Remember the Mk5 Volkswagen Golf R32? It’s arguably one of the most celebrated Golf R‘s of all time, sporting centrally-mounted dual exhaust pipes, all-wheel drive and stunning 3.2-litre V6 with its unique burble.
Fans cried foul when Volkswagen ditched the naturally-aspirated six-pot for a more powerful yet fuel efficient 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the Mk6 Golf R in 2010.
“They’ve put a lawnmower in the Golf R” …. “I can’t hear the engine”, they exclaimed!
Mind you, the Mk6 Golf R wasn’t a great deal more powerful than the Mk5 R32 at 188kW in Australia (the R32 had 184kW) and certainly wasn’t the benchmark in dynamics and driver engagement. That went to its Mk6 Golf GTI sibling.
But things start to look up again when the Mk7 Golf R arrived in 2014 when it switches to the beefed up GTI’s EA888 engine producing 206kW. The Mk7.5 R update upped this to 213kW in 2017.
Now in its eighth generation, the latest Golf R churns out an impressive 235kW of power and 400Nm of torque from the ubiquitous but evergreen EA888 albeit in ‘EVO4’ iteration. And for the first time, Australia has not been short changed after being removed from the ‘hot’ climate zone with lower associated output.
Still, that’s 20Nm shy of the Golf R Wagon due to the removal of a petrol particulate filer (PPF) from the hatch, which thankfully, will be reinstated from next year.
There’s been a significant price bump as well, with the most powerful Golf now starting from a steep $65,990 for the hatch, and $68,990 for the wagon before on-road costs – that’s between $10,000 and $12,000 more than their predecessors, respectively. To compensate, you get more technology as well as the headline grabbing Drift mode and torque vectoring for the first time.
Also making their debut are Volkswagen’s excellent IQ.Light Matrix LED headlights with dynamic indicators and a blue grille strip that turns white at night.
Volkswagen has also revamped the R badge which can be found on the grille, front guards and underneath the VW badge on the tailgate.
We also like the greater differentiation between the Mk8 Golf R and the GTI, with the range-topper getting more prominent side skirts, a front bumper with bigger air intakes and larger 19-inch ‘Estoril’ lightweight alloy wheels.
Of course, the new R’s most standout feature is the proud new two-tier roof spoiler at the back, and quad chrome exhaust tips sandwiching an integrated rear diffuser.
Along with our tester’s signature Lapiz Blue bodywork, the new Golf R is certainly the best looking Mk8 Golf in our eyes.
Step inside and you’re greeted with the Mk8 Golf’s fully digital cockpit, albeit with a distinctly R flavour. There is plenty of blue highlights in the cabin, including on the Nappa leather upholstered sports seats and the aforementioned digital dash.
The flat-bottom steering wheel with haptic touch is shared with other performance VW but features a blue-lit R button that takes you straight to Race mode.
Much has been said about the Golf’s new buttonless infotainment screen and they are all true. More about this below.
What features does it have?
Volkswagen Australia has loaded up the Mk8 Golf R with standard kit, with only the panoramic sunroof ($1,900) and Harmon Kardon premium sound system ($1,000) on the option list.
- R Performance package:
- 19-inch ‘Estoril’ lightweight alloy wheels
- Extended rear roof spoiler
- Drift mode
- Sports suspension with adaptive dampers
- Light Matrix LED headlights with dynamic cornering lights, Dynamic Light Assist and dynamic front indicators
- LED grille strip
- LED taillights with dynamic indicators
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Automatic Park Assist
- Three-zone climate control
- Nappa leather-upholstery
- Electric driver’s seat with memory
- Heated and ventilated front seats
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Keyless entry and start
- Automatic wipers
- Ambient interior lighting with 30 colours
- Power-folding door mirrors
- Illuminated front door handle recesses
- 25-inch configurable digital instrument cluster
- 0-inch touchscreen infotainment display
- Embedded satellite navigation
- Digital Radio DAB+
- Head-up display
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Wireless smartphone charging
- Rear privacy glass
Checkout the official Volkswagen Golf R configurator for full features.
How safe is the Volkswagen Golf R?
The entire Mk8 Volkswagen Golf line-up has been awarded a five-star ANCAP rating.
Standard safety kit on the Golf R includes:
- Eight airbags
- 4Motion all-wheel drive with torque vectoring
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist/junction assist
- Lane-keep assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Traffic Jam Assist
- Travel Assist
- Blind-spot assist
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Safe exit warning
- Manoeuvre braking
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Driver fatigue detection
You can find more information about Volkswagen’s safety technology here.
On the inside
You can programme the Golf R to unlock as you approach the vehicle without having to touch the door handle. Once unlocked, you’re invited by a pair of sumptuous sports seats with integrated headrests to climb onboard.
The flat-bottom steering wheel with perforated leather and extra-long paddle shifters (finally!) is lovely to hold with just the right thickness, while the stubby electronic gear lever is surprisingly delightful and easy to use, too.
Both screens are crisp and offer plenty of configurability, but you’ll soon notice the utter lack of direct access buttons to almost all the car’s functions a little inconvenient.
Changing the climate control temperature is especially painful with a tiny strip at the bottom of the infotainment screen that isn’t even lit up at night. You might also find yourself changing the temperature unwittingly if you rest your hand on the dash while poking at the screen. It takes some getting used to but once you’ve learnt to live with it, the Golf R’s interior is a nice place to be.
However, cost cutting measures are obvious. While the dash top is covered with quality soft-touch materials, anything below eye-level is cheap and scratchy hard plastic. Even the A-pillars are now made of this stuff and at the Golf R’s price point, it’s somewhat disappointing.
