Volkswagen Golf R Review

Overall Rating

  • Country of Origin
  • Price
    $52,490 (plus on-road costs)
  • Engine
    4 Cylinders
  • Output
    188 kW / 330 Nm
  • Transmission
    Sports Automatic Dual Clutch
  • ANCAP Rating
  • Airbags
    Driver & Passenger (Dual), Knee Driver, Head for 2nd Row Seats, Side for 1st Row Occupants (Front), Head for 1st Row Seats (Front)
  • L/100 km
  • C02
    197 g/km
  • Luggage Capacity
  • Towing (braked)
  • Towing (unbraked)
Tony O'Kane | Aug 13, 2010 | 30 Comments


Displacement may be down, but the blistering new 2010 Golf R is - in every way - a much improved car over the Golf R32 it replaces.

Power is up, torque is up and the R’s AWD system is more capable than the R32’s front-biased driveline. Not only that, but it’s cheaper than the outgoing model.

What’s new?

The Golf R replaces the Golf V R32 as the new flagship model.
The Golf R replaces the Golf V R32 as the new flagship model.
It may ride on the same platform as the old MkV Golf R32 (review here), but pretty much everything is different. The engine has been downsized from a 3.2 litre V6 to a 2.0 litre turbo four.

The 4Motion AWD system has been tweaked to give better dynamic performance and the R’s weight distribution is less nose-heavy.

Styling is completely different too, both inside and out. The Golf R’s exterior gets unique front and rear light units (the rears with a distinctive double-L LED arrangement), and LED daytime running lights sit in the wide-mouthed front bumper.

A pair of sideskirts are also unique to the Golf R, while the R’s standard 18-inch ‘Talladega’ alloys are also available in 19-inch sizing.

What’s the appeal?

The Golf R offers a blend of turbocharged hot-hatch performance and European refinement. It’s a very capable performance car, but its interior is far from stripper-spec and is loaded with mod-cons.

It’s very much a car that you can drive to work during the week and take to the track on the weekend, and it’s equally at home on a B-road as it is clipping apexes at your local circuit.

What features does it have?

2010 volkswagen golf r dsg road test review australia 31

As the pinnacle of the Golf line-up, the R enjoys a number of things that are costly options on lower models.

Things like bi-xenon headlamps, front and rear parking sensors, privacy glass, an anti-theft alarm and touchscreen audio system with in-dash CD stacker.

Cruise control, a trip computer, rain-sensing wipers and dusk-sensing headlamps are also standard.

There are still a number of cost options though, like sat-nav (fitted to our car), leather upholstery (fitted to our car), and an electric driver’s seat (fitted to our car). A rear view camera can be opted for at extra cost.

What’s under the bonnet?

2010 volkswagen golf r dsg road test review australia 11

Volkswagen’s 2.0 litre EA113-CDL four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine powers the Golf R, and is a wholly different engine to the EA888 2.0 litre turbo used by the MKVI Golf GTI.

Instead, the Golf R’s engine is virtually identical to that used by the Audi S3, and produces a total of 188kW of power and 330Nm of torque.

European-market versions of both the Golf R and S3 get a full-blooded 195kW/350Nm output, but Australia’s hot climate prompted VW to dial back power to help preserve the engine.

That engine is mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed twin-clutch DSG automatic, and drive is taken to all four wheels via a new version of VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system.

2010 volkswagen golf r dsg road test review australia 07

Compared to the R32’s 4Motion system, the Golf R’s AWD drivetrain now has a constantly variable torque split, and is no longer as front-biased as the old system.

Up to 100 percent of torque can be taken to the rear wheels, and the system is much quicker to react to changes in grip levels.

Suspension hardware consists of Macpherson struts at the front and a multi-link setup at the rear.

Ride height is 25mm lower than a regular Golf, and the optional Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) system allows damper hardness and steering assistance to be cycled between Comfort, Normal and Sport settings.

A pair of 345mm discs are gripped by big sliding calipers at the front, with 310mm discs at the rear.

How does it drive?

The VW Golf R produces a pleasing 188kW and 330Nm of torque.
The VW Golf R produces a pleasing 188kW and 330Nm of torque.
While the last-gen Golf R32’s narrow-angle V6 was a delightful motor, the new inline four is both more versatile and more powerful.

Docile when off-boost and extremely punchy when the turbo starts blowing strong, the inline four effectively has a split personality.

It can be as driven as gently as any Golf; the reward is sensible fuel consumption. But peak performance, and the devil within, is just a stab of the right foot away.

