Enchanting Volkswagen Golf R reviewed

In Car Reviews, Volkswagen by Neil Lyndon

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Golf R 2.0-litre TSI 300 PS 3dr 6spd manual

A glow of cool blue light laps over the doors of the new Golf R when you release the locks at night on the remote key fob.

When you open the doors, icy blue lights irradiate the sills. Then, when you switch on the ignition, the instrument needles light up in diamond blue and pirouette around the dials.


In these ways and others, the Golf R thus deserves an epithet that nobody has ever applied to VW’s genre-defining hatchback throughout the 40 years of its existence: this Golf R is enchantingly cool.

In the past, the Golf in its standard form has earned many loving accolades – “sturdy workhorse”, “family’s best friend”, “the best thing about this car is that it means you never have to think about cars” – but nobody has ever called it cool. Even as a GTI, the Golf has always evinced a kind of jittery social uncertainty, like a spotty subaltern who has just got his first pips, his first girl and his first fast car. It was always good, frequently great, but never the kind of car that Mr Cool might have considered.

The Golf R could be in with a chance. Miles Davis – that ultimate, Ferrari-loving Mr Cool – might not have looked down from Olympus with approval; but anybody in the lowlier ranks of cool would be missing out if they unthinkingly spurned the complete package that adds up to the Golf R.

Fitted with a newly designed turbocharged petrol direct-injection TSI engine (TSI) with 300 PS of power, the Golf R transfers all that ooomph to the road through a manual or DSG semi-automatic six-speed gearbox and via 4MOTION, a permanent all-wheel drive system from Haldex. The XDS+ system brakes the wheels on the inside of a bend during spirited driving while its sport suspension system lowers the car’s body height by 20mm and its DCC dynamic chassis control system allows the driver to vary settings all the way from leisurely to Race. Acceleration from 0-60 mph takes just 5.1 seconds – the fastest-ever for a production Golf – and top speed is artificially limited to 155 mph.

All this adds up to a car that is docile and tractable to drive in traffic on the road yet a real rip-snorter on circuits or empty country roads. Grip, agility and steering are up there in the Porsche Cayman class. Pleasure is in a dimension far beyond any bog-standard hatchback.

As is the price, of course. The all-in £34,265 price tag on our test car seems like a ferocious amount of money to spend on a Golf – even allowing the for the Alcantara panels in the specially designed race seats at the front, the leather-bound steering-wheel and the four, chromed exhaust tailpipes.

For that money, you could buy a perfectly sound second-hand Cayman S whose cool credentials are not in doubt. The Golf R may put up a convincing case as the nearest approach to cool ever achieved by a Golf – but, God bless it, a Golf is still a Golf.

About the Author
Neil Lyndon

Neil Lyndon


Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK's national stage for 40 years, writing for every "quality" newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 - the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.

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Specs of model driven – Golf R 2.0-litre TSI 300 PS 3dr 6spd manual

Base on the road price: £29,900.00, price as tested £34,265.00 extra equipment included, Discover Navigation Pro Touchscreen Nav/DVD/radio with 8″ colour screen, Dynamic Chassis Control, Winter Pack, Pretoria Alloys, Lapiz Blue Metallic Paintwork.

Engine: 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged four cylinder with four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing
Transmission: 4Motion four-wheel drive and six speed DSG gearbox
Rated Output: 300hp @ 5500-6200rpm
Torque: 380Nm @ 1800-5500rpm
0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited)
Fuel economy urban/extra-urban/combined: 32.1/47.9/40.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 165g/km

Boot Capacity: 480 litres
Length – 4276mm
Width – 2027mm inc mirrors
Height – 1436mm

Fuel tank – 55 Litres

Insurance Group – 34E

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