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Volkswagen Golf R 2014 review: road test

2014 VW Golf R
EXPERT RATING
9
How on earth does a Volkswagen Golf cost in excess of $60,000.

How on earth does a Volkswagen Golf cost in excess of $60,000 -- more than the starting price of the executive sedans from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz?

By giving it a turbocharged engine with V8-beating performance, all-wheel-drive grip and loads of luxury equipment.  The R-rated Golf is the top of the line for Volkswagen’s iconic small car and has as big a cult following as the Golf GTI.

Indeed, the Golf R is the GTI that you create when money is seemingly no object. It’s $6000 dearer than the most expensive Golf GTI, starting at $54,490 with six-speed DSG (a $51,990 manual version goes on sale later in the year).

But the price for a Golf R easily stretches beyond $60,00 once a few options are added ($3150 for leather, $1850 for a panorama sunroof, $1350 for radar cruise control and a pre-crash safety system).

The result is epic: a 0 to 100km/h time of 5 seconds neat.

TECHNOLOGY

That $6000 price premium buys the most power possible from Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine (although Australian versions are detuned to 206kW rather than the 220kW for Europe because of our hot climate and lower grade fuel), big brakes and a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system to provide constant traction.

The result is epic: a 0 to 100km/h time of 5 seconds neat. That’s as fast as a Holden Special Vehicles Clubsport V8 while using roughly half as much fuel. The brakes are carried over from the GTI “Performance” pack (but with black rather than red calipers) and the adjustable suspension is tuned to handle the Golf R’s increase in weight (70kg). All the Golf GTI driver modes remain: comfort, normal, eco and individual, but “sport” is renamed “race”.

DRIVING

I thought it was marketing bumpf until I pressed the button. The gear-changes are much more assertive and more responsive and will hold lower gears for longer, so the car is always ready to pounce. The reflexes of the steering are equally sharp. The changes make the Golf feel small and nimble again (the new model is longer and wider than ever before and other variants can feel more cumbersome in corners).



The power delivery of the engine is so smooth it doesn’t initially feel fast -- until you have to change a gear to slingshot forward. The exhaust still has the trademark “braaaap” note between gears. But the jury is divided, however, on the engine sound. It’s not instantly likeable and has a coarse tone overlayed with a synthesized attempt at the real sound.

Unfortunately, strict noise regulations in Europe mean that modern performance cars are faking their own noises inside the cabin. The result is not the most convincing. The Golf R sounds like a muted version of the unusually-sounding BMW M5, but with half the number of cylinders.

Which is a fitting analogy, because the new Volkswagen Golf R, with its adjustability and performance, is the BMW M5 of the hot hatch world. Except the Golf R has more grip. And costs a quarter of the price.

Verdict

Suddenly $60,000 doesn’t seem like much for a Golf.


 

Pricing guides

$16,990
Based on 366 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$9,990
Highest Price
$36,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
118 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $17,990 – 20,990 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 118 TSI Pricing and Specs
103 TSI Highline 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $13,999 – 21,990 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 103 TSI Highline Pricing and Specs
110 TDI Highline 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $10,884 – 21,990 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 110 TDI Highline Pricing and Specs
90 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $9,990 – 15,990 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 90 TSI Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
9