The bulk of its grunt comes online from 2500rpm upwards, and turbo lag is appreciably brief. Power delivery is linear, and the engine pulls cleanly all the way to its 6500rpm redline.

Its brilliance is in its flexibility. All 330Nm of torque is available between 2400rpm and 5200rpm, giving the Golf R excellent tractability across much of the rev range.

The naturally-aspirated Golf R32, on the other hand, had to be revved harder to extract maximum performance.

Volkswagen does twin-clutch gearboxes extremely well, and the Golf R’s optional DSG auto is yet another pearler.

It swaps gears in the blink of an eye, and its sport mode is intelligent enough to pre-emptively change down a gear (or two) on deceleration to keep the engine in the meat of its powerband.

Upchanges are accompanied by a satisfying ‘whump’ from the dual tailpipes, and downchanges are made with a rev-perfect throttle blip.

2010 volkswagen golf r dsg road test review australia 16

The standard steering wheel paddle shifters are easy to use, however the tiptronic gate is still the wrong way around – upshifts are done by pushing the stick forward, downshifts by pulling it back.

The DSG is extremely smooth when either pottering about the suburbs or attacking a mountain road and is hard to catch out.

It refuses, however, to hold gears to the redline in any of its modes - not a big deal when the DSG’s gearshifts barely interrupt the flow of power, but some drivers may find it an annoyance on a racetrack.

The steering wheel is the right size for spirited tiller-twirling, and steering weight is good. The ACC system changes the level of electric power steering assistance depending on mode, and with Sport mode selected there’s a satisfying heaviness to the wheel.

There’s little in the way of torque steer, and the front wheels don’t tend to get tugged around by road imperfections. Like most electro-mechanical power steering systems though, it doesn’t transmit a huge amount of information to the driver’s fingertips.

Chassis balance is better than the R32 and the Golf R has a higher grip threshold. It will still understeer when pushed, but thanks to its more neutral front-rear weight distribution its limits are higher.

2010 volkswagen golf r dsg road test review australia 05

Applying throttle helps to bring the rear around and tuck the nose in, something the R32 was reluctant to do.

Clearly, the rejigging of the 4Motion has paid dividends for the flagship Golf’s handling, as the constantly-variable torque split delivers better balance when under power.

The large brakes are very strong indeed, if a little grabby at urban speeds. The pedal is firm and responsive, and the stoppers instill a lot of confidence.

Ride quality is perhaps a bit too firm for around-town driving and while the Comfort mode on the optional ACC suspension is definitely softer, there’s still a hard edge to the damping when crossing expansion gaps, level crossings and the like.

It certainly feels sporting, mind you, and in Sport mode it corners very flatly and responds crisply to steering inputs.

The ACC suspension is definitely worth the extra expense, in our book, as its flexibility makes the Golf R’s ride a little easier to live with during the daily commute and far more enjoyable away from it.

What did our passengers think?

Passenger comfort is generally good, with very supportive front seats and decent leg and headroom in the back.

However, the firm ride may not encourage your passengers to ride along with you frequently, as the Golf R is a bit too jiggly even with the optional ACC suspension system in Comfort mode.

Interior quality and feel?

2010 volkswagen golf r dsg road test review australia 30

The cabin ambience of the Golf R is virtually identical to any other MkVI Golf.

It’s quiet thanks to extra sound insulation, and the build quality is better than the last-gen MkV Golf.

In fact, the stiff ride didn’t induce any wayward creaking or rattling in any of the cabin plastics, and everything feels very solid.

The optional leather upholstery fitted to our test car is made of good-quality hide, and is a great alternative to the somewhat drab-looking grey-on-black fabric trim that comes as standard.

Luggage space?

The boot is slightly smaller than other Golf models, measuring in at 275 litres with the rear seats up and 1230 litres with the seatbacks folded.

That’s 75 litres less than every other Golf in the range, and is attributable to the R’s rear suspension and drivetrain setup.

How safe is it?

The R gets seven airbags as standard, including driver and passenger front and side airbags, driver’s knee airbag and curtain airbags front and rear.

Active safety equipment includes ABS, Anti-Slip Regulation, ESP stability control, switchable traction control, brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution.

Fuel consumption and green rating

Volkswagen claims the Golf R will consume an average of 8.7 litres per 100km, whether fitted with the manual or automatic gearbox.

At the end of our week in the car we averaged 12.2 l/100km, however a great deal of enthusiastic driving was the likely culprit behind that elevated figure.

How does it compare?

