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Volkswagen Golf R 2019 review: Special Edition

This limited edition of 400 Golf Rs are fitted with 'R Performance' options normally available in Europe only.
EXPERT RATING
8.3
Just how special is the Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition? We threw it into the deep end of a very wet racetrack to find out.

There’s something special about a Volkswagen Golf R – a fairly innocuous-looking hatchback that can outperform many dedicated sports cars thanks to a 0-100km/h time under five seconds, impressive handling and all-wheel drive (AWD). 

So, what about a Golf R Special Edition, then? Is it extra special? How much more does it cost and what else do you get? 

We found out when we drove the Golf R Special Edition at a rain-soaked race circuit.

Volkswagen Golf 2019: R SPECIAL EDITION
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$61,990

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

We’re going to start here because at $61,990 Volkswagen is asking you to spend $5500 more on the Golf R Special Edition than a regular Golf R. So, what equipment is added and is it worth it?

The short answer is, not a lot of equipment, but it’s good gear, and yes, it’s worth it.

At $61,990 Volkswagen is asking you to spend $5500 more on the Golf R Special Edition than a regular Golf R. At $61,990 Volkswagen is asking you to spend $5500 more on the Golf R Special Edition than a regular Golf R.

This limited edition of 400 Golf Rs sees each example fitted with 'R Performance' options normally available in Europe only, and the total value of equipment added outweighs the extra money you’re being charged. Want the breakdown? Of course, you do.

Just to buy the handmade Akrapovic titanium exhaust would cost $5950. The cross-drilled front brake discs with performance pads go for $900. Then there’s the 19-inch 'Pretoria Black' alloy wheels which weigh a kilo less than the regular R rims and cost $1500 for the set.

And finally, there’s the Dynaudio 400W premium sound system which you can option in Australia for $1000. All up it’s $9350 worth of equipment for an extra five-and-a-half grand.

To buy the handmade Akrapovic titanium exhaust on it's own would cost $5950. To buy the handmade Akrapovic titanium exhaust on it's own would cost $5950.

Then there are all the standard features which come on the regular Golf R such as a 9.2-inch display with gesture control, sat nav, CD player, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 12.3-inch 'active driving display', leather upholstery, auto parking system, heated front seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, proximity key and push button start, shifting paddles, front and rear parking sensors, and a three-spoke leather sports steering wheel.

What are the rivals to the Golf R? There’s its sister from a different mister Audi S3 Quattro which lists for $63,900, or BMW’s M140i for $59,990 and as a more powerful (and more expensive) outsider there’s the Mercedes-AMG A 45 for $75,492.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The Golf R looks docile and to most people would fly under the radar as just another Golf. But the Special Edition does toughen things up a bit.

Handmade out of titanium and weighing seven kilos less than the regular exhaust the Akrapovic system looks like something you’d see on display at a military trade fair, while the 19-inch Pretoria Black wheels are much meaner looking than the 'seen one, seen 'em all' standard R alloys. 

the Akrapovic system looks like something you’d see on display at a military trade fair. the Akrapovic system looks like something you’d see on display at a military trade fair.

The Special Edition treatment also adds black wing mirror housings, and an R Performance badge on the tailgate.

'Turmeric Yellow' is offered on the Special Edition – a colour not available on the standard R. I’m not a fan of this golden hue. I’m more enamoured with the 'Lapiz Blue' (which the car in our video wears), there’s also 'Pure White' or the 'Deep Black pearl effect' if you wanted to go the full Darth Vader.

The Golf R Special Edition’s cabin is identical to the standard R’s interior – apart from the Dynaudio speakers in the A-pillars – but it’s a premium-feeling, modern cockpit that matches its prestigious rivals for refinement and design. The flush-mounted 9.2-inch screen is stunning and so is the virtual instrument cluster, leather seats have a high-quality look and feel, too.

  • The Special Edition’s cabin is almost identical to the standard R’s interior. The Special Edition’s cabin is almost identical to the standard R’s interior.
  • the leather seats have a high-quality look and feel. the leather seats have a high-quality look and feel.

 
The Golf R Special Edition has the same dimensions as the regular Golf R – it’s 4.3m long, 1.8m wide and 1.4m tall.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

The Special Edition has the same 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder as the regular Golf R with an identical output of 213kW/380Nm. Volkswagen refused to speculate on whether the Akrapovic exhaust increased horsepower or if lighter components such as the exhaust, wheels and brakes meant the Special Edition was quicker.

Shifting gears is a seven-speed 'DSG' (wet) dual-clutch automatic with drive going to all four wheels.

The Golf R’s 213kW output is enough to throw itself from 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds. The Golf R’s 213kW output is enough to throw itself from 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds.

Power lags behind more potent hot hatches like the Audi RS3 and Merc-AMG A 45, but the Golf R’s 213kW output is enough to throw itself from 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds.

An extended electronic differential lock (XDL) does a good job of reigning in understeer by preventing wheelspin on the inside wheel during cornering.

