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  1. Analysis
August 1, 2014

VEHICLE ANALYSIS: Volkswagen Golf R

With a zero to 62mph time of just five seconds, this is the fastest Golf yet. But does the 300PS (221kW), four-wheel drive R live up to the hype?

With a zero to 62mph time of just five seconds, this is the fastest Golf yet. But does the 300PS (221kW), four-wheel drive R live up to the hype?

For some, it might be hard to take in that you can spend over thirty thousand pounds on a Golf. The as-tested three-door is priced at GBP 29,095. Add the six-speed DSG dual clutch gearbox and the price rises to GBP 30,510. The five-door car is priced at GBP 29,570 or GBP 31,165 as a DSG. There’s also a GBP 32,540 TSI R Convertible, but that has the older 265PS engine not the latest 1,984cc EA888 design.

What do you get for your money, apart from all that speed? There’s a bit of a blue theme going on in the cabin, with electric blue needles for the tacho and speedo, as well as for the temperature and fuel gauges, plus a blue ring around gear knob. The first time you drive the R at night you’ll also see some beautiful thin lines of blue light along the door sills and across the tops of the doors. All very tastefully done. 

The steering wheel has an R logo, with the same letter picked out in black on the grey bit of the two-tone black and grey seats. The seats have more than enough rearward travel for just about anyone, underlining the fact that the seventh generation Golf is a larger car than its equivalent of even five years ago, and a fair bit bigger than the Mark I and Mark II from the 1970s and 1980s. 

At 4,255mm long, this Golf is 56mm longer than its predecessor, with an extra 59mm in the wheelbase. The front wheels are 43mm further forward, helping to generate that extra interior space, while the car is also 13mm wider, at 1,799 mm, and 28mm lower, at 1,452 mm.

The interior shows one of the main reasons why Volkswagen is so successful in this segment. Compare the inside of even a basic Golf to an Auris and it’s almost no contest. Sure, the Toyota is beautifully built from good quality materials but where’s the style?

In a Golf, and especially in this R, everything you need to reach to is in exactly the right place, there are no unnecessary labels on controls or a mish-mash of fonts, the doors shut with a reassuring thunk and have a felt liner across their tops (not just a rubber weather seal). Something else which all cars should have – the R had black carpet lining the deep and wide door pockets so nothing you put in there gets rattly or scratched. You can see why people love the attention to detail in Golfs and just keep trading in one for another. 

The top-spec model comes with lowered suspension, special bumpers and side-skirts, 18-inch ‘Cadiz’ alloy rims, silver mirrors, bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime lights, LED tail lights, adaptive cruise control with Front Assist and City Emergency Braking, a gloss black centre console and ‘carbon touch’ decorative inserts.

The R has the latest fifth generation Haldex clutch as standard, with up to 100% of torque able to be sent to the rear wheels dependent on the conditions. Traction from the 4MOTION system is superb, the steering is delightfully accurate and torque steer just doesn’t seem to exist. 

Despite having so much more power than the GTI, both cars have the same basic EA888 engine. The R has its own cylinder head, exhaust valves, valve seats and springs, pistons, injection valves and turbocharger.

As well as having the fastest variant yet in its line-up, the latest Golf is also built in more places than any previous model. Cars for Europe and certain other markets are made in Wolfsburg and Mosel, while FAW Volkswagen also builds the seventh generation Golf at two locations: Changchun and at the JV’s Foshan plant. The latter opened in September 2013. China’s locally built Golf premiered at the Guangzhou motor show in November 2013 and went on sale during the following month. FAW Volkswagen then announced two months back that Foshan’s capacity would be doubled to 600,000 units per annum. Construction of the added production facilities at the site got underway immediately.

Much is also expected of the Mark VII in North America. The Puebla plant in Mexico began building it during the first quarter of this year, with the Golf and GTI launched in the US in March. The R will be added from the first quarter of 2015, while the Golf SportWagen will replace the 2014 Jetta SportWagen at the same time. Rumours suggest that a high-riding Alltrack crossover derivative might also be on the way but possibly not until the 2016 model year.

After Europe, China and North America will come build in South America. Volkswagen’s São José dos Pinhais plant in Curitiba will build the Golf, plus the Audi A3 & Q3 from 2015.

This year has been another busy one for additional Golf derivatives such as the plug-in E-Golf and soon, the plug-in hybrid GTE, European deliveries of which will commence in October (year-end for the UK).

Might we even see something to top the R? The R 400 prototype debuted at the Beijing motor show in April. This had a day-glow yellow band across its grille and headlamps, enlarged wheel arches and a 294kW version of EA888. Volkswagen has said nothing (yet) about a potential production version but let’s see what 2015 brings. 

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