2011 subaru impreza wrx sti sedan 01

With all-wheel drive, a turbocharged inline four under the bonnet and a price tag that stretches from $50-60k, it’s all to easy to compare the Golf R to cars like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution currently at $68,206 driveaway (for the twin-clutch) and Subaru WRX STI at $59,990 plus on-roads.

In truth, it’s a very different car to either.

Its overall level of performance is a few rungs below that of the Mitsu and Subaru, but its comfort levels are significantly higher.

Unsurprisingly, given its origins, it’s far closer to the $67,914 (plus on-roads) Audi S3 in terms of packaging, power and performance, and it’s in this respect that the Golf R is a relative bargain.

Is it expensive to maintain?

Service intervals for the Golf R are set at every 15,000km/12 months, with a standard service costing between $350 and $440. The first major service is due at 60,000km and costs roughly $1060.


The Golf R is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, which includes a three-year paintwork warranty and 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.

Colour combinations

Metallic paint is a no-cost extra on the Golf R, and colours include Candy White, Rising Blue, Reflex Silver, United Grey and Deep Black.

How much?

A five-door Golf R with DSG gearbox retails for $54,490 before on-road costs and is the most expensive configuration in the range. Our tester was fitted with a number of optional extras, which added to the sticker price.

Leather upholstery costs $3300, an electric driver’s seat comes in at $600 and the RCD510 sat-nav system will set you back $2500 (add another $1000 if you want the 8-speaker Dynaudio stereo).

That brought the total retail cost of our test car to $60,890.

TMR verdict

2010 volkswagen golf r dsg road test review australia 08

You may be able to get more performance from the Lancer Evo and WRX STI for similar money, but the Golf R delivers nearly as many thrills inside a far more refined package.

Its hatchback body makes it a more practical everyday car than the Evo, and interior quality, fit and finish are leagues ahead of the Japanese AWD rockets.

Not only is it a nicer car to live with, but the Golf R is a big improvement over the R32 that preceded it. Nearly every aspect of performance is better - including fuel economy - and it’s certainly worthy of its position at the top of the Golf family tree.

We would probably save some dollars and select the standard manual transmission, but no matter what configuration it comes in it’s hard not to love the Volkswagen Golf R.

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Filed under: Volkswagen, Featured, review, Small Cars, golf, volkswagen golf, petrol, Golf R, Volkswagen Golf R, performance cars, hot hatch, awd, hatch, performance, turbo, small, family, enthusiast, 4cyl, 5door

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  • Daniel McKenna says,
    5 years ago
    1 like
    Love this car and loved the review!

    A car worthy of wearing the R badge.
  • Adrian
    Adrian says,
    5 years ago
    Saw on of these on the road the other day....

    Nearly had to go home for a change of pants... OMG looks soooooooo damn sexy
  • DM says,
    5 years ago
    Surely Subaru and Mistubishi have seen the writing on the wall. How they can still get away with 20k interiors in a $70k car is beyond me. But I suppose HSV have been getting asway with it for years.
    • Jerry says,
      5 years ago
      Didn't you read the review.

      "You may be able to get more performance from the Lancer Evo and WRX STI for similar money, but the Golf R delivers nearly as many thrills inside a far more refined package."

      With this price bracket it always comes down to a choice. Either out and out performance eg EVO or STI or a slower car in a more refined package eg Golf R.

      I'm sick and tired of people bagging the interiors of the Subaru and the Mitsubishi. Its not a hairdresser's car - who cares what the inside looks like! and if you do care what the inside looks like buy the Golf R. You could reverse the argument and say "when will VW learn that we don't care what the inside looks like we just want more horsepower!!"

      And if you want performance AND a nice interior then pay $150,000 and buy an M3.
      • DM says,
        5 years ago
        1 like
        Jerry. Yes I did read the review, um...... that's why I was commenting on it.

