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Volkswagen Golf R 2014 review: road test

The Golf R shares its underpinnings with Audi’s superb S3 Sportback which costs quite a lot more.
EXPERT RATING
8

We have always held the top dog VW Golf in high regard, way back into the R32 days. We were a tad worried when they dropped the six pot engine for a turbo four but that was unwarranted because the four is a better device.

Now, the latest Golf R takes matters to a new high offering wholesale improvements over the previous (impressive) model. It goes harder, handles better, is safer, has more kit, uses less fuel and looks better.

Not merely an all-wheel drive Golf GTI, the R gains a bigger turbo and fuel injectors, remapped ECU suspension and gearbox changes and a totally different drive system. Numerous other differences make the R a more purposeful sporty hatch than the already accomplished GTI.

Built in Germany, the R shares its underpinnings with Audi’s superb S3 Sportback which costs quite a lot more.

LINEUP

It’s available in six speed manual and six speed DSG manumatic starting at $51,990 for the three pedal model. DSG adds $2500 and a number of option packs are also available including the driver assist package we think should be standard.

ENGINE

Prodigious power comes from the high-tech 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine that achieves some 206Kw/380Nm output. Peak torque is available from a low 1800rpm.

For efficiency and driveability gains, the engine boasts dual fuel injection directly into the combustion chambers and also into the inlet ports. It also has variable valve timing and lift and an integrated turbo that bolts straight onto the exhaust manifold cast into the cylinder head.

Bluemotion technology to cut emissions and fuel consumption dictates on-demand operation of the oil pump and external ancillaries such as the aircon’ compressor and other power sapping appliances.

That’s how the R achieves 7.1-litres/100km fuel economy while offering HSV ClubSport-beating acceleration rated at 5.0-seconds for the 0-100kmh sprint.

Better still is the R’s 4motion all-wheel drive system that features a torque splitting Haldex differential at the rear. Drive can be funnelled to any of the four wheels -- grip dependent.

The R exhausts through quad tailpipes that emit an unusual note similar to a sporty V6 complete with a pop on full throttle up changes and a blip on down changes.

FEATURES

VW equips the R to a luxury level with the latest in digital connectivity and some driver assistance features adding to the car’s appeal.

The exterior look is classy but understated punctuated by a set of 19-inch alloys, mild body aero add-ons and a lower ride height compared with the GTI. It gets dynamic bi-xenon headlights and LEDs front and rear.

Other handy stuff includes launch control, two stage ESP control – Sport and Off, progressive steering, adaptive chassis control with Normal and Race settings, five mode driving profile selection and sports suspension. Safety rates five stars and the kit includes a driver fatigue detection system.

DRIVING

It mightn’t look a slick as the Audi but the Golf R delivers the goods when you get behind the (square bottom) wheel.

Not many cars at this price come near the Golf R in performance and handling terms. It is a truly engaging and rewarding drive with superb ride, incredible grip and stirring acceleration across a wide rev range.  The double piston brakes don’t fade even after continued abuse and the gearbox allows you to flick through the ratios in a blink with no drop off in forward motion.

It’s delivers both comfort and control smoothing rough roads while giving race level cornering characteristics. And it’s all selectable through the various drive systems.

The sound is awesome, not too loud and unlike the normal wail you get from a performance four. Add to this the low fuel consumption, generous amount of luxury features and the practical five door body and you have a recipe for an extremely desirable and useful car.

Verdict

We’d have one in a flash.

Pricing Guides

$16,999
Based on 391 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$9,999
Highest Price
$37,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
118 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $18,292 – 21,888 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 118 TSI Pricing and Specs
103 TSI Highline 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $13,990 – 22,990 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 103 TSI Highline Pricing and Specs
110 TDI Highline 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $9,999 – 22,500 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 110 TDI Highline Pricing and Specs
90 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $10,990 – 15,661 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 90 TSI Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8