2016 Volkswagen Golf R Review

Used Golf R for sale
List Price Range:$24,995 - $34,990
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Volkswagen Golf R model years
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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • Impressive all-wheel-drive performance
  • civilized ride quality, even on rough roads
  • interior is fitted with high-quality materials
  • hatchback design means generous cargo capacity
  • admirable fuel economy for such a fast car.
  • Debatable value relative to regular GTI.

How does 292 horsepower sound? In a car as small as the 2016 Volkswagen Golf R, it should sound pretty good. The Golf R commands a costly premium over the regular GTI, but you get all-wheel drive and a lot more power in the deal. Read on to learn what else might make the Golf R the performance-minded hot hatch for you.

Vehicle overview

Given how good the VW GTI is for thousands less, it's easy to question the value of the 2016 Volkswagen Golf R. After all, both have turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, and the average person would have a hard time telling the cars apart at a glance. But let's play devil's advocate for a minute. What if the Golf R is less of a tarted-up GTI than a cheaper, more practical version of the all-wheel-drive Audi S3 sedan? When you consider that the Golf R has essentially the same engine and chassis as the far pricier S3, plus the convenience of a hatchback trunk, Volkswagen's hottest "hot hatch" suddenly starts to look like a downright bargain.

The subtle 2016 Golf R keeps its high-performance credentials under wraps. Larger lower bumper air intakes are one giveaway.

OK, "bargain" might be pushing it. Any embellished economy car that starts in the mid-$30,000s when new has got some explaining to do. But the Golf R's standard AWD layout and 292-horsepower engine (72 hp more than the GTI can manage) quickly bring things into focus. If you opt for the DSG automated manual transmission (a traditional manual is also available for 2016), Volkswagen says you'll scoot to 60 mph in a sizzling 4.5 seconds, whereas the best time we've ever recorded for a standard GTI is 5.9 seconds.

Still, there will always be those who feel the Golf R is just too pricey for its own good. They'll tell you the Ford Mustang GT has a lower entry price, as well as rear-wheel drive and a pulse-pounding V8. They'll mention the Chevrolet Camaro SS for the same reasons, and if that pair seems a bit uncouth, they'll counter with the impeccably refined BMW 2 Series Coupe or the character-rich Mini Cooper Hardtop John Cooper Works. If you insist on four doors, they'll point you to the VW's new direct rival, the all-wheel-drive Ford Focus RS. But if you must have sophisticated manners, too, even the skeptics might concede there's nothing else quite like the 2016 Volkswagen Golf R.

2016 Volkswagen Golf R models

The 2016 Volkswagen Golf R is a four-door hatchback that can seat up to five passengers.

Standard features include 18-inch wheels with summer tires, automatic adaptive xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, a rear spoiler, quad tailpipes, keyless ignition and entry, cruise control, selectable drive modes, dual-zone automatic climate control, ambient lighting, R-specific interior styling flourishes, leather upholstery, heated front sport seats, a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat (with power lumbar), a partial power passenger seat with power recline, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a color trip computer, split-folding rear seats with a center pass-through, a rearview camera, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an eight-speaker audio system with a CD player, satellite radio, a USB port, an SD card reader and voice controls.

Like the rest of the 2016 Golf family, the Golf R gets an updated 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay and USB connectivity.

Adding the optional DCC and Navigation package will get you 19-inch wheels, adaptive suspension dampers with four selectable modes, a navigation system and a Fender audio system. The Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, a forward collision mitigation system with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and front and rear parking sensors.

Note that the Driver Assistance package's adaptive cruise control system includes full stop-and-go capability with the automated manual transmission (DSG), but ceases to operate below 19 mph with the conventional manual transmission.

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2016 Highlights

For 2016, the Volkswagen Golf R gets a standard six-speed manual transmission (DSG is optional) and an updated touchscreen infotainment system with a larger display, a USB port and enhanced smartphone integration thanks to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. Joining the options list is a Driver Assistance package that adds adaptive cruise control and a handful of electronic driving aids (including parking sensors, which are no longer standard with the DCC and Navigation package).

Performance & mpg

Motivation for the all-wheel-drive 2016 Volkswagen Golf R comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 292 hp and 280 pound-feet of torque. A traditional six-speed manual transmission is the default option, with a six-speed automated manual (VW's DSG) available at extra cost.

According to Volkswagen, the Golf R zips to 60 mph in an estimated 4.5 seconds with DSG, a very quick time for a hatchback in this price range. The stick shift drops to 5.3 seconds, but that's still nearly a full second quicker than the manual-transmission Mini Cooper John Cooper Works two-door hatchback.

