When it comes to constructing the “hot-hatch” Golf R, Volkswagen certainly knows a thing “R” two.
The automaker is able to call up the requisite firepower and related performance content from its parts bins to build the kind of machine that will attract new fans to the brand that might otherwise end up at a Mitsubishi, Subaru or BMW/Mini store.
Volkswagen has been down the high-output road with the Golf before, specifically for the 2008 model year with the short-lived (and not for Canada) R32, with its 250-horsepower V-6 and all-wheel-drive. Now the automaker returns in early 2012 with yet another pumped-up Golf-based model designed to thrill and delight the North American masses, or at least those who appreciate a tightly-proportioned vehicle that can haul like the dickens in every sense of the word.
For Canadian consumption, there’s a total allocation of 500 R models and all are four-door hatchbacks.
Other cars might make more content available, from blind-spot warning systems to intuitive/active cruise control, but the Golf R is having none of it. It concentrates on enriching the driving experience through generous helpings of power without ballooning the price through indiscriminate applications of luxury fluff and superfluous safety gadgetry.
On that basis alone, the R is tough to beat.
The R comes with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. During ideal road/weather conditions, all of the R’s power is directed to the front tires, however when they begin to slip, up to 100 per cent of the torque shifts to the rear wheels.
Obviously the R is a true driver’s car and that means a firm-riding, body-roll-reducing suspension, added braking power and a businesslike interior with well-bolstered front seats (covered in leather), aluminum pedals and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The R’s sole transmission is a six-speed manual, which is somewhat surprising given that the German automaker already builds a faster-shifting state-of-the-art paddle-operated manual gearbox for use in other Golf models.
Still, VW claims that the stick-shift R will hit 100 km/h in less than six seconds, which is quick enough for most folks. Be advised, however, that the R takes premium fuel.
The engine is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder generating 256 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque. By comparison, the GTI, now relegated to being the second sportiest Golf on the lot, also comes with a 2.0-litre turbo-four, but it’s rated at 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque.
Credit for the R’s extra spunk goes to the turbocharger system that delivers considerably more boost than the GTI’s.