VW Golf R

4 Jan, 2010 12:04pm Richard Meaden

Firm ditches V6 to give new flagship tuned version of GTI’s turbo. Is it more convincing than its big-selling brother?


With the old R32, more power never equalled a significant performance advantage. But now, there’s no question that the Golf R is a step up from the GTI. You’ll certainly pay for the privilege, as a starting price of just over £30,000 is a considerable jump up from the GTI. However, the R more than backs this up with big-league performance and a more focused chassis. At last, the Golf has a worthy, if expensive, flagship

Volkswagen’s Golf GTI has always been a tough act to follow. That’s why the four-wheel drive, V6-engined Golf R32 never quite established itself as a convincing flagship of the MkV range.

But could the MkVI version change that? VW has ditched the naturally aspirated V6, and instead extracted more power from the GTI’s lighter, more efficient 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo. The result is an all-new model: the Golf R.

Fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, twin central-exit exhaust pipes and striking metallic blue paint, the R certainly looks the part. Indeed, if you’re a hot hatch purist, you’ll prefer it to its flashier cousin, the Scirocco R.

Under the bonnet, there’s a highly tuned version of the powerplant from the MkV GTI, rather than the newer MkVI motor. The block is reinforced and the cylinder head replaced, while special pistons, conrods, high-pressure fuel injectors, a new turbo and a more effective intercooler are used.  The     results are impressive: 265bhp and 345Nm of torque make it the most potent Golf yet. That’s a major step up from the 200bhp GTI, not to mention the old R32. It sounds brilliant, too.


Crucially, the turbo engine is much cleaner and more fuel efficient than the V6-engined R32. Emissions drop from 257g/km for the MkV to 199g/km for the Golf R. Fuel economy is up around 4mpg to 33.2mpg on the combined cycle for a manual model. Fitting the optional twin-clutch DSG transmission bumps that figure up to 33.6mpg.

The Golf R is a seriously quick car – it’s a clear league above the GTI, and significantly livelier than the R32 it replaces. It’s not as rabid or unruly as the Ford Focus RS, but that means you can extract more of the hatch’s performance more of the time.

Much of this is due to the new 4MOTION all-wheel drive transmission, which can send as much as 100 per cent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels if it senses the front tyres are struggling. And with new springs and dampers, revised anti-roll bars and specially tuned power-steering, it’s no wonder the R has a sharper and more direct feel than the GTI. But we’re pleasantly surprised that this doesn’t come at the expense of comfort – even though the newcomer runs on stiffer, 25mm lower suspension.

Less pleasing is the fact that VW persists in making its Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) suspension an option on the Golf – even on its £30,000 flagship.

Our car didn’t come equipped with the switchable two-stage dampers, but it still felt spot-on. Whether the R would strike such a fine balance between ride and handling if it were equipped with the optional 19-inch wheels is debatable. We tried the Golf R with the DSG transmission, and although this delivers rapid and tremendously smooth gearshifts, it didn’t feel quite so convincing as it does in the GTI.

In ‘D’ mode, the box is too keen to short-shift into the highest possible gear; in ‘S’ mode it’s the opposite, as it’s a bit too keen to kick down.

The set-up is great when you override the automatic modes and use the button-style paddles, but there are times when you would rather let the gearbox do the work – which seems a shame in a car this driver focused. It does at least suit the Golf’s no-fuss nature. Even on demanding roads, you never sense anything unsettling going on beneath you. All you get is a level of assurance and ability that makes the R’s front-wheel-drive rivals feel a little ragged.

Rival: Ford Focus RS
The Ford is as extreme as they come. We drive the tuned Graham Goode version on Page 30, but even the standard 301bhp RS feels as if it would suit 50bhp less power. The Golf R will appear tame to owners of the Ford, although there isn’t much between them on the road – and the VW has broader abilities and appeal.

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Spec this up to the level of equipment you get as standard on the RS and you reach 38k. There are a lot of nice, interesting-looking fast cars you can buy for that!

Its so bland, I don't care how well it goes. If its as good as my wife's A3, you can keep it too. Not impressed, at all.

Love the stunning electric blue exterior colour.....HATE the relentless dreary boring grey coloured interior. And the contrast round the door-shuts is awful.

.. means you can drive it, whole family can drive it, your son can drive too as its first car... --> always reliable and it achives some appreciation which Focus will never do by spending a lot of time in maintenance hall.
With DSG there is no better comfort-sport compromise on the market for such a low price; must admit that in R case it sounds weird DSG setup but maybe there is some logics behind it if you ask VW folks? Maybe urban driving in mind with that D mode?

Spec this up to the level of equipment you get as standard on the RS and you reach 38k. There are a lot of nice, interesting-looking fast cars you can buy for that!

