint is that there is no basic USB (why they put in a proprietary MIDI cable I don't know). The integration with iPhone could have been done better, even in 2012. Sat/Nav is acceptable. The sound quality is superb, however. This is a driver's car for old school manual transmission enthusiasts that enjoy *the art* of driving, more than just shaving .5 seconds off 0-60 that a DSG would give you.
I love driving. And I'm getting older and need something more practical. Enter the Golf R. I've always enjoyed the practicality that hatchbacks offer and there are reasons why Golfs have sold so well. I have not been disappointed with her the past 2 months since I purchased it. Interior is excellent and offers everything I need and more. The drive quality is firm, but German. It corners nicely, and being 4wd it never scares and the tires let you know when you're on edge and about to break traction. It's predictable and its growl at highway speed is great. There is turbo lag but no torque steer--as expected since its 4wd. Nobody pulls up next to race. Only Golf GT/DI people know what it is.
Buy the manual shift. I thought the automatic in my GTI was great, but this manual is much nicer and gives a better driving experience. The power and acceleration of the R is fantastic. Great comfort and relative fuel economy is an added bonus.
I fell beyond in love with this car and would have kept it forever had I not needed more room for people in the back. I could go on forever with how much I loved it, just test drive on for yourself and fall in love on your own!