Most people credit Volkswagen to be the creator of the “Hot Hatch” segment when the brand launched the original Golf GTI back in the mid 70s. I love hot hatchbacks; they’re fast and fun to drive, practical and economical… most of the time… So as you’d imagine, I was pretty excited when I got the opportunity to spend a weekend with the 2015 Golf R, the most powerful Golf ever produced by Volkswagen.
To the untrained eye, the Golf R looks very similar to its younger sibling, the Golf GTI, with a few hard to spot differences. Apart from the “R” badges, slightly redesigned front and rear bumpers, bi-xenon headlights with daytime running LEDs, matt chrome door mirrors, 19 inch wheels and four exhaust pipes, there isn’t too much to set them apart visually.
As for the interior, it’s virtually identical to the GTI. The two Golfs mainly differ by the R having: leather seats, carbon inlays on the dashboard and door panels, and “R” and “4Motion”badges on the bottom of the steering wheel and across a storage compartment in front of the gear lever respectively.
And the similarities don’t stop there; under the bonnet, the Golf R has the same 2L turbo charged engine matted to the same 6-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox you find in the GTI. But thankfully, the common characteristics do end here. By playing around with the turbocharger, valves, pistons etc., Volkswagen managed to increase power output to 280bhp: that’s 60bhp more than you get in a GTI. With 380 Nm of torque at your disposal, the car maker claims the Golf R sprints from 0-100 km/h in 5 seconds, with a top speed of 250 km/h. The second main difference is that the Golf R comes with Volkswagen’s “4Motion” all-wheel drive system, as opposed to the GTI’s front wheel drive setup. The grip levels this car offers are phenomenal; you’d have to drive like a complete lunatic at ridiculous speeds before it loses traction! That said, for the first time ever in a Golf, you can completely deactivate the traction control: meaning no more interference from electronic nannies when you’re thrashing about on a track. Factor in all of the above and you’re left with a sure-footed, considerably fast and fun hatchback.
After driving the Golf R for a few days, I was left with mixed feelings. I loved the overall driving experience; from the way it hugged corners to its blistering straight-line speed. I admire how confidence-inspiring it is, urging you to push it a bit harder every time. And when you’ve had enough fooling around, it’s a practical hatchback with a big boot for your grocery shopping. However, the interior was a bit of a letdown to me. Yes, it’s well put together with decent quality material, but you get a virtually identical interior in a GTI, at a lower cost. I kept thinking about whether I’d have this one over a GTI, and for the sake of being perfectly honest, the answer is no.
All things aside, as far as the Golf R is concerned, this is hands down the best incarnation of the “R” to date.
Review by Chadi K