        You seem to accept that you should have to choose between Performance and a nice interior. I don't. VW, BMW and AUdi have managed it, so why can't Subaru and Mitsubishi. I have owned plenty if performance cars and raced Subarus. But I actually drive my car day to day, away from the racetrack. If I spend $70k on a car, I don't expect the same cheap interior if I had paid $20k. It's just embarrassing.
        • Jerry says,
          5 years ago
          You don't seem to get my point. To buy another car in the same price bracket yo have to compromise on performance to get a better interior. So for example as a daily drive you might prefer the golf R in DSG - it's nicer inside and if the traffic is bad you can stick it in auto - a much nicer place to be. But it's still slower than an EVO or STI. Therefore you have to compromise something to get something else. If Subaru and Mitsubishi upped the ante on interior trim they would either jack up the sale price or cost cut somewhere else to reduce performance. You can't have everything. I would prefer to have the out and out perfomance of an EVO or STI or FPV F6 or HSV Senator and compromise a bit on interior trim. Whereas someone else might prefer a slightly slower car with a better interior. No matter what you do there will always be a compromise.
          • DM says,
            5 years ago
            1 like
            Jerry, I do get your point. Unless you are prepared to pay for a Ferrari, there is always compromise, to that degree I do agree with you. I however think that there is too much compromise in the way of interiors. The $17k VW polo has a better interior than the $70k STi, or the $80k HSV for that matter. I dont expect a Aston Martin interior, but the fact is, the average Mazda3, VW Golf or even the Hyundai i30 have far better interiors than the impreza or lancer, and cost less than half of the STI or EVO. I think the fact that the impreza and lancer start off at such a low base, the crap interiors are highlighted more at their top of the line models which essentailly keep the base interiors unchanged. I think keeping the base interiors for the $40k WRX and Ralliart are a compromise, I think the STi and EVO are asking a bit much. Happy to agree to disagree on this one.
  • MotorMouth says,
    5 years ago
    Given how poorly this car had compared against both the Focus RS and Megane RS250, I can't wait for those cars to hit the streets! The Megane, in particular, is a much better looking ca which comprehensively outperforms the Golf R and will be 10 grand cheaper. I can't wait!
  • Ward Paterson says,
    5 years ago
    Sounds like a Pussy compared to the R32.... Pity..... Would rather a Focus RS at that price point - and the RS sounds better
  • super matthew
    Super Mattthew says,
    5 years ago
    How does it sound like a *** compared to the R32?
    • Ward Paterson says,
      5 years ago
      2.0ltr exhaust note FTL.. The R32 stock exhaust is as rough as guts once the flapper opens wide open throttle around 3000RPM - and its bl00dy awesome!
  • MotorMouth says,
    5 years ago
    Yeah, the R32 was a bit of a joke for what they were charging for it. The old R32 would to keep up with an SV6 Commodore around a track but I'm pretty sure the new Golf R would see it off easily. Mind you, for the same money you could actually get a V8 Comodoore or turbo-6 Falcon, either of which would wipe the floor with the "R".
  • PeterG says,
    5 years ago
    Jerry and for not much more than the R and close to Evo /STI price/ performance equation but nicer interior etc I would say buy a 135i.
    The R is a poorman's S3 .
    • Jerry says,
      5 years ago
      1 like
      That's a fair point. Except its not actually in the same price ballpark nor in the same size ballpark. Even in basic trim it will be $10,000 more than an EVO/STI. if you start optioning it then it goes up even more. My point remains you can't have both BLISTERING performance and QUALITY finish at the same price. A compromise has to be made somewhere. The Golf R is the same price as the EVO/STI. Its not as fast but its a better finished car. If thats what you want fair enough go for it. The 135i is a great performer and with quality fit and finish, but its more expensive than the others and like a matchbox inside, so again there are compromises. My point is there will always be compromises to make. The people that choose an EVO or STI have agreed to compromise on the fit and finish for out and out performance. There is no right or wrong answer - I just speak the truth. If you choose the 135i it means you have an awesome performance car and you paid at least $10,000 more than the EVO or STI and you got a smaller car with only 2 doors. But if thats what you want, that's fine - but don't pretend you didn't make any compromises along the way.
  • Liam From Canberra says,
    5 years ago
    You could get a Golf R on the road for low 50s. How is a 135i "not much more" when you'd be doing very well to get one driveaway for less than $80K?
    • Wheelnut
      Wheelnut says,
      5 years ago
      The article says "A five-door Golf R with DSG gearbox retails for $54,490 before on-road costs" then there's dealer delivery stamp duty GST etc which would most likely take it up to $60-65k.. the same price as an Audi S3

      Then by the time you add the various options to take the Golf/Audi up to the same level as the 135i; you would be looking at somewhere close to $70k - which about the same as the BMW.... if not more

      • Wheelnut
        Wheelnut says,
        5 years ago
        .... or the $60-70k Evo Lancer. Which shows that there are a number of similarly priced similarly specced alternatives which are better value for money better bang for your buck than the Golf R
  • charles says,
    5 years ago
    When its all said and done it comes down to personal choice, I mean it would be pretty boring if we were all driving the same cars, wouldn't it? Look I personally like a nice interior but I wouldn't choose a car just for its nice interior over a car that has performance. But I think this is where the Golf trumps the others, with performance that is not far behind the others and a quality interior that the others can`t match. At the end of the day a Golf R driver can easily and cheaply get a performance upgrade to beat an EVO or a REX, but with the others you can`t cheaply fix the poor quality interiors of them.
    • Wheelnut
      Wheelnut says,
      5 years ago
      That may be yet a WRX STI or EVO owner can also do similar cheap and easy performance enhancements to stay ahead of the VW or AWDi.

