FOR a few more dollars over the already competent Golf GTI, the high-performance Golf R promises 60 more horses and four-wheel-drive. $30,000 to be exact. But is it worth the extra cash?
At first glance, the Volkswagen Golf R looks like a snazzier GTI, with cosmetic differences such as a more distinctive front end and two pairs of chrome tailpipes - a first for the Golf R.
Under the bonnet is an almost totally re-worked version of the GTI's 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, with a newly designed cylinder head and heavily modified or completely redesigned components. Much work has been done to it so that it is almost a bespoke motorsports unit.
The end-result is that its 280 hp and 380 Nm has 60 hp and 30 Nm higher than the standard GTI power plant. It is also mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox but, unlike the front-wheel-driven GTI, the Golf R has 4Motion permanent all-wheel-drive.
The R employs a fifth-generation Haldex coupling, which mostly delivers the available torque to the front wheels but is also able to direct about 95 per cent to the rear wheels if necessary.
As a result of all this torque and traction, the Golf R accelerates from zero to 100 kmh in 5.0 seconds, or significantly speedier than the GTI's 6.5 seconds.
It helps that at 1,420 kg, this latest incarnation of the R is 46 kg lighter than its predecessor and only 50 kg heavier than the two-wheel-drive GTI.
With such a healthy power-to-weight ratio, the Golf R is incredibly nimble. Floor the gas pedal and feel the rear end squat as it blasts off with a deliciously muted exhaust burble at each gear change.
Its agility is enhanced by the progressive steering feature, which is standard. This reduces steering effort in tight turns and feels completely natural.
Another driving aid is XDS+, which brakes the inside wheels of both the front and rear axles for a sharper "turn-in" when cornering fast.
The Golf R suspension comes with DCC dynamic chassis control as standard and it rides five mm lower than the GTI, which itself is already 15 mm lower than a standard Golf.
DCC's adaptive dampers work with the Driving Profile Selector to offer five driving modes - Eco, Comfort, Normal, Race and Individual. Race mode is, of course the most extreme, with stiffer damping, increased engine response and delayed shift points.
All these sound nice on paper but the most visceral effect of Race mode is how alert the sure-footed Golf R becomes. It nips and darts in traffic with ease, always with ample torque bubbling away.
In sharp turns and sweeping corners, you can put the power down without wheelspin or understeer.
And the best part of all is that the R remains completely controllable throughout.
So is it worth the premium over the GTI? Definitely.
The Volkswagen Golf R is incredibly nimble. Floor the gas pedal and feel the rear end squat as it blasts off with a deliciously muted exhaust burble at each gear change.
Volkswagen Golf R
Engine 1,984 cc turbocharged
Transmission 6-speed dual-clutch
Max power 280 hp @ 5,700-6,200 rpm
Max torque 380 Nm @ 1,750-5,600 rpm
0-100 kmh 5.0 secs
Top speed 250 kmh
CO2 emissions 164 /km
Average OMV $41,000
Price $236,300 (with COE)
Distributor Volkswagen Group Singapore
Tel 6474 8288