Volkswagen Golf R: More than meets the eye

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Introduction

They say that sometimes, there’s always more to (something) than meets the eye.

I somewhat appreciated the meaning of that phrase better on two instances – first when I walked towards the new Volkswagen Golf R, soon to be mine for the next 72 hours or so; and the second when I pushed the innocent looking Engine Start/Stop button that fired up the 280 horses under the hood.

And as I gently depressed the pedal and turned out of Volkswagen Singapore, I thought to myself – holy cow, this is indeed love at first sight!

Perhaps the days of funky hot hatches has passed. Today, the Golf R delivers an immensurable experience, redefining the meaning of the term “hot hatch”.

Exterior

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It does take someone who can appreciate the R-line of four-wheelers to pick out the larger air intakes beneath the bumper of the Golf R, coupled together with high-gloss black radiator grilles. Sitting innocently just by the side of the right bi-xenon headlight assembly is the R sign – Volkswagen’s symbol of power and adventure.

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Although the Golf R adopts the shell of the Mk 7 Golf, it really isn’t that difficult to spot an R apart from the Mk 7 TSI. If you did somewhat miss out the front features of the Golf R, the 18” alloys would perhaps let slip the cat out of the bag.

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Out at the rear, the LED tail lamps adopt a more toned-down tint (Volkswagen calls it a smoked LED lamp), as compared to the crystal clear red rear lamps of the Golf TSI. And for the most obvious sign of the Golf R (other than the R badge again at the boot), the quad-exhaust system would perhaps tell you this isn’t any other normal Golf on the roads.

Interior

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Sinking into the Golf R, you would find at first glance that the interior doesn’t differentiate much from the normal Mk 7 Golf – other than the defining tint of blue from the R-range.

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But take a look closer and you’ll soon realise (and feel) the level up in material, quality, and features that the Golf R pampers you with. For starters, the “Vienna” leather trim sport seats is the best example of a seat hugger – you’re planted into the seat the way the Golf R wants you to at any fast speed.

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While the car may come equipped with most features that the Mk 7 Golf possesses, the “Carbon Touch” inlays on the dash and door panels add to a touch of sportiness, complimenting the multifunction leather sports steering wheel of the GTI (this time, incorporated with the R badge).

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To add on to the touch of calm-sportiness (as opposing as it sounds), the Golf R adopts blue ambience lighting, reflected too within the instrument cluster with its trademark blue dial needles. And if you look a little closer, you’d perhaps notice the speedo ending at 320 km/h.

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Hop back to the rear of the car and one would realise you still can use the Golf R for daily marketing/ferrying of people. The Golf R enjoys the same 2.6 metres wheelbase as the Mk 7 TSI, meaning that the back can take three adults comfortably, and still get you to 100 km/h in 5 seconds flat!

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Engine

So what exactly are you paying so much for? Not the quad-exhaust, not the interior finishes or the 18” alloys, and definitely not the humble R badges strategically placed all over this hatch.

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Rather, you’re paying to appreciate the heart of this machine – the new turbocharged direct injection EA888 power plant beneath the hood, which puts out 280 horses and 380 Nm of torque from just 1,750 rpm.

Confused by all the technical car jargon here? Let me put it into perspective for you.

With the newly designed engine, the Golf R propels you forward from the lights from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5 seconds sharp. And I must say for a fact that this figure ain’t exaggerated, having hit 5.3 seconds myself.

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But such figures don’t really make sense without the work of the 4MOTION all-wheel drive system, keeping your tyres in check while you floor the pedal to bring yourself ahead of that WRX or S2000 beside you. That being said, I was greatly impressed by the way the Golf R handled tight corners at speeds I’d say most drivers would never hit on a daily basis. Two thumbs up for handling.

The wonders of technology has also allowed for the 4MOTION system to act primarily as a front-wheel drive system, boosting fuel economy instead of consumption. But step hard and the rear axles take over a fraction of the power load from the front – all in just a matter of milliseconds.

As with all sports/super cars, you’d expect a reasonable amount of engine and exhaust growl upon firing up the plant. The Golf R isn’t any different – and I must admit the growl doesn’t make it the most feasible car to be in if you need a little peace and tranquillity. But if you’re one of those who appreciates exhaust tones like how musicians fall in love with Tchaikovsky’s pieces, the “Race” mode of the Golf R might just impress you further with an amplified exhaust (of course, together with a firmer steering, damper and response framework).

Conclusion

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Drive the Golf R hard and you get extreme adventure and satisfaction; pull back a bit on your horses and you get a relatively comfortable (albeit hard) ride even while cruising on the bumpiest of roads.

So what exactly does this mean?

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With a price tag of close to $230,000, enough space for three at the rear, at least 370 litres of boot space, and power to deliver a take-off experience, I don’t think you could ask for anything better in this class and price range.

That being said, perhaps it really is the ideal choice for hot hatch lovers looking for impressive power and performance, yet at the same time, require something to move the family in.

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I like:

  • Ginormous amount of power/torque at your disposal
  • Does the day-to-day sedan job pretty well, with a tinge of sportiness
  • True blue good quality finishing (pun intended)

I don’t like:

  • Exhaust tone too loud for comfort when all you want could be some peace
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