      As for the Interior sure the STI is based on a $20-30K car but looking at the interior of the Golf it also looks like a $20-30k car - particularly the centre console

      Having said that with the $60-70K STi you get racing seats as standard [which are optional extras on the VW] not to mention sports tuned suspension sports exhaust etc - which means the Subie owner would have to spend less on modifications wink
      • charles says,
        5 years ago
        Your sounding very much like a Rex owner Wheelnut. I doubt you will find many respected Motor journalists that would share your opinion on the VW`s interior. My point was it would take considerably less money to get more performance from the VW then it would to produce a quality interior in the Rex. I mean you can't remodel the whole interior now can you.
        • Wheelnut
          Wheelnut says,
          5 years ago
          1 like
          The STI is a performance sports car and very few performance car enthusiasts care about the look of the interior - why do you think the likes of BMW Porsche etc offer stripped out versions of their cars iconic sports cars?

          • charles says,
            5 years ago
            Yeah but the others at least care about what their cars look like. I`m not trying to offend anyone so guys don`t take this personally, but the Rex is hideous inside and out. Performance is all its got, but there is no denying it has bucket loads of it.
            • Wheelnut
              Wheelnut says,
              5 years ago
              You could say that about a number of other more expensive superformance cars - LF-A or Veyron for example
          • DM says,
            5 years ago
            Um Wheelnut... You are basing your intimate knowledge of what all "performance car enthusiasts" like on what? BMW and Porsche offer stripped out versions due to the fact that these will be used on race tracks. Very very few of the buyers of these stripped out versions have them as their one and only daily driver. The performance car enthusiasts that will drive a 911 GT2 RS will have a luxurious car with a nice interior in the garage for daily driving. I am a performance car enthusiast who has owned and raced stripped out performance cars on the track, but they are strictly for the track. I wouldnt buy one for the road.
  • PeterG says,
    5 years ago
    1 like
    The 135i is by far the best 2 door sports performance car for the money.And I know this is not expected of a BMW badge and I know I am not the only one to have the same conclusion viz a viz the awards such as Wheels gold cars and Drive etc.
    I love many upmarket VWs because they are basically cheap Audis but in this category I think the 135I is the best buy as I said for "not much more."
    The Jap cars are great (I own one) to race across the moon surface but as an everyday drive with some personality I like the 135i and I think it is better than the current VW/Audi products.
    .Unfortunately you really only notice the performance difference until you give them the boot at 160kph.
  • charles says,
    5 years ago
    I have to partly agree with you PeterG, although at around 75k I just wish it rode better and looked good. There is no denying its track ability though.
  • Wheelnut
    Wheelnut says,
    5 years ago
    The 135i is $70-75K but as I said when you add the on-road costs delivery charges etc not to mention the cost of the options to get the Golf-R up to the same level as the 135i it ends up being about the same

    As for Looks - I personally like the look of the 135i as it looks like a Baby M3.. with a similar level of performance

    As for Ride - the article says the firm ride may not encourage your passengers to ride along with you frequently, as the Golf R is a bit too jiggly [firm hard] even with the Optional ACC suspension system in Comfort mode..
  • PeterG says,
    5 years ago
    I like the look of the 135i except for perhaps its inherited front ...the side and rear view is great and it looks dare I say it "saucy" and shold age pretty well.
    As for the ride well it is better in the warmer months when the run flat tyres heat up.There is always a compromise in ride with type of car.But as compared to say a Cayman it feels softer so its not that bad,
    The Japanese competition distract you from ride comfort and the Golf R is like a demagnetized TT.. could do better
  • Anthony Mindel says,
    5 years ago
    1 like
    I hope this car is not plagued with the squeeks,rattles,and creaks which seem to be plaguing the Golf 6 range locally and in the USA.....
  • Golf R says,
    3 years ago
    I have only one car, and quality is the #1, that's why I pick golf r over evo or sti, I don't race everyday, but I drive it everyday, when it comes to interior and quality, vw was, is and will be always better then evo or sti, and if you want golf r faster then just add another $1000 and you be a lot faster smile

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