August 8, 2014
Vehicle Style: 5-door small performance hatch
Price: $54,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 206kW/380Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl | 6sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.1 l/100km | tested: 11.7 l/100km
With 206kW underfoot and AWD, the Golf R is the fastest production Golf ever - and with the departure of the WRX STI hatch, is now the fastest hot-hatch you can get for less than $55k.
It’s also vastly better than the previous Golf R, thanks to higher outputs, a better-tuned chassis and a greatly improved interior.
- Fabric/microfibre upholstery, manually-adjusted front seats
- Leather-upholstered steering wheel with silver contrast stitching and paddle shifters
- Blue instrumentation and cabin illumination - Golf R exclusive
- Standard equipment includes: Dual-zone climate control, trip computer, cruise control, dusk-sensing bi-xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wiper, keyless entry and ignition, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera.
- Infotainment: 5.8-inch colour touchscreen with sat-nav, AM/FM tuner, CD player, SD/USB/Bluetooth audio inputs, Bluetooth telephony.
It’s dark in here, almost too dark. The splashes of grey Alcantara on the seats helps offset the overwhelming 'blackness' of the dash and gloss piano-black highlighting, but this is one very monochrome interior.
But it’s smartly laid out, very comfortable (those seats we mentioned... yeah, they’re perfect), and the R-specific touches like the blue instrument needles and illuminated door-trims and kickplates make it feel a tad more special than the average Golf’s cabin.
There’s also plenty of space for four adults. Those in the back also get their own face-level air vents, fold-down centre armrest with cupholders and a fairly generous amount of legroom.
Equipment levels are quite healthy too, with a 5.8-inch colour touchscreen controlling the infotainment system, which comprises sat-nav and an AM/FM/CD stereo with SD card, USB and Bluetooth audio inputs.
Bluetooth phone integration is also standard.
There are also front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, bi-xenon headlamps, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control and cruise control.
As the flagship of the Golf range, the Golf R certainly isn’t wanting for equipment.
ON THE ROAD
- 206kW/380Nm 2.0 turbo petrol inline four
- Six-speed twin-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive
- 0-100km/h: 5.0 seconds
- MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension
- Front brakes: 340mm ventilated rotors, sliding calipers
- Rear brakes: 310mm ventilated rotors, sliding calipers
Nor is it wanting for performance.
With 206kW and 380Nm on tap from its 2.0 litre turbo inline four, a twin-clutch automatic gearbox and a grippy AWD drivetrain, the Golf R feels incredibly brisk.
Performance from a standing start is nobbled to avoid unloading all those 'Newtons' all at once (the DSG tends to want to slip the clutch, and the engine is off-boost), but if you want a proper race start there’s always the Golf R’s launch control function.
Enable it, and the Golf R will rocket to 100km/h in five seconds flat.
Once moving, gearchanges are super-fast. In auto mode it rarely selects the wrong ratio for the occasion, and in 'Sport' holds gears longer and downshifts earlier.
What it won’t do is hold gears against the redline - even in manual mode. Some will hate this feature, but the reality is that a turbo is strongest in the meat of the torque curve (which has tapered away well before the redline).
And that's where your quickest times are found, not to mention longer engine-life.
A manual will be available later this year though, for those who crave more control.
The ride quality around town is far from uncomfortable, provided you set the adjustable dampers to “Comfort” rather that the much firmer “Normal” or “Race modes”
That AWD grip - especially in a straight line - is phenomenal. Our loan coincided with a particularly wet period in Melbourne, yet the weather did little to dampen (pun intended) the Golf R’s performance.
It’s only on exceptionally wet corners where grip starts to be challenged and the Golf R’s preference for understeer is revealed. In dry weather, whatever you were chasing it in, the Golf R would be hard to keep up with.
The variable-ratio steering is also quite good, though it does feel a little remote and lacking in feedback.
There’s great precision around dead-centre, and the rack-ratio quickens the further you wind on lock, meaning tighter turns with less arm-flailing.
So, as a hot hatch, it’s definitely quick.
Strangely enough, however, we have to admit we enjoyed our time in the slightly more-affordable (and FWD) Golf GTI Performance more.
Perhaps it’s the GTI’s lower grip threshold that makes it feel more 'alive', or its lower kerb weight (the GTI Performance is 71kg lighter) that gives it an edgier feel.
However, with with 37kW between them it’s clear that the Golf R is the silverback of the Golf clan, and the one to get if you want the baddest, maddest Golf around.
ANCAP rating: Five stars: the new Golf scored 35.92 out of 37 possible points in ANCAP testing
Safety features: Stability control (switchable), traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist and seven airbags (dual front, side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee) are standard on the Golf R.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
There’s a plethora of performance options around the $55k mark, but in terms of turbo AWD performance cars there’s really just two alternatives: Subaru’s WRX STI and Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evo.
Got a little bit more to spend? The $59,990 Audi S3 offers the same mechanical package as the Golf R and similar levels of performance, but with a much more premium feel.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Golf R has considerable performance cred, and with 206kW offers a fair whack more performance than the model that preceded it.
And with the segment-leading interior of the Golf 7, it’s now more pleasant to drive than ever before.
And it’s this blend of liveability and performance that buyers will find most enticing. Its performance might not be quite as electrifying as an Evo or STI, but the Golf R is undoubtedly the pick as a weekday drive and a weekend warrior.
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
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