Play The Blues

Volkswagen has ensured the fifth generation Golf R ticks all the boxes. Most powerful, most dynamic, most complete.

Aug 15, 2022

The latest Volkswagen Golf R matches understated confidence with devilish engineering firepower. If you’re after more smiles per miles, the latest halo hot hatch from Wolfsburg will deliver the laugh lines.

You can’t have too much of a good thing. Here we are in the second half of 2022, and we have already seen two all-new Volkswagen R models set a Lapiz Blue Metallic streak across the landscape. Yet, there are still two more high performance takes on range faves yet to come. What a time to be an R fan.

The familiar-looking hatchback on these pages is the logical start point for the German carmaker’s driver-focused range assault. It’s the Golf R; a car with so much pedigree and that promises plenty. Perhaps only the letters G, T and I carry more mana. But then, that’s a different proposition despite the similar wrapper. The R is for those in the know. It has been for 20 years.

Yet they haven’t gone silly with the celebratory stickers, which must be admired. As with generations of Golf R past, there is an understated composure to this hot hatch, despite the fireworks it’s capable of dishing out. Aside from those aggressive looking 19” Estoril alloys, the wide gloss black air intake up front and R badge at the back are your only visual indicators that you’re looking at a halo model that can shout with the best of them.

The new Golf R arrives with a rorty 2.0-litre turbocharged TSI petrol engine, boasting 235kW and 400Nm of torque. That’s 57kW and 81Nm more than the original Mk 4 Golf R32. Eking increased power out of new powertrains is hardly the stuff of wonder; it’s to be expected. But there is plenty of extra engineering under the Golf R’s skin that also helps give it the edge.

For a start, there’s an all-new drive system. The Golf R has always pushed drive to all four wheels, but in this Mk 8 iteration, Volkswagen has bolstered its 4MOTION all-wheel drive system with R-Performance Torque Vectoring. This technology distributes drive not just between the front and rear axles, but also variably between the two rear wheels. Volkswagen reckons this allows for more envelope-pushing through corners on engaging backroads, offering up enhanced grip and stability. There’s also a 7-speed DSG gearbox with Launch Control as standard.

Any car that defaults to ‘Sport’ mode on start-up gets our vote. As you’d expect here though, the Golf R’s driving profile selection goes further – and further still if you happen to choose a limited-run 1st Edition grade car.

In addition to enthusiast driver-focused ‘Race’ and ‘Individual’ modes in the entry Golf R, the 1st Edition also boasts extra driving modes: ‘Drift’ and ‘Special - Nürburgring’.

As it says on the tin, ‘Special - Nürburgring’ hones everything as one to effectively gives you a car perfectly set up for a lap of the Green Hell. And speaking of stating the obvious: ‘Drift’ mode? Handy for… well, showing off a bit, ‘Drift’ mode distributes 100% of the rear torque to one wheel for optimal slidey amusement, further exploiting the potential of Torque Vectoring by provoking oversteer instead of neutral vehicle handling. Of course, ‘Drift’ mode doesn’t automatically turn you into Tanner Foust. A degree of skill is still very much required, as your current correspondent discovered.

As alluded to up top, Volkswagen has other R models on the way. Following on from the Golf R, the Tiguan R (featuring the same powertrain as the hatchback) has already landed, while T-Roc R compact crossover and Touareg R (which will mix its performance chops with Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle tech) will both be on our shores in the next few months.

There’s a reason Volkswagen launched its rejuvenated R line-up with the Golf R though. If you ever needed proof that Wolfsburg still has fire in the belly, then this is it.