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.