The EPA estimates fuel economy at 25 mpg combined (22 city/31 highway) with the manual and a comparable 25 mpg combined (23 city/30 highway) with DSG.

Safety

Standard safety features for the 2016 VW Golf R include antilock disc brakes, automatic hill hold, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. The standard post-crash braking system automatically applies the brakes after an impact to reduce the likelihood of a secondary crash.

Also standard is VW's Car-Net emergency telematics system with features that include automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers).

Optional safety features are contained within the Driver Assistance package discussed above.

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the regular 2016 VW Golf earned the highest score of "Good" in the moderate-overlap and small-overlap frontal-offset impact tests. It also earned a "Good" rating in the side-impact, roof-strength and seats/head restraints (whiplash protection) tests.

Driving

The Golf R's major advantage over the regular GTI is its standard all-wheel-drive system. Acceleration is smooth and precise, with none of the wheelspin or torque steer normally associated with front-drive performance hatchbacks. As speed gathers and revs climb, the exhaust note grows from a low burble to a soaring baritone. Fortunately, at cruising speed on the highway, no exhaust drone makes its way into the respectably quiet cabin.

The standard quad tailpipes are one of the few telltale signs that this is the ultimate Golf.

Driven quickly around turns, the Golf R is predictable and remarkably balanced. This isn't a totally focused track-day weapon like the WRX STI, but on public roads, the Golf R excels. Where many performance-focused vehicles sacrifice comfort and ride quality, the VW makes no such compromises. There's enough suspension compliance to absorb rough pavement, and the optional adaptive suspension broadens the Golf R's capabilities with softer Comfort and stiffer Race modes.

Interior

The 2016 VW Golf R's interior is very similar to that of the GTI. It's characterized by a conservative design that makes use of high-quality materials and thoughtful placement of controls. The Golf R adds unique touches like "R" logos embossed on the seats, carbon-fiber-look dashboard and door inlays and blue gauge needles, though some shoppers may find these changes too subtle given the substantial price difference between the Golf R and GTI.

The Golf R's interior will never be called exuberant, but if you like understated yet upscale furnishings, it hits the spot.

Replacing last year's subpar infotainment system is a new setup with a slightly larger 6.5-inch touchscreen and advanced smartphone integration in the form of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink functionality. The graphics still aren't up to the standard set by the Mini Cooper John Cooper Works' optional 8.8-inch infotainment display, but in general this is a more satisfying system that improves the user experience for Golf R owners. Happily, VW has also discarded its unloved proprietary music interface, replacing it with a conventional USB port that complements the more permanent digital music storage provided by the SD card reader. 

In terms of comfort, the Golf R gets high marks. The standard sport seats offer suitable lateral support for aggressive driving, yet they're also comfortable on longer road trips. There's a wealth of front-seat space, even for larger drivers and passengers. Compared to other compact hatchbacks, the Golf R's rear seats are also quite generous, providing adult-size head- and legroom. The rear seat cushions are mounted a bit low, however, making them better suited to smaller occupants over long distances.

With the rear seatbacks folded, the Golf R offers cargo capacity on par with some compact SUVs.

Behind the rear seats, up to 22.8 cubic feet of luggage space is available, and there's certainly more than enough space here for day-to-day duties. Fold those seatbacks down flat and you've got up to 52.7 cubic feet, making the Golf R a cargo-carrying leader in the class.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2016 Volkswagen Golf R.

