The mother of all Golfs has descended upon us, here on this tropical sunny island called Singapore. Named the Volkswagen Golf R, this is the German carmaker’s quickest, most powerful and likely the most expensive Golf ever. Its predecessor was the already-defunct Golf R32, the one with the 3.2-litre V6 powerplant, but don’t ask me why this almighty new Golf isn’t called the R20. Yes, it has ditched its V6 for a 2.0-litre four-pot turbocharger.
In all honesty, I don’t quite comprehend why the Golf R replaces the Golf R32. It has fewer cylinders and is now turbocharged, quite different from the naturally-aspirated R32. I would prefer to think of this Golf R as an extension of the GTI actually – Golf GTI Plus or Golf GTI R would have been a more suitable name probably.
Keeping its all-wheel drivetrain, the Golf R is capable of delivering 256bhp of power and 350Nm of torque at its maximum. Coming standard with Volkswagen’s all-famous dual-clutch transmission – the DSG gearbox – the six-speed Golf R was a beauty to drive from the very moment my right foot first touched the pedal.
Like how Audi has its Quattro all-wheel-drive and BMW has its M series, Volkswagen came up with the R series. So if anything, the Golf R actually shares more similarities with the Audi S3 Quattro. Hints of the Volkswagen Golf GTI mk VI flashed through my head as I drove the R, as that was the last Golf that I drove before this.
The R is one of the best cars you can drive in traffic, simply because of how zippy and light-footed it is. Sprinting from rest to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds, the Golf R is perfect in and out of corners, as it sends power t o the rear, securing as much grip as it can get. Handling-wise the R is a little milder than the GTI – a contributing factor could be the fact that it weighs nearly 130kilos more than the GTI.
Unfortunately, as mighty and strong as the R is above all the other Golfs there ever was, its looks are only mediocre. Not that its predecessor set a very high bar in the image department, but with the GTI and the Scirocco getting swankier looks, you would think the R would sport a more fanciful grille at least.
My favourite way of driving R is selecting the Sport mode with its adaptive chassis control, deactivating the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), then using the paddle shifts for the manual override. But in that mode, everything stiffens up and the ride can get a tad too bumpy for your passengers’ liking. Comfort mode would be ideal when cruising along or when you don’t feel like driving hard at all. I left it in Sport mode most of the time as I felt that the best of the R was brought out then.
There’s nothing spectacular about the inside of the Golf R, but I liked the way the ‘R’ was placed almost everywhere. The ‘R’ badge can be found on the grille, headrests, steering wheel, glove compartment and even on the brakes! The blue needles on its dials added a touch of coolness too, and the all-familiar flat-bottomed steering wheel remains.
The Golf R really reminds me a lot of driving the GTI, which is also 2-litre turbocharged, though having a lower power output. It wouldn’t be difficult for fans of the GTI to take to the R, but at a price of $173,800 with COE for the 5-door Golf R, some might feel that the GTI offers a better overall package at $157,800 for its 5-door version. Nonetheless, the R makes a truly engaging drive and helps to escape quickly from traffic clusters on the roads. Now for the Scirocco R.
VOLKSWAGEN GOLF R 2.0 (A) 5-dr
Engine: 1,984cc 16v turbocharged inline-4
Transmission: 6-speed DSG with paddle shift
Power: 256bhp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 2,500-5,000rpm
0-100kmh: 5.7 secs
Top speed: 250 km/h
Distributor: Volkswagen Centre Singapore