Volkswagen Golf R Drives Like Never Before

Understatement is a hallmark of the Golf R which from day one has been the true embodiment of the inadvisability of judging a book by its cover. Now comes the latest iteration of the most potent of Wolfsburg’s hot hatches and the basic formula hasn’t changed a jot. Sure, there are detail changes to bumper profiles and the front and rear lamps illuminate courtesy of LEDs – there are even sweeping indicators – but it’s the minutely re-positioned quad tail pipes that still ‘warn would be challengers to exercise a little caution in laying down the gauntlet.

Under the shapely bonnet lurks the familiar 2.0 turbo four Tweaked to yield 213kW at a relatively leisurely 5750 rpm. We can already hear the grumbles that this output falls short of the 228kW boasted by the Audi S3 but put your worries in your pocket. Whatever reason Wolfsburg has for a mild de-tune, and heat within a tighter engine bay may just be it, this motor is packed with brio. No-one can drive everywhere at full throttle so all-out figures are no more than paper tigers. What’s much more important in everyday driving is the shape of the torque curve and you won’t find a flatter one than this as 380Nm is on tap all the way from 1 850 to 5 300 rpm.

In conjunction with a new 7-speed DSG gearbox that’s standard fare and which changes cogs with uncanny alacrity and smoothness, this stealth Golf will hit 100 clicks in a mere 4.6 seconds. Top speed is an academic and controlled 250km/h but it’s the in-gear grunt that’s so intoxicating and so easily accessible. Under the whip, the turbo four emits a throary bark, some of which is artificially generated, and in Sport mode, the much-loved ‘phwaaar’ accompanies every shift and never fails to generate a grin. Lay off the gas and settle into cruise mode and all is sweetness and light. Mechanical and wind-generated disturbances are minimal but on coarse tar, the 235/35R19 rubber ensures it is heard.

For the most part, decent tar surfaces were traversed on the launch so ride characteristics were not unduly tested. Nonetheless, in Comfort mode there’s acceptable pliancy on offer and roll in corners is quelled effectively. In these conditions, the extra weight of the 4MOTION hardware is soon nullified and the steering remains linear and acceptably feelsome. Other external new-model-identifiers include a variety of 19-inch wheel options and different cappings for the external mirrors. Inside, you’re greeted by familiar high quality materials and a blandness to the execution which is perhaps a little too pervasive for a sporting hatch.

Graphics are dear and plentiful and easily accessed while the new and optional 9.2-inch Discover Pro unit provides a high resolution home for satnav and a host of infotainment features, all controlled by gesture and touch in lieu of physical haptics. For those looking for a deceptively fast performer dressed in conservative clothes, the finessed Golf R continues to fit the bill, but is it all a touch too familiar?

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