Volkswagen Golf R All-Rounder 2017 Review.
The Golf R is an all-rounder with which few come close to matching in all disciplines. Exhilarating pace and genuine practicality ensure it’s a regular pick for the ‘dream’ everyday family car. It small and also It’s the little things, the small differences. The way a shifter snaps between gears as deliberately as a steering wheel speaks of remaining grip. The way a suspension cycles at determined rates, each spring, damper, and bushing working in unison to ensure fidelity with the road. Or the way a powertrain can precisely balance acceleration, efficiency, and entertainment. These are fine points considered not in numbers but in nuance, the subtle great-making attributes that separate the merely good from the remarkable. And they’re actually the reasons seemingly innocuous cars, such as the Volkswagen Golf, That makes it a winner while so many worthy challengers fall short.
Even faced with the Performance-package–equipped GTI’s 36-hp advantage, the 3 still manages to elicit similar grins. The GTI’s flood of torque, however, is undeniably rewarding. With 258 pound-feet available from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four at 1500 rpm, there’s corner-exit grunt galore. The VW engine’s abilities in the farther reaches of the tachometer, where it makes its 220 peak horsepower, prove that VW had more than commuting in mind during the car’s development, for sure it a car to watch for, for many more years as the manufacturers struggles to keep it on top of it league.
VW’s designers have certainly not gone to town on cosmetic tweaks for the exterior – look closely enough and you’ll notice new LED lighting and restyled bumpers – but a discreet appearance has always been part of the allure of the R. Hide it in plain sight among a fleet of family hatchbacks and only a select few will feel their eyes drawn to the R badge. As subtle as the outside changes are, inside, it is more of a significant change. It gets a new Virtual Cockpit-style configurable digital instrument cluster and central infotainment system that can be controlled with gesture control. The screen is crisp and clear but it has lost the useful physical buttons and rotary knobs that surrounded it – it’s a step forward in terms of technology, but it may not be ergonomically. After all, it’s simpler to reach out and touch a physical button while you’re driving than grabbing at a specific part of a glossy screen that’s indistinguishable by touch.
Start the engine and an aggressive engine note ignites – albeit artificially enhanced – ready to be coaxed into a guttural growl or recede into the background on a motorway cruise. Although not natural, it does sound suitably yobbish and an Akropovic exhaust option can be ticked for even more throatiness. On the move, the engine is responsive and free-revving, and the performance is nothing short of rapid, zinging along up to and beyond motorway speeds with minimal effort. It even returns fairly palatable fuel economy. For peace of mind to go with the pace, plenty of standard safety equipment features too, such as adaptive cruise control, predictive pedestrian protection and city emergency braking.
It’s great that VW has bucked a growing trend and opted to keep a manual gearbox option. The six-speed unit is a joy to interact with, it’s consistent weight helping deliver a thoroughly engaging drive. The manual does carry a performance deficit over the automatic – in three pedal guise the R gets from 0-62mph in 5.1sec with the automatic R at 4.6sec. However, opting for the automatic costs more than £1000, so we’d be tempted to pocket the cash and enjoy the greater involvement that three pedals bring.
Happily, the R’s chassis is never overwhelmed by the performance on offer, displaying poise, genuine adjustability and unrelenting grip, thanks to the standard all-wheel drive setup. Its steering is quick but it’s responsive and offers a confidence-inspiring amount of feel, while the all-wheel drive system pushes power towards its rear wheels when the front begins to struggle to fend off under steer. The ride is on the firm side, but not uncomfortable and you can add Adaptive Chassis Control to bring yet more versatility to the car. If there’s perhaps one thing missing from the Golf R, it’s perhaps a bit of a soul – some quirky character. It is, after all, a Golf, not a car that will cause you to go misty-eyed at its styling, nor turn many heads on the street. But, as you blast your way through each and every journey soaking in its well-rounded brilliance, it’s unlikely you’ll care.