Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: January 15, 2018
We are on a bit of a Volkswagen binge here at CAR, blasting through test drives with the e-Golf, Golf GTI, Tiguan, and Atlas. But we have saved the best for the last, the performance hatchback that many of us have come to adore, the Golf R. Dressed up in a Viper Green costume befitting of a cameo in Tokyo Drift, this Golf R looks poised and ready for action. And for 2018 it gets a few notable upgrades for that extra cherry on top of the ice cream sundae.
This includes a revised look with a new bumper design, grille, LED headlights, and 19-inch wheels. Don’t forget about the 35 different paint colours available, 30 of them which cost $2,995 but add rare, bright, and vibrant shades of colour from a pumpkin orange to a violet purple. The Golf R also receives a new 8-inch infotainment screen as well as the Digital Cockpit display, replacing the analog gauges in the instrument panel. A 7-speed dual-clutch transmission replaces the 6-speed and now comes with Start-Stop technology. But do not fret, a six-speed manual is still available. You can read our review of the manual, and as well as the outgoing 2017 model here.
The 7-speed dual-clutch transmission is what is making headlines, so we will start with that. It is a similar unit to the one used in the frisky Audi TT RS, and though the gearing is slightly modified from the old six-speed, I honestly did not notice much of a difference. Sure, there is an extra cog to shift into, and maximum torque comes on just a little bit quicker at 1,800 rpm (used to be 1,900 rpm) up to 5,300 rpm (used to be 5,500 rpm), possibly aiding in a quicker 0-100 km/h time, in the grand scheme of things, it did not add much extra appeal or excitement into my drive.
I noticed that downshifts were just as lightning quick as before but it was the upshifts that were a hair slower, though smoother. Perhaps it was a tradeoff of comfort versus speed. Be that as it may, the miniscule differences are hardly noticeable, and having a seventh gear does have its many benefits like reduced RPM at cruise, less droning at high speeds, and marginally better fuel economy.
The rest of the powertrain is near perfection. The 2.0 TSI motor with 292 hp and 280 lb-ft works up a ruckus, and warbles like a Subaru WRX gargling on mouthrinse. Sure, most of this soundtrack is being emitted through the internal speakers, but it does the job of pleasing the ears. The steering is much heavier than the GTI, which is not to say there is more feedback, rather there is just more turning resistance. It makes the Golf R feel heavier and not exactly more agile. It weighs a significant amount more than the GTI due to the 4MOTION all-wheel drive system, and you really feel it in the corners, where the R feels balanced but far from lithe. That said, traction and grip is where the R shines. The Golf R premium over the GTI also gets you an adaptive suspension, which can be tuned for comfort or sport.
I do miss the old analog gauges. They had charm to them with colourful blue needles and a vibrant white dial ring. Now, it is all digital, following suit of its Audi family. They call it the Digital Cockpit, with everything from the gauges and in-screen maps displayed on one seamless screen, with a near infinite level of customization for the center screen and shown information. You can have the maps shown in real-time from a bird’s eye view too. The screen is not as colourful or as vibrant as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, but it will undoubtedly please most drivers.
The new infotainment is impressive as well. Gone are the side shortcut buttons, as they have all been implemented into the main screen. Luckily Volkswagen has listened to customer feedback and have kept actual dials for the volume and tuning. The display is huge, lag-free, and intuitive enough for anyone to learn the ins and outs within minutes of tinkering around. The heavily padded steering wheel is nice too (thicker than the GTI’s), and feels nearly as thick as the BMW’s M Sport wheel that ranks as one of my favourites.
A few minor gripes: there is no manual handbrake, only an electric one. The Golf does not get a heated steering wheel either, or ventilated seats, sunroof, or a remote start feature, which other Volkswagen products like the Atlas does have.
In my last Golf GTI review, I called the GTI the Goldilocks in the Golf lineup. This still holds true, if my wallet is on the line at least. By all means if you have the money to spend, get the Golf R. Its beefed up engine, all-wheel drive system, and tweaked chassis will keep a smile on your face for an eternity. It is comfortable and quiet when desired, and sporty and loud when required. The Golf R fills the void and checks all the right boxes with great packaging, top-notch interior refinement, and gorgeous paint and wheel combinations - bar the Viper Green. However, if you are not the type of person willing to justify a nearly $50,000 purchase on a depreciating item, the GTI might be an appealing alternative, offering a near-perfect balance of performance and comfort at a more affordable price.
型号 Model: 2018 Volkswagen Golf R
顏色 Paint Type: Viper Green ($2,995)
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $42,065
試車售價 Price as Tested: $48,010
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,630
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,276 / 1,790 / 1,436
引擎 Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four TSI
最大馬力 Horsepower: 292 hp @ 5,500 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 1,800 - 5,500 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 7-speed DSG
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
輪胎尺碼 Tires: P255/45R19