2014 GOLF R REVIEW
What’s Hot: 'On rails' AWD handling, raucous engine and exhaust noise.
What’s Not: Might be a little too ‘plain-clothes’ for some.
X-FACTOR: Blends blistering speed with impressive levels of refinement.
Vehicle Style: 5-door small hot hatch
Price: $54,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 206kW/380Nm 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp twin-clutch auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.1 l/100km | tested: 9.7 l/100km
What you’re looking at here is Volkswagen’s pinnacle, its peak, its summit… it may only be a pumped up Golf, but the new Golf R carries the performace flag for the entire brand.
No pressure then.
The formula itself is nothing new. As per the previous generation, the wick has been turned up and the 2.0 litre turbo four-cylinder engine gets added urge and a 4Motion drivetrain to keep things in check.
Right now, only the DSG-equipped automatic version is available; the six-speed manual version is to follow later this year.
And so it was, with seemingly endless rainfall, that we took Volkswagen’s newest halo car across what would normally be hair-raising roads to test the mettle of this all-paw brawler.
- Cloth and Alcantara sports seats
- Optional Vienna leather
- Flat-bottomed sports steering wheel with paddle shifters
- Interior lighting details and instrument needles in R-blue
- 5.8-inch touch screen with navigation and reverse camera
There’s much to like inside the Golf R. Just like other members of the Golf family the interior is staid, logical, and with quality finishes throughout.
For a touch of flair there are carbon-look highlights on the dash and doors, plus blue lighting in place of the GTI’s red.
Noticeable as a Golf-first, the centre console is also home to an engine start-stop button and a bold 4Motion badge, to make sure you never forget this is more than your average Golf.
Other sporty splashes include deeply bolstered front seats, sports steering wheel, metal-faced pedals and unique dial faces.
At the wheel, it is comfortable, snug and sporting. And, at the price, feels and looks more than just 'a cut above' the average.
ON THE ROAD
- High output 2.0 litre turbo four-cylinder 206kW/380Nm
- Six-speed DSG (as tested) or six-speed manual
- Fifth-generation Haldex 4MOTION system
- 19-inch ‘Cadiz’ alloy wheels
- Quad-tipped exhaust
First impressions linger. Just hitting the starter button and rolling out of Melbourne's CBD was enough of a warning: the Golf R has muscled up.
Whether pulling away from the lights, or squeezing the skinny-pedal to join the freeway, there’s a muscular feeling and plenty lurking in reserve. A deep induction roar and throaty exhaust note sound the business should you give a stamp to move things along.
Behind this eager straining at the leash, the Golf R now manages 206kW of power from 5100-6500rpm and a beefy 380Nm of torque from as early as 1800rpm right through to 5100rpm.
Yes, you may have already read that Aussie bound R’s are slightly detuned - and that’s sad, but you’d be hard pressed to miss those few extra horses.
Keep in mind, there’s 18kW and a fat 50Nm more urge than the generation before it, and a clear 44kW and 30Nm advantage over the standard GTI.
And, all-wheel-drive. On our rain-drenched launch-drive we couldn’t have asked for better conditions to show what the latest 4Motion system is capable of.
The on-demand system can send power rearwards as required (and we required it often) and we only saw the ESP light flicker up a mere handful of times, with the grippy all-paw set-up doing the rest.
Up front, Volkswagen’s XDL system arrests wheel-spin by braking an inside wheel that threatens to lose traction, and sending torque to the grippier outside wheel.
It’s a clever system, certainly, but get on the power too early and it can still push the nose wide.
As for the brakes: like the GTI Performance the R wears vented rotors with 340mm front rotors and 310mm rears. Front calipers carry the R logo.
On a particularly tightly-wound ribbon of road we put as much heat into the brakes as we could. Even with the faint whiff of cooked pads there still wasn’t any sign of reduced braking ability.
Adaptive chassis control is on-board too with Eco, Comfort, Normal and Race modes, plus an Individual setting that lets you mix-and-match controls for suspension, steering, cornering lights and air-con.
As for bragging rights, how does a 5.0 second 0-100 time grab you? This thing is fast.
Plus a claimed 7.1 l/100 fuel consumption figure. That’s 0.7 seconds faster than the Mark 6 Golf R, while drinking 1.6 l/100km less.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars: the new Golf scored 35.92 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control (with sports mode, and for the first time a completely off setting), traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, seven airbags (dual front, side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee) and driver fatigue detection.
All seats feature height adjustable head-rests and three-point seatbelts. Front seatbelts are height adjustable with load-limiting pretensioners.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Put simply, the Golf R is the best, baddest, boldest way to enjoy a performance Golf. Compact, stuck to the tarmac, it has far more get-up-and-go than you can readily use on public roads.
It’s the rightful flagship for the brand, with unique front and rear styling, sporting interior and a bespoke drivetrain.
But while there’s clear breathing-space between the Golf R and the newly launched GTI Performance in terms of price and performance, that 'lesser' stablemate cannot be underestimated. The GTI's sublime handling will pose a strong threat to the R in VW showrooms.
That said, on days like the one we encountered, with rain coming in sheets, the raison d'être for the Golf R becomes blindingly apparent.
If there’s a chance you’re going to get your feet wet, then this is the car to be in. Its grip will astonish you.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Golf GTI - manual - $41,990
- Golf GTI - auto - $44,490
- Golf GTI Performance - auto - $48,490
- 2014 Golf R - 6 Speed Manual - $51,990
- 2014 Golf R - 6 Speed DSG - $54,490
Panoramic electric glass sunroof - $1850
Vienna leather appointed upholstery - $3150
Driver assistance package - $1000
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- Golf R | Golf GTI | Golf | Volkswagen | Hot Hatches
- Performance | Enthusiast