By gherkins123 on 5 January, 2010, 7:58am

...same price as a Type R MUGEN, with lower mass and no turbo - the best FWD naturally aspirated car on the road in 2010? (and likely to be considerably more rare than a Golf)

when I looked for a Focus RS there were not base models available only ones with Lux pac so 30k - same as the Golf R ! Four Wheel drive is worth 30k, dont get me wrong the Focus RS is great in the dry but a handful in the wet hence with the state of british roads a FWD car over 250bhp is insaine.

I sold me RS due to is edgey nature and nearly misses in the wet. I sold mine to a dealer and lost £4k heavy depreciation for six months of ownership.

The golf looks a proper sorted hatch which can handle the power - don't make the same mistake I made, get a four wheel drive car.

How is this better than the cheaper Audi S3?

I always thought the Audi to be more premium than the VW range, so how come this motor is 30K to the S3's sub-30k ??

I'm a fan of Golfs and do like the MkV and VI GTi's but why pay over 30k for a hatchback, Its madness. This will only encourage other manufacturers to cost their little sports models up too.

I picked up a new Honda Civic Type-R a few years ago for almost 17k, so in the space of nearly 7 years a neat hot hatch is now at 25k...bananas it is...

I can forgive the RS's 25k price as its an 'RS' it means something, theres an awful lot of history attached, but a Golf 'R'...nah sorry...over 30k is laughable...you can get a 18 month old M3 for that !

Why would anybody in their right mind spend 30K on a VW Golf??? I don't care how many horses it has. There was a time when Golf's carried some Kudos but that time has long since past. It's dull, dreary, uninspired and insanely overpriced.

I can think of considerably better options for half the price....

I also read and commented on the Graham Goode Focus RS. I think for a front wheel drive car the Golf is about on the limit for what two wheels can do. A good balance between power and performance. But as said previously both cars are really silly expensive money. I would feel so much happier buying a basic Subaru Impreza WRX which is silly cheap in comparison. It has 4 wheel drive and even in standard form will out handle both the Focus and the Golf I'd guess. If you wanted more performance out of the Impreza then there are so many aftermarket power add ons you can lose count. Not so to that extent in either the Focus or Golf . You could get an easy 350 bhp out of the Impreza for little money and there would be no issues with power transmission. Dead reliable to match the Golf and Focus to. As Autocar said in it's original Road Test of the Impreza Turbo. It is the fastest point to point road useable car ever made. I think it probably still is.

I like the Golf R. That said, I'm not sure I'd spend 30k for one over a GTI since that has plenty of pace anyway. 4 wheel drive is a bonus I suppose although most of the time you wouldn't need it. 265 bhp? 200 bhp from the GTI is plenty fast enough for me. Ok, makes for interesting conversations in the pub for those that are interested, ok, I'm a geek, I am interested lol, but you can't really use 200 or 265 to its full potential anyway in this country so why bother.

I for one love the look of the Golf R. There seems to be a lot of Golf knocking going on here and about 6 months ago I would have joined you. However, after looking for a new small hatch and doing the usual Ford, Vauxhall, Renault, Honda etc I stopped by the VW showroom and was astonished. Okay, so it's not the most exciting looking car in the world but it's still smart, beautifully built out of quality materials (compared to the competition - including Audi and BMW) and practical. It's even good to drive, better than the A3, Astra and Civic and although not quite as sharp as the 1 Series its infinately more comfortable (and better looking). As for the Focus (RS or otherwise) it was cheap looking, cheap feeling and not very comfortable. Don't even get me started on the dealers. Yes the Golf R is expensive, but it beats my old (08 plate) BMW 320d for build quality and perceived quality. I just specced up a BMW 325i M Sport and it was £33k. As much as I love the BMW, I know which I'd rather take...

Remember rip off Britain and the ridiculous car prices manufacturers were charging not so many years ago? It would appear they are back to their old tricks and more fool the people who pay £30k+ for a hatchback.

Remember rip off Britain and the ridiculous car prices manufacturers were charging not so many years ago? It would appear they are back to their old tricks and more fool the people who pay £30k+ for a hatchback.

No disrespect hubabuba, but this is not an appropriate first car (even if you could get insurance for it).

As for price - it doesn't seem too bad when you consider that a Focus 2.0 Zetec S now has a list price of £5 less than £20k. Amazing, eh? However, the Golf looks very dear compared to an Evo X (virtually same list price) and a year-old Cayman with 3000 miles at just under £35k (ok - only two seats), never mind a new S3 at £28,250.

So, plenty of better options imho

It is expensive and yes we can all find cars that could do something better than the R , the mugan -great but you couldn't drive it on an ordinary road without your dentures falling out , a cayman -fine as long as you don't have kids in the back ,an evo x great value for the performance as long as you don't mind something that my 5 year old couild have designed. That leaves the focus rs and so far the scirroco r has come up trumps in comparison. No this car is a tremendously balanced product -thats why this years uk allocation has already sold out -still think vw have got it all wrong?

