VW Golf R Cabriolet

18 Feb, 2013 5:30pm Luke Madden

We drive the new 261bhp VW Golf R Cabriolet, which will cost £38k when it goes on sale next month


If the Golf R Cabriolet cost roughly the same price as the Golf R hatch, then it would be easily recommendable. But with a price tag that's £7,000 more than the hatchback and with less impressive handling, no four-wheel-drive system and slower acceleration, the R Cabriolet is difficult to justify. That’s not because it’s bad at what it does, it’s actually very good fun and it’s a great long distance car. It’s just not good enough to pick over a Porsche Boxster for the same price.

The Golf R Cabriolet is the fastest ever soft-top Golf and – you’ll notice – it’s based on the Mk6 Golf, rather than the latest Mk7. It’s a last hurrah for the outgoing model and one that is crucially different to the hatch on which it’s based.

Most obviously that’s because it’s now got an electronically folding fabric roof, but there’s more to it than that. The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, for example, produces 261bhp – 5bhp less than the R hatchback – and while that car has four-wheel drive, this one makes do with front-wheel drive because the additional driveshafts can’t be squeezed in to the new strengthened chassis.

Less traction, less power and a kerbweight 94kg heavier than the hatch has a predictable effect on performance. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes almost a second longer, at 6.4 seconds, and it shows on the road.

There’s much less of a thump in the back from the Cabriolet and on anything but the warm, dry roads of our test route, there’s bound to be a fair amount of wheelspin as it tries to deliver all that power to the road. When the tyres do grip there’s still a frantic rate of acceleration, but not in the same way as in the hatch.

On the plus side, the R Cabriolet is great in the corners, with its wide tyres and stiff suspension endowing it with plenty of grip and agility. The steering is direct but could do with a little more feedback, and anyone that has driven the hatchback version will notice a fraction less sharpness from the Cabriolet. Going quickly through bumpy corners will reveal a little bit of flex in the chassis and a kick through the steering column, too.

It does look the part, though, with the same aggressive bodykit as the hardtop model, standard 19-inch wheels, a gloss black grille and twin-chrome exhaust pipes at the rear. Unlike the hatch they’re mounted either side of the rear bumper, rather than in the middle.

The Golf R actually excels when it comes to comfort and refinement. Our car did have the adaptive dampers specified, which allows you to select Comfort mode and make the best of bumpy roads. Even in Sport it’s not too uncomfortable, just a little more jittery.

And with the clever roof in place, the Golf R is extremely quiet on the motorway, with none of the wind whistle or creaks that some cabriolet tend to have. That makes it a genuinely usable long distance car.

The Cabriolet’s biggest problem isn’t anything to do with the way it drives – it’s the price. At £38,770, it’s about £8,000 more than a GTI Cabriolet, £7,000 more than a Golf R hatchback and about the same price as a Porsche Boxster. If you don’t need the rear seats you could have one of the best driver’s cars on the road for the same money - and in that sense, the Golf R Cabriolet just can’t compete.

Key specs

  • Price: £38,770
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo
  • Transmission: Six-speed DSG, front-wheel drive
  • Power: 261bhp
  • 0-62mph: 6.4 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy: 34.4mpg
  • CO2: 190g/km
  • Equipment: Leather seats, Bluetooth, climate control, electric roof, 19-inch alloys
  • On sale: 5 March 2013