Trending topics in reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

5 out of 5 stars
BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK!!
LA,01/20/2016
w/Dynamic Chassis Control and Navigation 4dr Hatchback AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM)
Considering the options available for this car, this is definitely the best bang for the buck out there. Especially when considering the other vehicles out there that offer dynamic suspension, automatic w/ paddle shifters, and a 0-60 in under 5 secs (they just don't exist in the Golf R's price range). The Golf R is a total blast to drive. It hangs in the curves like it's on rails. Mine has the DCC suspension. The best part is that the 'comfort' setting dials everything back enough that my mother would have no problems driving it. Most of the time I leave the suspension dialed in to the 'race' setting, which is fine for most of my driving. MPG isn't quite as good as advertised. And will get slightly worse if you add the APR stage 1 kit (even though APR claims otherwise) - my combined MPG is around 22. However gas milage is still darn respectable considering the performance. Adding the stage 1 APR kit drops the 0-60 time to under 4 secs. And keeping the foot off the gas pedal becomes an exercise in will power. One of the things I have come to like a lot about the Golf R is that it is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It doesn't beg for attention from law enforcement like other performance cars do. Yet, it has plenty of thrill providing capabilities whenever the mood strikes. And it's practical enough for grocery shopping and driving my kids. Overall, there is very little that I would have changed about this car. My 1st complaint is the lack of a sun roof on the R model. On the flip side, a sunroof decreases chassis stiffness and moves the center of gravity higher, both of which adversely affect handling. Supposedly the Euro spec model comes with a sunroof. I could have sacrificed a little in the handling dept. for a sunroof. A 2nd complaint is that there is no middle ground for the engine mapping. The DCC provides 2 engine mappings - 'normal' and 'race' which are at opposite ends of the spectrum. VW needs a setting between those two. The 'race' setting would be great if you don't mind frequent visits to the gas station. And the 'normal' setting just isn't quite peppy enough. A 3rd change would be to add an over drive gear for highway driving. At the 80+ mph speeds on many interstates, the Golf R hums along around 3k rpm, well into its power band. An overdrive gear would definitely help with gas milage. Alright, so no car is going to perfectly appeal to everyone. For me, the Golf R is about as good as it gets, especially when compared to the other junk that car makers are putting on the market. BTW - I had been a Honda owner for over 15 years and am glad to be rid of them.
5 out of 5 stars
Incredibly fast and market-dominating hot hatch
Hawkeye,04/07/2016
4dr Hatchback AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)
Firstly, before I get into the nitty gritty, if you are going to compare this in any way to a GTI, don't. They are both in totally different classes and the golf R is on such a higher performance tier than the GTI, you'd be doing yourself a dis-service. This car is competing with STI's, EVO's, M235i's, CLA45 AMG's, Focus RS, etc. Anyways....I bought the car shortly after it came out, deep pearl black, 6spd manual, no dcc/navigation. Was one of the lucky few that was able to walk into a dealership, find the perfect one, was not being held, bought it same day. Car is incredible!!! Factory performance on these is nothing short of stunning. Judging from the overall looks of the car, it's quite surprising what this thing is really capable of. If I were to compare to others in it's class, it is more refined (excluding the BMW and Mercedes I mentioned above of course). In my honest opinion, there is not a better performance car that you can buy for the money, currently. Power/Engine performance: 292hp/280tq reported by VW. This is very impressive as it sits, coming from a 2.0L. However, after having the car tested on a dyno after the break in period (100% stock) the numbers were far closer to 318hp/310tq (which makes sense when these run against EVO's and STI's and out pace them). Since then, I purchased the stage 1 package from APR (just a tune) and it becomes a completely different predator. With the tune, you'll be looking at 354hp and 379tq (dsg 0-60 mph capable of sub 4 second times). In this setup, much fewer cars can compete in terms of speed, acceleration, agility. Handling: I think the handling is excellent. The model I have does not include the dynamic chassis control, and it still handles on rails (I can only imagine how well the DCC model handles). Traction: Excellent. Uses the exact same quattro system as the Audi S3 (actually the whole car is almost an exact copy of the S3, minus some interior options). I've had this in snow, gravel, ice, mud (not by choice), rain, you name it. Nothing will keep this thing off the road, I would pit it up against the best AWD's out there in terms of traction/grip. Interior: Very impressed with the interior of this car. Everything is either carbon fiber (it's a vinyl like carbon, still looks nice), quality italian black leather (yes it's real leather, not like the crap on Jetta's), and piano black trim. Looks very classy and sexy, feels like a much nicer car than a VW. Gear shift has a quality feel to it, along with all of the interior buttons and knobs. Makes me feel as if everything was well thought out and materials were not skimped on in any circumstance. Exterior: Love it. I personally am a big hatch fan, so this is a little biased. I dig the small, hunkered down, lowered look of the R. Quad exhaust tips are a sporty/sexy addition. I also appreciate how tasteful the body kit is. It's not near as "boy racer" as many of it's competitors, and outruns all of them! Overall, I absolutely love the car. I highly recommend this to someone that is interested in an STI, EVO, M235i, S3, etc. I strongly feel that VW has done an amazing job with this car, very excited to see how the next few R's progress.
5 out of 5 stars
Golf R - The Best All-Around Car I've Owned
Daniel,08/02/2016
4dr Hatchback AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)
This is definitely one of the most stunning and surprising cars that I've ever driven that has a high-quality Porsche feel to it when you're driving. I also love the fact that it is purely a sleeper car. For a mere $800 you can get a stage 1 tune and add almost an extra 100 HP and beat 2015 M3s, Porsche Carreras, and all sorts of muscle cars from Mustangs to Camaros and Dodge Chargers/Challengers. What's even more amusing is when you add some turns to the track and the Golf R will compete extremely well against anything you throw at it. Even with all the power, the gas mileage is pretty high around 25/26 combined mpg (80% city, 20% hwy).
4 out of 5 stars
26000 Miles and Going
Buffalo Tom,10/27/2016
w/Dynamic Chassis Control and Navigation 4dr Hatchback AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM)
Had the 2016 Golf R for 13 months now. Overall I don't find myself left wanting for anything. Wish the German version of a Nav system worked faster, it shows your at a intersection well after you've passed it (at any speed). Also when seeking back roads hoping for a challenge/new sights by selecting shortest distance it always sticks to more major roadways - boring! Inputting addresses to search has more effective results if done one way v.s. another (starting w/ street v.s. town). I did catch it being down a couple qts. of oil in one oil change, others were ok, maybe garage didn't top it off, not sure. Stock tires were shot in 10 K miles, but they had v good grip. Not trilled with 35 sidewalls especially w/ soft tires, any edges on the roadway over 1.5 inches over 35 mph and you're flirting w/ bent rims. I think the 235 45 tire size would be better overall. Clutch seems strong in the car, hasn't showed signs of weakness (unlike my previous 2005 Mitsu Evo). The ride selections are very nice and effective although I usually leave mine in race mode but the wife sometimes complains which is easily resolved. Interior design is plush, but they shouldn't disable the center console lid/compartment - plain BS. I'd like to see it more aggressive with proportioning more drive to the rear tires when it's needed, having driver control over that like the ride selection would be a blast. I had a 2005 Mitsu Evo and put 175000 mls on that car. Between the 2 I'd choose the Golf R, biggest reasons are: interior comfort/fit and finish, seats, cruise control, radio, less road noise. Of course this isn't fair as my Evo was a 2005. I think the Golf R is a little faster but that my be the gear boxes. I do miss the engine sound feedback the Evo provided, the Golf R isn't as good which compromises your driving abilities. Update 5/2/2017: +36000 mls and going. I don't park the car in the garage. I've noticed on occasion that the clutch will slip at first use until things warm up. Could be moisture or temp related seemed to act up when v cold or wet out. Runs low on oil at end of 10 k oil changes 1-2 qrts, isn't leaking, probably just normal burn off. Engine noise just isn't loud enough for driver feedback, it's v easy to hit the rev limiter especially in 1st gr. Gas mileage runs 26 when ran hard, 32 in ideal conditions. Brakes on the car are holding up really really well. The car's driver interface (radio, nav, etc.) freaks out on occasion at 1st start, sometime it'll recover, other times I need to restart the motor to get it to come around, it locks up or ignores driver input for several minutes happened 4-5 times so far.

