The MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Award for best small car for 2015 was awarded to the new Volkswagen Golf family. Primarily because with the TSI, TDI, GTI, SportWagen, and even an e-Golf, they cover all of the bases like no other small car series. Well, it turns out they’re not done yet, as they’ve now unleashed Wolfsburg’s latest pocket rocket on the US, the Golf R.
Regular viewers of MotorWeek are no doubt a little weary of our incessant praise of the new Volkswagen Golf and GTI. If that’s the case, you might want to change the channel for about the next 5-minutes, as we’re about to go all “fan-boy” once again about this 2015 Volkswagen Golf R.
All-wheel-drive is part of the Golf R’s platform of course, a Haldex system that stays front-biased, but can send up to 50% of corner carving grip to the back tires. But, that extra hardware does push weight to a hefty 3,340-lbs.
Under hood, is a familiar VW and Audi mechanical; a 2.0-liter I4 turbo. And while that’s not a lot of motor in size, it cranks out a sizable 292-horsepower. Plus, a seemingly continuous delivery of 280 lb-ft. of torque throughout the rev band, makes it feel like even more.
This time around, just the DSG automatic transmission is available at launch, and a 6-speed manual won’t arrive until next year. But as you may already know, we’re very fond of the DSG. Driving Mode Selection gets a new Race mode, and you can further upgrade to optional Dynamic Chassis Control that lets you dial in an ultra-stiff ride, should you so choose.
Regardless, the Golf R is an absolute blast to drive. And really, it doesn’t feel much different than the GTI that we love so much until you go heavy on the throttle and let it spin up to glory.
The interior finish is great! This car looks and feel like it’s worth every penny you spend on it; think more Audi than base VW.
There’s plenty of room, a simple and effective layout, with logically placed controls. The upgraded sport seats are awesome at holding you tight, but comfortably so; in a Teutonic snuggle sort of way.
The GTI is certainly no slouch when it comes to the handling department, but here on the Shenandoah Circuit at Summit Point Motorsports Park near Charlestown, West Virginia, the Golf R hunkers down and scoots through corners even better than your wildest expectations.
Despite a soft overall feel, there’s plenty of grip to be had; as no matter how much throttle you’re carrying, this chassis, can put power in its place, and of course that’s on the pavement.
ESC can now be fully turned off, but Sport Mode is absolutely great, letting you have quite a bit of fun, before the electronics step in to keep you pointed where you should be.
As for complaints, this course’s tighter turns and many shifting opportunities had us wishing for bigger shift paddles, as with all of the constant shuffling they were sometimes hard to find.
But of course in a straight line, leaving the DSG in full auto is really where it’s at. Mash the gas, hold on, and 4.9-seconds later, we’re at 60 miles-per-hour.
The Golf R launches off the line smartly with its all-wheel-drive grip, with a snappy and raspy exhaust note all the way down the track for a quick quarter at 13.7–seconds at 103 miles-per-hour. While a short 115-feet is all it took to stop from 60 miles-per-hour.
On the street, the Golf R is even more impressive. It feels very substantial for its size, with a dialed-in solidity like no other small car. It’s agile and wanting to be thrown around, and is the very definition of confidence inspiring.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 23-City, 30-Highway, and 26–Combined; we averaged a very good 28.3 miles-per-gallon of Premium. The Energy Impact Score is 12.7-barrels of oil used and 5.7 tons of CO2 emitted yearly.
Alas, perfection never comes cheap. In this case it starts at $37,415, and is available in 4-door only. Those numbers may scare away a few, but in this world, it’s the unafraid that are truly rewarded.
So, don’t think of the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R as just a sportier GTI, think of it as everything you’d ever want a Golf to be and a bit more. And really everything you’d want in a sensible sport-hatch as well. If you’re perfectly happy with your GTI, do yourself a favor and don’t test drive the “R”, so you don’t know what you’re missing.
Engine: 2.0 liter
Torque: 280 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds
1/4 mile: 13.7 seconds @ 103 mph
EPA: 23 mpg city/ 30 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 12.7 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.7 tons/yr