By The Lenspeed Team
Lenspeed gets its hands on Volkswagen’s most potent Golf R
510km in three days with the Golf R, and Lenspeed should be more than ready to give a balanced review of Volkswagen’s seventh-generation Golf pumped with turbocharged steroids. To be honest, we were wishing for a back-to-back comparison with another hot hatch, but when the subject comes in the form of VW’s most powerful Golf R, it should be sufficient to carve a story capable of whetting any petrolhead’’s appetite.
Our test unit came with a mileage of 7750km, which means that it has been trashed and tested by other journalists. Not that we’re complaining, because we prefer to try one that is past its run-in period – that’s normally the time when the car starts to reveal its true character.
Stepping into the cabin reveals familiar features found in other variants of the Golf hierarchy, only to be reminded by a couple of “R” logos adding to the badge snobbery.
Inner workings disclose a couple of important mechanical tweaks to justify the price tag over the Mk7 GTI too. The springs are firmer than the Mk7 GTI and sits 5mm closer to the tarmac, and it also comes with the flexibility to toggle with the suspension setup. And probably the most costly input for the R will be the Haldex all-wheel drive system that sends torque to the rubber in need of more grip faster than a blink of an eye.
On paper, it surges to the century mark in five seconds with the help of 280bhp and 380Nm. And yes it does feel fast. Once you get over the initial turbo inertia, you get whisked away by the mid range punch that sucks you in the horizon, huffing and puffing away till redline and only backing off until you ease off the pedal. It is a car that sweeps through straights with blistering pace, and more often than not it makes you feel like a champion behind the wheel.
“If you keep it neat and tidy, there is a fluid rhythm to the chassis that works seamlessly with the suspension, and this positive stroke of mechanical genius from the underpinnings allow you to toggle with throttle adjustability in mid-corners.”
It has the soundtrack to complement its quick strides too. Exhaust notes are “synthetically enhanced” by the speakers for more vocal “charisma”, but to be honest it still sounds better than a muted cabin (I’m sure our acoustic specialist Chor might have a word with me after this!). You get a boomy bellow under 2000rpm before the turbo settles into rapid-fire mode. In full swing above 4000rpm the resonance in “Race” mode is enough to send tingles down your spine and echoes throughout the emptiness of the night – it is loud, very loud, and most of the time you will hear it before you even spot a hint of Lapiz Blue lurking in the shadows.
When ploughing through gears on the limit even on full-bore upshifts, there are no hints of torque steer, and with the help of the latest generation Haldex to sprawl torque on all fours, you could even chuck it round a sweeper on boost and the electronics will sniff out the corner in need of more traction. It’s mentioned that this trickery can send 100% of the torque to the rear axle, something that we have yet to explore in a controlled environment. But if you keep it neat and tidy, there is a fluid rhythm to the chassis that works seamlessly with the suspension, and this positive stroke of mechanical genius you get from the underpinnings allow you to toggle with throttle adjustability in mid-corners. There’s sufficient fun to be had with this MQB-derived chassis, even though it’s more reassuring than outright captivating.
If you are looking for more mid-corner adjustability, the Mk7 GTI would suffice, as it has that innate ability (possibly due to a lighter drivetrain) to be playful. You could get the tail washing wide and enjoy some lift-off oversteer as you pitch it in hard with help from the quick steering rack, but yet it possesses the finesse from the chassis to keep things well sorted. The Golf R, on the other hand, is reassuringly fast, and on a properly wet switchback, we doubt many this price point can match its savage cross-country pace. Effortless motoring for the petrolhead does not come much better and faster than this.