I had VW's for 14 yrs and have recently changed brand, as VW's are not as well made as they used to be and have more problems, also VW prices are creeping up and op again and 30K for this motor is OTT and its a rip off.
In my view there are better cars about for far less dosh, you can't use this thing to its full potential on the road so why waste money, if its for image, look for something that is different and will draw looks, If its 4 seats you need there are plenty for 15K that have enough grunt for road use, and if it’s a need for speed then buy a second hand Lotus or Caterham7 and enter for track days.

As much as I like the VW Golf i'd never buy one, all models in the range are overpriced and as for this one, it's extremely hard to argue for its 'raison d'etre' when you can pick up an Audi S3 for nearly 2k less...

It's hard enough for manufacturers to sell performance focused cars in the current financial climate as it is without VW trying to up the pricing ante on hot hatches. Stick to the GTI if you must have a fast 'n' fun Golf, it still delivers on all fronts.

When will people look past the reputation of VW and see how lazy and scared they really are. The golf hasn't changed for years and that is due to lazy design and the fact that nobody dare change it because if they get it wrong they don't want to be known as the person who killed off VW. When the Sirocco was unveilled, it should have been hailed as the future of the Golf. One day people will wake and see how bland the Golf really is.

Oh dear, was the first words that sprung into mind when looking at this golf R, its Dated, Boring and expensive compared to its new rivals and brother the scirocco R. Its very boxy looking and i personally prefer the old R32. Audi S3, Focus RS and Renaultsport Megane 250 are three rivals that i would rather be driving. Sorry VW back to the drawing board...

30k for a car that nobody will give a second glance to? Who are VW kidding. Just look at the depreciation of the previous hot R32 version to see how quickly depreciation will burn your investment almost overnight.

have to agree ,golfs are boting in any form ,,,unless some excelent company like ,ottinger ,our abt etc make nice sttyling mods.. the only reason i would bye it.... is that is relible and famly car ,that is only if it had nice styling ...

The Golf R is shaping up to be an excellent all-rounder - if a little expensive.
Visit www.rforum.co.uk for discerning chat and info about the Golf R and Scirocco R.

All confused here, £30K for a Golf? There are plenty of fantastic cars in this price range which beggars belief why justify spending this sort of money on a car which presents no value for money. S3 will hold better value and has more kudos. I can buy 2nd hand M3, AMG, RS4, Cayman, for that kind of money.

yeah im not going to argue that 30+ grand for a hotgolf is in any way reasonable because it is ridiculous especialy considering the S3 is pretty much the exact same car and its a good few grand cheaper. but i dont understand the people who are making comments such as "you can't use this thing to its full potential on the road so why waste money". you clearly have no imagination in your driving if you consider this car to be a waste on british roads, there are some amazing roads out there if u go and find them and living in northumberland there are plenty around me, most of them deserted for the most part which makes a sneaky bit of speeding fine by me and considering the condition many roads are in, in the uk, the 4 wheel drive system makes so much more sense that a mugen type R or a focus RS it just means you can blast road corners without fear or loosing the front end due to a badly placed pothole. makes this sort of car all the more usable. yeah if ur guna buy this car n just drive about in town or on the motor way with it then 4wheel drive is a bit pointless and so is the 265 bhp engine, but honestly why are you looking at reviews for this car if you just toodle about town, the whole point of fast hot hatches is u have the practicality of a family transporting practical vehicle which you can take out into the country side on the weekend and blast it about n have imense fun and not need to own 2 different cars

great looking car with the 4 wheel drive system the RS SHOULD have had, enough power as standard but easily and cheaply tweaked up to 300+ bhp and made by a quality company only downside is that 30/32 grand price tag :(

i work for volkswagen, and lucky enough ive got to drive Golf R's-Scirocco R's through work and i currently own a mk6 GTi. im a Volkswagen fanatic but i cant warm to the Golf R at all. manies a time theres been one sitting in the carpark and i havent looked twice.ive drove both manual and DSG and theres no doubt the both go and sound so well. the base price for a 3dr Golf R IS £31,095... strong money for a car in basic form.simple things annoy me about it, it comes with the same radio as a basic vw caddy van....come on... RCD510 touch screen and the ACC is standard on a GT TdI scirocco yet its an option on the Golf R... then to top it off the recaro seats are a must have in my opinion and they cost £3485. Golf R demos with out recaros second hand are still fetching £35,000. I got a deal on a mk6 gti and if i want abit more poke il re-mapp it.
another reason for not wanting one is the fact that stock clearence R32's with leather recaros's, sunroof, armrest, multi-function steering wheel and rear parking sensers where being sold for £22,750..... comparing that now with a similar spec Golf R thats £13,250 of a difference.. im aware thats ilrelevant because you cant get MK5 R32's but for that simple reason il never want one.


which 1 is the best ? golf R 270bhp or audi S3 265 bhp ?

Key specs

* Price: £30,235
* Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
* Power/torque: 265bhp/345Nm
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
* 0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
* Top speed: 155mph (limited)
* CO2: 199g/km
* Equipment: 18-inch alloys, R sports suspension, R styling pack, xenon lights, dual-zone climate control, sports seats
On sale