2015 Volkswagen Golf R first drive
Volkswagen’s ultimate hot hatch returns
Photo: John LeBlanc
Munich, Germany – The return of Volkswagen’s über-Golf, the R, should stop the noise. You know what I’m talking about. The whining and moaning from Canadian hot hatch fans who are perpetually disappointed that we can never, ever, ever get our hands on the sport compacts that Europeans are able to buy on a daily basis.
As you may know, Germany’s largest automaker is in the process of rolling out one of its best-selling models in Canada, the seventh-generation Golf . The models that are set to go on sale shortly are the requisite front-wheel-drive, five-passenger, two- and four-door gas and diesel models, topped-off by the sporty and iconic Golf GTI. But all those Golfs pale compared to the vaunted R, the top-of-the-line Golf that’s going on-sale in Europe right now about twelve months before it arrives in Canada. With nearly 300 horsepower and standard all-wheel drive, the Golf R is certainly turning up the heat.
Understandably, Canadians may not be as familiar with the Golf R as they are with the GTI. It’s the successor of the R32 — the former top-Golf — a six-cylinder hot hatch from the fourth-and fifth-generation models that were never officially imported into Canada. But knowing the interest was always there among the cognoscenti, Volkswagen Canada brought over a limited number of sixth-generation Golf Rs for 2012 and 2013. The cars sold out quickly, so bringing in the seventh-generation Golf-based R was a product planning no brainer.
The new Golf R does not stray too far from the last version’s personality. For an estimated starting price around $40,000, the R remains the only Golf you can buy with all-wheel drive mated to a higher-performing version of the GTI’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder gas engine. And while in North America the Golf R competes with the Mini Countryman John Cooper Works, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Subaru WRX STI sports compacts on price, in Europe the AWD VW hot hatch is seen more as a cost-effective alternative to small and fast cars from luxury brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. As such, the top European-market Golf also comes with a host of standard kit normally optional on the GTI, including a sliding glass sunroof, leather sport seats and a touch-screen navigation system as standard.
New Golf R is faster and more fuel-efficient
Photo: John LeBlanc
The interior of any new, seventh-gen Volkswagen Golf is already a pretty classy affair. Fit and finish are at luxury car standards and the ergonomics are spot-on for drivers. The new Golf R simply ratchets things up a notch with R-specific tweaks to the driver instrumentation, steering wheel and a pair of extremely supportive-yet-comfortable sport seats finished in leather and grippy Alcantara.
Interestingly, while the R reigns as the top Golf, in typical Q-car fashion, its exterior whispers its high-speed intentions. Unlike the more graphically loud GTI, the Golf R’s exterior is stealthy. R-specific bodywork includes a front bumper with larger air intakes, a tweaked grille with a chrome band (instead of the GTI’s red one), brushed aluminum side mirrors, bigger sills, distinct wheels — and for the first time ever — four exhaust pipes.
While Volkswagen’s stylists may have been conservative when penning the new Golf R, its underpinnings are a lot more radical.
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