Previously, the arrival of a brand new era of Volkswagen Golfs could be massive information. However VW’s post-dieselgate pivot to electrification and the appearance of its new purpose-built EVs, along with a worldwide pandemic and ongoing provide chain issues, have all conspired to take a little bit wind out of these sails. And gross sales.
Right here within the US, the Golf by no means actually achieved the degrees of egalitarian stylish that it did in Europe, to the purpose that VW of America has dropped all of the lesser fashions within the line. As an alternative, we’re simply getting the Golf GTI and its extra highly effective all-wheel drive (AWD) sibling (the automobile you see right here at present), the $43,645 Golf R.
Volkswagen first bolstered the Golf vary with a Golf R in 2002—the R32—which shoehorned VW’s VR6 engine and an on-demand AWD powertrain into an Mk4 Golf. The R32 reappeared with the Mk5 Golf; for subsequent generations, it dropped the numbers and simply grew to become the Golf R.
This AWD überhatch has all the time been a bit extra upmarket than the recent hatch GTI—extra delicate than a boy racer-mobile to have a look at and extra refined to drive. At the least till now. For the Mk8, the Golf R has had fairly the character change in comparison with the older mannequin we examined in 2019.
For starters, VW has turned the turbocharged four-cylinder EA888 engine up, boosting energy by 9 p.c to 315 hp (235 kW) and torque by 5 p.c to 295 lb-ft (400 Nm). There’s new variable cam phasing, and the exhaust headers have been built-in into the cylinder head, which helps thermal administration and effectivity at excessive hundreds. The direct-injection fueling system has had a strain enhance from 2,900 psi (200 bar) to five,076 psi (350 bar), and engine friction has been decreased.
It is the Golf R’s AWD system that represents the most important change from earlier generations. Previously, VW used a Haldex AWD system that might ship as much as (however not more than) half of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels. However for this model, VW has opted as an alternative for a torque-vectoring rear differential that may ship 100% of the engine’s torque to a person wheel (by way of a multiplate clutch).
Now we have skilled related torque-vectoring diffs in quite a few different automobiles, significantly the Ford Focus RS and its drift mode. (Nonetheless, the Ford unit comes from GKN; VW sources its model from Magna.) That Ford was a pure competitor to the previous Golf R—each have been AWD überhatches, in spite of everything—however the place the mk7 Golf R was delicate, the Focus RS embraced the hooligan facet of issues.
Nicely, the spirit of the Focus RS is definitely alive and properly within the new Golf R. There are all-new management algorithms for the computer systems that coordinate the engine mapping and that differential, plus the suspension damping and the traction and stability management programs. Consolation is clearly the softest and most laid-back of the drive modes, with issues getting more and more frenetic as you escalate by Sport, then Race.
As within the previous Focus RS, there’s additionally a Drift mode, which makes use of the diff’s potential to ship all of the torque to only one rear wheel—on this case, the surface wheel. Drift mode isn’t meant for public roads, and the automobile makes you acknowledge that truth by way of an infotainment immediate that requires affirmation to have interaction.
The Particular drive mode can also be only for the observe—and maybe one observe specifically. VW has optimized the Golf R’s brains on this setting for the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife, a 12-mile (22-km) race observe in Germany that some know because the “inexperienced hell.” VW says that in Particular mode, the torque vectoring is optimized for the Nürburgring’s nook profiles, and the suspension is softer than in Race due to the observe’s bumps.
I didn’t drive the Golf R on the Nordschleife, sorry to say. Nor did I drive it on observe wherever, so I can not report on both Drift or Particular modes. However I did train a Golf R on the slightly twisty Angeles Crest Freeway in California and on some native roads again residence, and my experiences revealed a number of issues.
At decrease speeds and throughout the regular envelope of every day driving, the driving expertise is unremarkable in the way in which most Golfs are. It is a competent on a regular basis automobile that is simple to see out of, with management weights that do not require unreasonable effort. Should you solely ever used the primary third of the throttle journey, you might very properly be in a base-model Golf, besides that they don’t seem to be imported to the US anymore.