Successor to the highly-regarded R32 - a line that started with the menacing Golf IV and ended with the following generation - the Golf R represents a new approach to range-topping performance models at Volkswagen.
It might not offer the same soundtrack as its six-cylinder predecessor, but with a lighter and more powerful turbo-charged four-cylinder engine under the lid, it's not short of potential.
Starting at $48,490, the Golf R carries a significant premium over the GTI, the difference falling just short of $10,000.
The Golf R's most obvious styling changes come in the form of a markedly more aggressive bumper with daytime running lights, joined by a 'R-emblazoned' piano black grille and 18-inch "Talladega" alloy wheels in front of black brake calipers.
Larger 19-inch versions of the same wheel design can be optioned, in a silver or black finish.
LED tail-lights, also updated from the Golf and GTI, sit above R32-inspired centre-mounted twin exhaust pipes protruding from the largely-unchanged rear bumper.
Bi-xenon headlights are also featured as standard, adding that much more of an upmarket feel to the range-topping Golf R.
As with the GTI, the Golf R is available in both three- and five-door bodystyles, and an electric glass sunroof can be optioned across both shapes.
Inside, the Golf R gets the same no-nonsense 'top sport' seating, trimmed in a more reserved black fabric microfibre mesh as standard.
There's also a leather option for the standard front seats, and if so inclined, the more sports-oriented buyers can upgrade to a pair of Motorsport-style front seats.
The rest of the Golf R's interior is virtually identical to the GTI, with the most obvious differences coming in the form of the piano-black finish to the steering wheel's bottom spoke, and the satin silver dash and door highlights.
Other interior trim features include chrome bezels for many of the switches, while the black-on-black theme continues with a black roofliner and black pillar trim.
As with the rest of the Golf range, rear luggage space is 350 litres with the back passenger seats up, and 1305 litres when laid flat.
As with the 2010 Golf GTD and GTI, standard features for the Golf R include dual-zone climate control, air-conditioning, six-disc CD changer with touchscreen, MP3 compatibility, Aux connectivity (Bluetooth optional), and an eight-speaker sound system.
The R gets seven airbags as standard (just like its siblings) including driver and passenger front and side airbags, driver’s knee airbag and curtain airbags front and rear.
Below, there is ABS braking, Anti-Slip Regulation, ESP stability control, brake assist and electronic brake pressure distribution.
A rear-view camera can be added as an optional extra, as can the Dynaudio Excite premium audio system with a 300W digital amplifier and eight speakers.
Producing 188kW and 330Nm of torque between 2400-5200rpm, the Golf R is powered by a 2.0 litre turbo-charged TSI four-cylinder petrol engine, power sent to the ground through Volkswagen's 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system and either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG transmission.
The turbocharger runs up to 1.2bar of boost pressure, up from around 0.8-1.0bar in the GTI. To accommodate the extra power, the engine block has been reinforced, the cylinders have been equipped with reinforcing bolts, and stronger connecting rods are in place for transferring the engine's high torque.
Volkswagen's 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system has also seen significant updates since the version found in the R32.
The most significant upgrade is in the all-wheel differential which, thanks to the use of an electric pump supplying oil to a 30bar hydraulic reservoir, no longer requires a difference between the front and rear axle speeds.
Unlike the previous system, the new setup operates independent of slip, with the system’s working pressure always available.
When starting up and accelerating, spinning of the wheels at the front axle is prevented more effectively, thanks to the control module regulating torque distribution based on dynamic axle loads.
Paired with the manual, the Golf R will sprint to 100km/h in 5.9 seconds - a full second quicker than its GTI sibling, about a few fractions faster than the R32 it replaces.
It gets there even quicker with the dual-clutch DSG transmission, covering the distance in 5.7 seconds.
Fuel consumption is listed at 8.7 l/100km, bettering the R32 by about 1.2 litres. CO2 emissions are down also, from 259g/km for the R32 to 201g/km for the new R. The DSG gets even lower, with an official figure of 197g/km.
Suspension is managed up front by familiar MacPherson struts with helical springs and telescoping shock absorbers. At the rear, a multi-link suspension system is in place, and overall ride height has been lowered 25mm.
As an option, the new Golf R can be ordered with Adaptive Chassis Control, designed to react to the road and the driving situation, modifying the damper characteristics accordingly.
If the Golf R is ordered with the Adaptive Chassis Control system, the power-assisted steering is given a specially-tuned characteristic for each of the system’s driving modes (NORMAL, COMFORT and SPORT).
The system also reacts to acceleration, braking and steering inputs, which Volkswagen says helps to minimise conflict between a sporty ride and a comfortable one.
On the braking front, the Golf R gets ventilated discs all-round, measuring 345mm up front and 310mm at the rear.
The 2010 Volkswagen Golf R is available now.
- Golf R 3 Door - 6 Speed Manual - $48,490
- Golf R 3 Door - 6 Speed DSG - $50,990
- Golf R 5 Door - 6 Speed Manual - $49,990
- Golf R 5 Door - 6 Speed DSG - $52,490
- Electric Glass Sunroof - $1,900
- Talladega 19" alloy wheels in Silver or Black (4) - $1,300
- Dynaudio Excite 300W Audio - $1,300
- Satellite Navigation RNS510 - $2,500
- RNS510 with Dynauido Excite - $3,500
- Rear View Camera (RVC) (with RCD510, RNS510 or Dynaudio) - $500
- Media Device Interface (MDI) - $270
- Vienna Leather Upholstery - $3,300
- Motorsport Front Seats, Micro Fibre/Leather Upholstery - $5,300
- Electric Driver's Seat (only with Leather & 5 door) - $600
- Adaptive Chassis Control - $1,500
Note: prices are Manufacturer's List Price only, and do not include dealer-delivery or on-road costs.