Review: 2016 Volkswagen Golf R (DSG)

2016 vw golf r review

Words: Don Cheng

Photography: Don Cheng

Published: March 24, 2016


Click here for the Chinese (中文) review.



Volkswagen’s Golf has done quite a lot for the brand and the automotive industry as a whole. While being credited with the birth of the original hot hatch is already quite the accomplishment, the engineers at Wolfsburg felt that the status quo hadn’t been challenged quite all that much since the Mk1 GTI. Thus, four generations of Golfs later, they launched something far more radical, rapid, and revered. The Golf R (not to be confused with a Golfer) was born.


The original R32 saw the company’s venerable VR6 motor crammed under the bonnet of the Mk4 body. Together with Volkswagen’s famous Haldex AWD system, the R32 turned out to be quite the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Now in its 7th generation, the absolute tippy top of Golfs have ditched the VR6 motor (and the subsequent 32 from its moniker). Has the Wolf from Wolfsburg lost the appeal that made the original so cool?



From the outside, the R doesn’t look out of place in the Golf family. Telltale signs include a hunkered down stance, massive 19-inch wheels, R badging, a reworked front bumper, and quad tailpipes. Unlike other Golfs, there is no three-door option with the R, which isn’t a bad thing because the five-door look builds on the car’s utilitarian look and keeps unwanted attention at bay.


Inside, the cabin looks identical to the GTI, bar a few differences such as blue accents in the gauges, mood lighting, and doorsills – sadly only for the front doors. Press the start/stop button however and the distinct sound of the turbo-four rumbles to life. Even in the most comfort oriented setting, the R sounds more aggressive than the GTI – as it rightly should.


The power plant is the same EA888 found in the GTI, however it has been massaged for more power. Instead of the 210 horses, the R receives 292 – the same number as the Audi S3. Managing all that power is Volkswagen’s industry leading Direct-Shift dual-clutch Gearbox (DSG). The resulting combination is analogous to a hatchback with a rocket strapped to the back.



Producing 280 lb-ft of twist from as low as 1,800 rpm, it seems the 6,800 rpm redline comes all too quickly. Shifts to the next gear come just as sharply as well, with a satisfying blaarrrtt out the quad exhausts that keeps the adrenaline going. Power delivery is through Volkswagen’s 4MOTION AWD, which behaves like a front wheel drive car until it detects slip, whereby it will send up to 50% of power to the rear.


It is a difference you will only feel when pushing the car around corners – and I mean really pushing it. With the Mk7 GTI already being one of the best handling front drive vehicles on North American soil, the benefits of the 4MOTION system becomes evident on bad weather days. Thankfully, that’s something we get for quite some time here in the Great White North.


To make sure new R owners aren’t wrapped tightly around the first tree outside the dealership, Volkswagen also includes its Dynamic Chassis Control, which adjusts steering and suspension settings to suit any scenario. Toggling between Comfort, Sport, Race, and Individual (a user customizable setting) radically changes the behavior of the car – for maximum smiles, best leave it in Race.



Sad to say, no matter which setting we chose, the R’s steering felt numb and disconnected. Even though the sportiest setting made the steering heavier, we barely felt any feedback in regards to grip or loss of grip transmitting through the wheel. Such is the new industry of electrically assisted steering racks.


So which transmission is the right one to get? The answer is fraught with pros and cons. The DSG is without a doubt quicker, shaving a solid 0.5 seconds off the quarter-mile time, and even offers launch control and those forget-me-not blaaarrts on upshifts.


However, the six-speed manual offers a more immersive and traditional driving experience with three pedals and a shifter. And despite all of the benefits of the DSG, the Golf R maintains a level of disconnect between the driver and the car. Perhaps it’s the combination with the piped-in engine noise and numb electric steering rack, but driving with the DSG felt like you were always one step away from true driving nirvana.



Let’s not forget about the price either. The base R starts at $39,995. Adding the DSG tacks on an extra $1,400 for the privilege of having two clutches. Ticking the $2,015 Technology Package gives modern luxuries like adaptive cruise, blind spot monitoring, park distance control, and satellite navigation.


All in, our tester rang out to $43,410. Now many pundits will say that $43,000 for any Golf is far too much money, but a driver’s car is a driver’s car regardless of the badge or the transmission chosen, and this Mk7 Golf R delivers a winning combination of luxury, performance and practicality that makes it the best hot-hatch you can get currently get on the market. That is, until the Ford Focus RS arrives on our shores later this year.


Photo Gallery:


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golf r front seats rear seats



型号 Model: 2016 Volkswagen Golf R DSG

顏色 Paint Type: Tornado Red
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $39,995

試車售價 Price as Tested: $43,410
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,630
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,276 / 1,790 / 1,436

車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,489
引擎 Engine: 2.0L TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 292 hp @ 5,400 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 1,900 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG)
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, 4MOTION AWD

油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 10.9 / 7.7
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 14.5 (living in the high RPM range, sorry)

輪胎尺碼 Tires: P255/45R19





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