Basically it’s an 'I fixed it for you' feature that’ll bring things under control if you enter a corner too quickly.

What's it like to drive?   9/10

My test drive of the Golf R Special Edition was limited to a saturated Luddenham Raceway, around 60km west of Sydney, where I drove it back-to-back-to-back with the Polo GTI and Golf GTI in bucketing rain.

So, while the super-smooth track surface gave me no indication of how the Special Edition rides on normal pot-holed Australian roads, on its 235/35 Continental ContiSportContact rubber, I learnt about the car’s other attributes that aren’t always obvious in the supermarket car park.

The Golf R Special Edition made its way through the race track without losing traction or understeering. The Golf R Special Edition made its way through the race track without losing traction or understeering.

Racing circuits are like an accelerated learning course on the dynamic capabilities of a car, and you can safely ask it things like: What happens if we come into this steep downhill section at 60km/h with its long right-hand turn followed by a hairpin left with almost a river running over it?

The answer: the front-wheel drive (FWD) Golf GTI understeered and flashed its traction control light at me, while the Golf R Special Edition with its AWD and extended electronic differential lock threaded its way through without losing traction or understeering and pulled itself impressively out of bends.

Even areas of standing water on the main straight, which caused the GTI to squirm and then right itself, didn’t affect the R Special Edition, and under heavy braking at the end of that straight it kept itself composed and washed off speed fast.

The GTI is an adept tool, but the R Special Edition sharpens and bolsters that package with more grunt and traction making the driver feel more confident to push harder.

The Special Edition’s exhaust note is magnificent – low and gravelly at idle, yet loud and crackly at full noise. The Special Edition’s exhaust note is magnificent – low and gravelly at idle, yet loud and crackly at full noise.

Volkswagen wouldn’t tell me if the Akrapovic exhaust added any extra power, nor if the lighter weight components helped with performance either. The only difference I noticed on the day is the Special Edition’s exhaust note is magnificent – low and gravelly at idle, yet loud and crackly at full noise.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The Golf R Special Edition is a five-seat, five-door hatch but the AWD system means its 343-litre boot space is smaller compared to the 380-litre cargo capacity of the FWD Golf and Golf GTI. That’s really the only difference in practicality.

Legroom is still just as tight for me behind my driving position – I’m 191cm tall and my knees are hard up against the seat back, but headroom is excellent – even with a sunroof.

Up front head, leg and shoulder room are excellent, but legroom is still just as tight for me behind my driving position. Up front head, leg and shoulder room are excellent, but legroom is still just as tight for me behind my driving position.

Up front head, leg and shoulder room are excellent. If you're taller like me you’d find that some cars are painful to drive on race tracks because your elbows are bumping into doors or armrests (the last thing you want mid-corner), but not in the Golf R.

Cabin storage is great with giant door pockets in the front and big ones in the back, there are two cupholders in the rear fold-down armrest and another two up front, along with a deep hidey hole under the centre console armrest. 

For power there are two 12-volt outlets (one in the cargo area and one in the front), and for media and charging there’s a USB port in the small, covered tray in the dash.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Volkswagen’s official fuel consumption figure is 7.2L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads. Our figures were a lot higher … because race track

 

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Golf R Special Edition has the maximum five-star ANCAP rating and comes with an armoury of advanced safety equipment including city AEB with pedestrian detection, forward and reverse manoeuvre braking, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, lane keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control.

The Golf R Special Edition has the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. The Golf R Special Edition has the maximum five-star ANCAP rating.

For child seats there are two ISOFIX mounts and three top-tether anchor points across the second row.

A space saver spare can be found under the boot floor.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

The Golf R Special Edition is covered by Volkswagen’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Servicing is recommended every 12 months/15,000km with the first costing $377, the second $572, then $624, $804, and then back down to $377.

Verdict

The Golf R is expensive the Golf R Special Edition even more so, but the extra equipment that’s added is well worth paying the extra $5500. Also, that the equipment is factory fitted should help the Special Edition maintain a higher resale value than the garden variety Golf R.
 
Like the Golf R the Golf R Special Edition is practical and comfortable enough to live with day-to-day while being impressively dynamic on the road or track – regardless of the weather.

Is the Golf R Special Edition really special? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$43,490
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$24,990
Highest Price
$61,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
110 TSI COMFORTLINE 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $30,190 2019 Volkswagen Golf 2019 110 TSI COMFORTLINE Pricing and Specs
110 TSI Highline 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $36,490 2019 Volkswagen Golf 2019 110 TSI Highline Pricing and Specs
110 TSI TRENDLINE 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $27,790 2019 Volkswagen Golf 2019 110 TSI TRENDLINE Pricing and Specs
GTI 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $46,190 2019 Volkswagen Golf 2019 GTI Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.3
Price and features8
Design8
Engine & trans9
Driving9
Practicality8
Fuel consumption8
Safety8
Ownership8
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$61,990

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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