New VW Golf R: Wolfsburg’s hottest hatch finally arrives

Published: 04 November 2020

► VW’s most powerful Golf hatch is here
► All-wheel drive, 316bhp and new drive modes
► Available to order in November 2020 

Volkswagen’s Golf family car finally has its R performance flagship. The new VW Golf R is here to take on all-wheel drive hot hatches like Mercedes-AMG’s A35 and the BMW M135i. 

Wolfsburg’s engineers have refined the formula for the new Golf R, which comes as the R Performance brand expands to include T-Roc R, Tiguan R and Arteon R – all revealed within the last year. Along with a Golf R hatchback, VW will introduce an R estate later on.

Let’s start with the Golf R’s performance specs

Straight to the point. The Golf R uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 316bhp and 310lb ft, with all of that torque available between 2100-5300rpm. VW says the Golf R can sprint to 62mph in 4.7 seconds, and on to a top speed of 155mph. An optional R-Performance Pack raises that top speed to 168 mph. All of that power is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. 

Why not more power than 316bhp? Back in the day, VW teased a Golf R400 concept some years ago. ‘We might look into further improvements in the future, but we can’t promise anything right now,’ said Jan Scheidek-Jacht, head of technical development at Volkswagen R. What about an electrified R, like the Cupra Leon offers? Scheidek-Jacht doesn’t deny it, but does say ‘EVs, as well as petrol vehicles play a role, but different markets have different requirements, were not limiting ourselves to either-or.’

The all-wheel drive system is a new generation with what VW called ‘R-Performance Torque Vectoring’ – while a normal all-wheel drive Golf only allows no more than 50 per cent of the shove per rear wheel, the Golf R’s system allows 100 per cent of the power to go to either rear wheel. The beefy performance brakes are mechanically the same as those on the GTI Clubsport, but recalibrated for the R’s all-wheel drive powertrain and additional weight.

The standard car runs on 18-inch wheels, with the R-Performance pack adding larger 19s and a fatter, dual-level rear spoiler. An Akrapovič exhaust will also be on the options list. 

What are the new drive modes? 

Along with the usual Comfort, Sport, Individual and Race, if you go for the R-Performance Pack, you also have the option of Nürburgring and Drift modes.  

The former first debuted on the GTI Clubsport, which softens the suspension for undulating racetracks like the eponymous circuit, while Drift mode allows your Golf R to unleash an unseen before lairy side. That new Drift mode slackens off the stability control entirely and focuses the power rearward to allow you to slide but, according to VW racing driver, Benjamin Leuchter, doesn’t help you maintain the slide like the drift mode in the old Focus RS.

Anything else I should know?

As standard, Golf Rs have bespoke sports seats inside, ambient lighting and navigation as standard. The digital instrument cluster has bespoke R dials and graphics and there’s an R mode button on the steering wheel to directly switch drive modes.

VW says the Golf R will have a presale period starting on 5 November, with the car being open to order for all at the end of November. Deliveries are expected in the first few weeks of 2021. 

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches

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