What a stupid question. Of course it’s worth it. As Mick Jagger said, “Anything worth doing, is worth overdoing.” The above quote must have been the chosen creed for the engineers who worked on the new Golf R. The gap between the previous Golf GTI and R models was quite small in terms of performance, but this time… well, let’s just say the gap has grown to a cavern.
In R specification, the Golf moves out of hot-hatch and into hyper-hatch territory. It has the A45 AMG and BMW 135i squarely in its sights. The shoot-outs that will inevitably follow are going to be epic. The Golf is a bit down on power compared to the above hyper hatches, but we’re fairly certain it will undercut both in terms of price.
Thankfully, the Golf R isn’t wading into the above battle brandishing a knife. It has a 2.0-litre turbocharged mill at its disposal, tweaked to deliver 221kW and 380Nm of torque. It’s basically the same unit as the Golf GTI, but with uprated cylinder heads, turbocharger, valve seats and springs, exhaust valves and high-pressure injection valves and pistons. Power is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG gearbox. The sprint to 100km/h is dealt with in 5.1 seconds (under five seconds for the DSG) and top speed is limited to 250km/h. Volkswagen also claims an 18% reduction in fuel consumption compared to the previous model, with claimed figures of 6.9 litres/100km for the DSG and 7.1 litres/100km for the manual.
The four-wheel-drive is the latest fifth-generation Haldex system. Under low loads or when coasting, the rear axle is decoupled to reduce fuel consumption. As soon as the driver starts looning about, the rear axle is engaged by an electro-hydraulic pump. Almost 100% of the power can be transferred to the rear axle.
The Golf R rides on specially tuned springs and dampers, with a ride height that’s 5mm lower than that of the GTI. Adaptive Chassis Control will be available as an option, which allows the driver to fine-tune the ride to suit whatever circumstances he may find himself in. Like the GTI, the Golf R is equipped with progressive steering, which reduces the number of turns lock to lock to enhance the driving experience.
What we appreciate most of all is the subtle, yet aggressive styling tweaks on the exterior. You can immediately tell it’s not a GTI, thanks to a new front bumper, larger air inlets, a modified radiator grille with an R logo and different daytime running lights. But it hasn’t been overdone: from the side you’ll be able to spot the body colour sills, 18-inch alloy wheels and black brake callipers with an R logo. At the rear, there are smoked LED tail lights, an R diffuser and four chrome-tipped exhaust pipes - two at either side.
The result is unmistakably still a Golf, but with an angry undertone. The beautiful 18-inch alloys with their super low-profile rubber does make us wonder about ride quality, but who cares if it’s a bit hard to live with day to day? It’s a Golf R, so comfort seekers better search elsewhere…
While no interior pictures are available, Volkswagen has revealed that it will feature sports seats with a cloth centre and Alcantara bolsters. The instrument dials will be bespoke items with blue needles.
The Golf R will make its international debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month. It will reach South Africa sometime during the first half of 2014.