Being based on a family hatchback certainly has its advantage as the Golf R has plenty of cabin stowage dotted around. There are two decent size cupholders up front along with a console box under the centre armrest.
The trademark carpet lined door bins are sizeable along with a useful glovebox. In front of the gear lever is a wireless charging tray with two USB-C ports above it.
Rear seat passengers get their own climate control as well as a further two USB-C ports as well as phone holders on the seatbacks.
Compared to the hatch, the wagon has a significantly extended wheelbase with a bigger boot and 38mm more legroom for second row passengers.
Around the back, there’s 374L of boot space in the hatch and 611L in the wagon, both of which are expandable to 619L and 1,031L with the 60:40 rear seats folded down, respectively.
What’s underneath the bonnet?
Powering both hatch and wagon is the ‘EVO4’ iteration of the evergreen EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, now putting out an impressive 235kW thanks to a new block and revised head and injection.
Drive is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed wet-type dual-clutch automatic transmission and torque-vectoring 4Motion all-wheel drive, capable of sending up to 100 per cent of the engine’s torque to the rear axle to be directed to either wheel.
While the wagon gets the full allocation of 420Nm, the hatch makes do with 400Nm for now, until the petrol particulate filter is reinstated next year.
Still, the Golf R hatch rushes from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.8 seconds, against 4.9 seconds for the wagon.
Volkswagen claims the Golf R uses 7.8L/100km on the combined cycle against tested our tested average of 8.7L/100km – not bad for such a powerful machine.
How does the Golf R drive?
It’s a little blah when you first get acquainted with the Golf R. There’s no angry start-up or rorty exhaust note at suburban speeds.
For that, you’ll have to hit the little blue R button on the steering wheel to summon the ‘Race’ mode which opens the valves in the exhaust pipes and dial up the more aggressive engine mapping.
Even then, the sound is artificially generated but it’s not all that bad and we don’t mind it.
For those seeking the ultimate aural experience in the Golf R, there’s a ‘Special’ mode, aka Nürburgring mode, that amps up everything bar the suspension (it’s designed for the ‘Ring’s rough sections) though it’s not entirely suitable for town use.
There’s no shortage of user adjustability in the Golf R, most of it tied to the Vehicle Dynamics Manager that dictates the car’s character by seamlessly managing the extended diff locks, adaptive chassis control, torque vectoring and all-wheel drive system. There’s a 15-step adjustment to the adaptive dampers, for example.
All these mean you can tailor the Golf R to your individual taste like never before on top of the five pre-set modes, though it’s not terribly intuitive to adjust and demands some learning to get familiar with.
The Golf R certainly takes off with great eagerness and keeps pulling until you hit the horizon with unyielding shove. Once the straight runs out and a curve presents itself, the hot Golf takes to it like a fish to water, with a superbly balanced chassis.
The wet-type, shift-by-wire dual-clutch is urgent with aggressive gear changes in the racier modes for a splendidly effortless way of enjoying your Sunday drives.
Turn ins can be taken early and it will hold the line until it powers out through faster corners with supreme confidence and dexterity. Its steering is quick, well-weighted and there’s a mountain of grip but isn’t the most feelsome.
The cross-drilled 357mm ventilated front brakes are an excellent match to the calibre of the Golf R, with a firm bite and good pedal feel.
Roll resistance is good but the extra 82kg added to the Golf R wagon’s rump is certainly noticeable when rushing the sports wagon into corners.
While there is a ‘Comfort’ mode, the Golf R default mode is ‘Sport’. Around town, the judiciously tuned adaptive sports suspension tackles road undulation well and you never feel tired after a long trip.
Design & Comfort
Performance & Handling
Equipment & Features
- Impressive performance and handling
- Fun and engaging to drive
- Fully-loaded with technology
- Excellent daily ride
- Capacitive touch climate control
- Tame exhaust note
The Mk8 Volkswagen Golf R is still every bit the king of multi-dimensional daily hot-hatch despite pushing $70,000.
It’s quicker, more advanced yet retain the practicality and liveability that it’s known for. The Golf R wagon doubles the last two attributes and brings greater rear legroom, too, not to mention the exclusivity of having the stage to itself.
It’s not perfect though, the fiddly digital cockpit and lack of rorty engine note are some of the gripes, but they aren’t deal breaker.
It’s indisputably the best Golf R yet.
2022 Volkswagen Golf R pricing and specs
|Price (excluding on-road costs):||Golf R Hatch from: $65,990|
Golf R Wagon from $68,990
|Warranty:||5 years/unlimited kilometre|
|Warranty Customer Assistance:||1 year roadside|
|Service Intervals:||12 months/15,000km|
|Country of Origin:||Germany|
|Engine:||2.0-litre turbocharged, direct-injected in-line four-cylinder petrol with engine stop/start:|
235kW @ 6,500rpm, 400Nm @ 2,000-5,600rpm (hatch)
235kW @ 6,500rpm, 420Nm @ 2,000-5,500rpm (wagon)
|Drivetrain:||All-wheel drive with torque vectoring|
|Power-to-Weight Ratio (kW/t):||156.6 (hatch)|
|0-100km/h (seconds):||4.8 (hatch)|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 7.8/Tested: 8.7|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||50|
|Body:||5-door hatch or wagon, 5-seats|
|Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B):||4,290/1,789/1,458/2,631 (hatch)|
|Boot Space (min/max) (L):||374/619 (hatch)|
|Turning Circle Between Kerbs:||11 (hatch)|
|Ground Clearance:||120 (hatch)|
|Tare Mass (kg):||1,501 (hatch)|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||N/A|