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

5 out of 5 stars
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    Overall4 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    Overall5 / 5
  • Side Barrier Rating
    Overall5 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front Seat5 / 5
    Back Seat5 / 5
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover13.4%

More about the 2016 Volkswagen Golf R

Used 2016 Volkswagen Golf R Overview

The Used 2016 Volkswagen Golf R is offered in the following submodels: Golf R Hatchback. Available styles include 4dr Hatchback AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), w/Dynamic Chassis Control and Navigation 4dr Hatchback AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), 4dr Hatchback AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM), and w/Dynamic Chassis Control and Navigation 4dr Hatchback AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM). Pre-owned Volkswagen Golf R models are available with a 2.0 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 292 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2016 Volkswagen Golf R comes with all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automated manual. The Used 2016 Volkswagen Golf R comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2016 Volkswagen Golf R?

Price comparisons for Used 2016 Volkswagen Golf R trim styles:

  • The Used 2016 Volkswagen Golf R Base is priced between $28,990 and$34,990 with odometer readings between 35690 and56297 miles.
  • The Used 2016 Volkswagen Golf R w/Dynamic Chassis Control and Navigation is priced between $24,995 and$28,800 with odometer readings between 64021 and104230 miles.

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Which used 2016 Volkswagen Golf RS are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2016 Volkswagen Golf R for sale near. There are currently 5 used and CPO 2016 Golf RS listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $24,995 and mileage as low as 35690 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2016 Volkswagen Golf R.

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Should I lease or buy a 2016 Volkswagen Golf R?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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