Road Test: 2017 VW Golf R

Road Test: 2017 VW Golf R

Story and photos by Jordan Allan.

Volkswagen has carried an excellent reputation when it comes to hot hatchbacks, ever since the original Mk1 GTI first debuted back in 1979. Since then, the German automaker has rolled out  its popular and sporty GTI version of the Golf with every new generation, and further built on that success when it introduced the high-performance Golf R32 Mk4 in 2002. This version produced more power than ever before seen in a Golf and put power to all four wheels through VW’s 4Motion system.

The tradition has since continued, with the Mk5 R32, Mk6 Golf R and finally the present day Mk7 Golf R. Having recently spent a week driving the newest iteration, I walked away from it even more impressed than I had imagined.

The Golf R shares many of its appearance characteristics with the tamer GTI but adds “R” design grille, bumpers and side skirts and a great looking set of 19-inch Cadiz alloy wheels. If you are a car, or more specifically Volkswagen, enthusiast you will be able to recognize the Golf R from any of the other options in the Golf lineup, but due to the overall similarities, it would definitely be safe to say that the R deserves sleeper status.

2017 VW Golf RThe interior of the R uses the same formula as the outside by utilizing the strong base of the entire Golf lineup and adding subtle differences that do just enough to make it stand out. For instance, with any fast car you want seats that can firmly hold you in place but are also comfortable enough for long drives, and that has definitely been achieved with the unique “R” design Top Sport Seats in Vienna leather. Additionally you’ll notice some other R accents throughout the interior, but generally the original Golf design is maintained.

My main question regarding the Golf R was not about how it looked, but how it drives, and I quickly found out the answer was simple – incredible! The 2.0 TSI turbocharged engine putting 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels through the VW 4Motion all-wheel drive system felt as if it was producing much more than that. VW advertises a 0-60 mph time of just 4.5 seconds in the DSG dual-clutch transmission version, which our tester was, and while I wasn’t able to get the stop watch out and time myself, I will say that it felt incredibly fast upon acceleration, especially when using launch control.

Although 292 horsepower is nothing to shake a stick at, the truly great component of driving this car is the way it handles. The sport-tuned suspension, dynamic chassis control system, and the 4Motion all-wheel drive system allowed the R to accurately feel like it was on rails, and I will go on record as saying that this is probably the best handling car I’ve had the pleasure to drive, this side of a Porsche.

The DSG transmission provided lightning quick shifts as it always does, and the drive profile selector included a race mode which dialled up all components to run at their absolute limit. All of this is to say that, while driving in the right conditions, the R is able to tackle any corner you throw at it with relative ease and without any sense of panic.

The Golf R starts at a price of $39,995 with our tester coming in at $43,410, and while you’d be tempted to say that is far too much for a hatchback Volkswagen, I’d caution that there are many things to consider. Firstly, the 5-door R offers the same practicality as any model in the Golf’s lineup and can even produce a smooth, sophisticated ride when using Eco or Comfort modes. Secondly, when you look at other cars of a similar ilk with this level of performance (say the BMW M2, Audi S3 and Ford Focus RS), it is priced mostly below other offerings, so it can actually be looked at as a bargain. And lastly, if fun is what you’re looking for in a car, the VW Golf R is an ideal option, and who can put a price on fun?

Categories: Driver Plus, Road Tests