Close this search box.

R United – 2022 Volkswagen Golf R Review

The Volkswagen Golf R. With the exception of the GTi, for many, this is the ultimate Golf. Eight generations later, the R is still with us and in my view, can easily match, and in some cases surpass, the GTi in terms of performance and cult following.

So, when Volkswagen New Zealand allowed me to spend five days with the eagerly anticipated eighth generation Golf R, an opportunity presented itself to not only check out where this much-loved version of the iconic Golf is now, but also where it has come from. So, after some correspondence with a friend, the Golf 8 R was joined for an evening by its older siblings, a fifth-generation Golf R32, the predecessor of the R, and a sixth-generation Golf R.

Before we get stuck into the newcomer, let’s start with a bit of background on the R32. The R32 nameplate first appeared on the fourth generation Golf but it was the MK5 that truly took it to new heights. Its four-wheel-drive and a 3.2L V6 mated to a DSG transmission were a match made in heaven. Plus, the sound of that six pot was half the appeal. This example has been lovingly maintained by its owner and that aforementioned six-cylinder burble on this really has gone up to 11 thanks to some “minor” tweaks in the exhaust department.

Joining the R32 was a sixth-generation Golf R. By now, Volkswagen had retired the R32 name and chose instead to stick with just R. The four-wheel drive returned, but out went the V6 and in came four cylinders and a turbocharger. The MK6 R was every bit as rapid as the MK5 R32 and then some, plus there was more refinement to be had too. The MK6 owner has also kept his R immaculate also. The fact that both these examples of Golf R heritage are painted in a different shade of blue and feature the optional hip-hugging sports seats is also pretty cool.

Fast forward to today and the R dynasty lives on with the MK8 R. Volkswagen certainly haven’t thrown in the towel on making the new R the most advanced and most powerful yet. This is down to the R’s 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with no less than 235kW and a fairly decent 400Nm of torque.

This is put to the road via Volkswagen’s tried and proven seven-speed DSG transmission and 4MOTION four-wheel-drive. Performance? Well with launch control activated, try a snip over four seconds and a top speed of 277km/h. The new R is quick, no doubt about it. More about how that launch control feels soon. Volkswagen also claim combined fuel consumption figures of 8.6L/100km and CO2 emissions of 195g/km WLTP.

While the new R has the beating heart of a modern hot hatch, the styling does seem a bit conservative by comparison. With the MK5 R32 and the MK6 R, they look like a hot Golf front to back. The MK8 R is a clean-cut design and is not ugly by any stretch, but from the front, it doesn’t scream “I am the fastest new Golf there is.” In fact, you would be hard pressed from a distance to distinguish the front of an R from a Golf R-Line.

However, those more understated chops are complemented by features in keeping with the hot hatch mantra. Things like those 19-inch 1st Edition alloys, rear diffuser and cap on backwards spoiler tick those hot hatch boxes beautifully. As does the quad blasting sports exhaust set up, though I do miss the exhausts mounted centrally like the older cars, but I digress.

Inside will be very familiar to anyone who has driven a new Golf 8. Volkswagen’s decision to go with touch buttons over conventional switchgear makes itself known in the R just as it does in the R-Line. You have to give these buttons a firm tap with your index finger to get a result in the way you would expect, especially those on that R-embossed sports wheel.

Said wheel does feel really good in your hands though and the heavily bolstered R-embossed leather sports seats are very supportive in all areas. In fact, they strike a good balance between track car support and everyday comfort. The driving position is also very good and everything is within easy reach.

Volkswagen haven’t skimped on throwing plenty of kit at the Golf R. Things like a heated steering wheel, three-zone climate control, heated nappa leather seats, 30 colour options for ambient lighting, a HUD, LED headlights and taillights and of course, that new 10-inch Discover Media Navigation Infotainment System. This includes sat nav, wireless app-connect, Bluetooth and voice activation.

There are also 4x USB ports, two front and two back and wireless charging. The 1st Edition also gets a panoramic sunroof and a thumping eight-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system with 480w amplifier as standard. These are optional on the regular Golf R.

Safety gear includes city emergency braking, forward collision warning, pedestrian and cyclist monitoring, adaptive cruise control with travel assist, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert, a 360-degree reversing camera and parking sensors front and rear.

I have to say while legroom and headroom in the rear is decent, the seats are much harder than those in the front. Boot space is rated at 374L which isn’t bad, and neither is the full 1233L with that second row folded away.

Fire up that turbo four pot and you find it defaults to Sport mode. On start-up there is that faint four-cylinder burble with the unmistakeable sound of a turbo giving that extra forced induction. The gear selector does take a split second to engage either drive or reverse but this is no real biggie.

Like any Golf, it is such an easy car to navigate through and urban setting. The electric power steering is very direct. Feedback is somewhat lacking in comfort settings but I half expected that. The seven-speed DSG is a delight, though shifting manually is slightly delayed with each upshift. Ride comfort is decent too, even in Sport mode. The idea of using the Golf R as a daily will likely be on every buyer’s mind and Volkswagen have certainly pulled it off once again here.

The roads through McLean’s Island provide an ideal setting to see just what the Golf R is capable of unshackled. First item on the agenda, launch control. Rather than hold the brake and mash the throttle, there is more involved with the eighth-gen R. Instead, you must select Race, turn the traction control to ESC Sport via the infotainment system, hold the wheel perfectly straight, left foot on the brake and build the revs with your right foot.

It now sits at 4000rpm and the message “launch control active” appears on the instrument cluster. Now its just a matter of lifting off the brake and hanging on for dear life. The neck-snapping acceleration is savage. For a hi-po hot hatch, its up there with the Mercedes A45s I tested two years with the same level of acceleration. This is one seriously quick Golf. The turbo burble sounds great, but pales in comparison to how this car feels when you give it some stick in Sport or Race Mode.

This being the Golf R First Edition, there is more variety when it comes to Race mode. You can expand on the Golf R’s immense capabilities by activating Drift Mode and even Nurburgring Mode through the Race Mode selection. The former is when you feel like getting the tail out on track and the latter, for amping everything up for the ultimate Race Mode experience.

However, what is unique to Nürburgring mode, is that the electronically controlled dampers and suspension actually feel softer here than they do in regular Race Mode. Hence, this mode allows you blast away in relative comfort instead of having your back pummeled. The slight softness may exist to combat the bumpy surface of the Nurburgring’s 187 corners, or so I have heard.

Turn in is sharp and pushing hard in tight corners is likely to become a favourite pastime for anyone with Golf R. There is no build up of understeer and it isn’t long before you are pushing even harder and braking later. There is plenty of grip from the 4MOTION four-wheel-drive and those 400Nm kick in really low down, thus giving you more opportunities for maximum attack at any given moment.

The Golf R will set you back $79,990 plus ORC and $517.50 clean car fee, whereas if you want to bag a 1st Edition, you will need to part with $85,990 plus ORC and fee. While I wish that Volkswagen would offer just that bit more flamboyance seen in the likes of the Rs of old, its hard not to look past just how capable and fun this eighth album really is. With the new Golf R, the long way home will quickly become the only way home.

Credit: AJP Photography
Credit: AJP Photography
Credit: AJP Photography

RATING: 8.5/10

A big thank you to the owners of the MK5 R32 and MK6 R once again.

Share your love


Support our advertisers

Paying bills

Ads from the Googles

Support our advertisers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *