VW Golf R, Front view 25 Photos Zoom

VW Golf R in the super test: Everyday companion and thoroughbred athlete

The top-of-the-range model of the golf, as we have seen it before: elegant, compact, solid, practical, economical and also dynamic. In brief: hard to beat in everyday driving. But is it sporty in the true sense of the word? Up until now, not really.

The truth behind the wisdom of our ancestors, according to which you cannot have everything in life, and must therefore continually choose between left or right, up or down, black or white - in order that you do not disappear somewhere into the hazy grey area - has been visibly dented . Extremes are no longer mutually exclusive, as proven by the example of Joschka Fischer – street fighter and retired Foreign Minister in one. The conversion of former fanatic petrol heads into enthusiastic Car2go users should now already have taken place.

The VW Golf R, based on the Golf VI

And while previously only automotive extremists earned recognition, for example those that had done away with all comfort, leaving only the wheels required for sporty driving, today it is generally the mediators between the two automotive worlds that define the status quo.

The two previously repelling poles on the scale of automotive character – sporty at the one extreme and comfortable at the other – are today no longer mutually exclusive. The current VW Golf R is a fitting example of this. In this regard, it was not that long ago that the sporting talents of the top-of-the-range model within the Golf series only made anappearance to a limited extent.

The identically named predecessor based on the VW Golf VI received the following comment in the concluding statement of the super test (Vol. 10/2010): "The unquestionably present drive dynamics talents are unfortunately to some extent lost beneath an incredibly dominant ESP programme, which – because it cannot be disabled – doesn't really let the car or the driver off the leash."

A change of heart at R GmbH

The criticism of the intervention approach, which at the time was perceived as loutish, has borne fruit and at VW – or better still: R GmbH – there has been a change of heart: the selection of the drive profile programmes in the VW Golf R, made via the touchscreen display, also offers a separate Race mode beneath the Sport button, in addition to the standard modes such as Comfort, Normal and indeed Sport.

The fact that the compression and rebound damping in the VW Golf R would fulfil their purpose accordingly in all four modes and also that the response characteristics of the engine would be further sharpened under this much-promising heading was to be expected – in keeping with the motto: there has to be a certain amount of sportiness. However, this is not the case for the generous approach to the electronic shackles previously viewed as essential - an approach VW have adopted for the first time.

In race mode, the intervention threshold of the ESP is for the first ever time set so high that even on the race track you are hardly aware of it any more. According to the official announcement the system in the VW Golf R can even be completely disabled by pressing the corresponding button for "professional use on the race track".

VW Golf R with 296 HP

In race mode, the intervention threshold of the ESP is for the first ever time set so high that even on the race track you are hardly aware of it any more. According to the official announcement the system in the VW Golf R can even be completely disabled by pressing the corresponding button for "professional use on the race track".

The programme item, offered exclusively in the R-model, has an astonishing effect: the VW Golf R, already an extremely noteworthy product with all of its visual and tangible advantages, conquers new and previously uncharted territory with this measure. The R in the name, in the case of its predecessor occasionally made out to be an abbreviation for the German term Reise - journey - now really stands for what it was originally meant to represent – Race.

Well, even if the indicated potential race track use doesn't have any real chance of race victory: the test date to be scheduled, if possible on closed courses, could actually develop into a season highlight with the VW Golf R, on account of the possible cornering speeds.

It is rare that you find yourself in a car that acts so affably, willingly and forgivingly in the limit range, and in so doing conveys such driving pleasure without remorse, as this VW Golf R from Wolfsburg, which has been boosted to 296 HP.

Detailed work performed on the hardware and software gives the Golf R new impetus

When experiencing lateral acceleration of up to 1.25 g, to realise that you are in a VW Golf, which can manage the workload of everyday driving, Summer and Winter, with confidence, solidly, in some respects even luxuriously, and as such delivering a clear best-in-class performance, leaves little room for doubt or criticism. And it does this – mind – while remaining in the price class below 50,000 Euros! In the now 17-year history of the super test, no other series has yet managed to make such a leap with just one model upgrade.

For example, the Nürburg Ring lap time: the percentage improvement was indeed just 3.8 percent. In actual fact it is no fewer than 19 seconds that the new VW Golf R knocks off the time of its predecessor on the Ring. The time difference in Hockenheim isn't half bad either – just under two seconds: 1:16.0 minutes compared to 1:17.9 minutes.

The two closely related vehicles are worlds apart when it comes to drive dynamics – especially on the Nordschleife. And best of all: the new VW Golf R manages this without any noticeable drop in suspension comfort, roll behaviour or roll noise becoming evident. In this regard it is well known that even the predecessor from 2010 was open to all sorts of criticism.

This lateral dynamic godsend is not down to technical tyre wizardry, as one might immediately assume. And the weight reduction of just under 50 kilograms compared to the predecessor and the power increase of 30 HP don't really make the difference.

The drive dynamics catch-up is down primarily to detailed work on the hardware and software of the adaptive chassis, the new progressive steering with a more direct ratio and the additional R-mode, which successfully rounds off the measures.

Average consumption of 12.8 l per 100 km

Even if the measurements do not confirm the factory promises throughout: with a time of 5.4 seconds (factory specification: 5.1 sec) for the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h there is no need to hide away, even from the greats. With the automatic DCT, according to the factory, a standard value should even be possible after 4.9 seconds – in spite of the resulting weight increase. But be that as it may: the manual six-speed transmission installed in the test car is as much a godsend with regard to function and handling as the engine, which, from the very core of the four-cylinder unit, delivers an acoustic performance that suggests that it wants to hide its descent.

For a two-litre turbo producing a very deep and throaty sound, the four-cylinder in the VW Golf R delivers all of the advantages befitting of its technical heritage, practically free of charge. As good as vibration-free, with smooth and silky action, with a consistently more beautiful and later robust and energizing tone, and with cleverly delivered engine power, it sets about throwing its weight around.

Two additional cylinders, just like its pre-predecessor, the R32, threw into the mix? Why, when the result with four cylinders has so much entertainment potential and also generated the same level of satisfaction as this TSI engine, which waits with 380 Newton metres of torque.

The fact that the promises regarding an improved efficiency level can be convincingly reproduced in practice – but we had this tooth pulled a long time ago.

As such the average consumption of the Golf R model, at 12.8 litres per 100 kilometres, lies half a litre below that of its 266 HP predecessor and 0.1 litres below its forefather the R32 (which completed the Ring in 8.52 minutes). Against this backdrop, to then seek to play the environmental trump card would be to intentionally ignore reality.

The VW Golf R impresses with a good overall system

Nonetheless, there are only a few alternatives within the automotive world that offer such a wide range of potential uses. The 4Motion all-wheel drive of the R model, for example, is fitted with a fifth generation Haldex clutch. Before any slip actually occurs at the wheels, the system deploys a pre-control mechanism, regardless of the respective drive status.

With low load or when coasting, the drive takes place primarily via the front axles. By means of an electro-hydraulic oil pump, the drive at the rear axle is activated in split seconds via a Haldex clutch.

Control takes place primarily on the basis of the requested engine torque. At the same time, drive status detection in the control unit evaluates parameters such as the wheel speed and steering angle.

As required, this enables almost 100 percent of the drive torque to be directed to the rear axle. The 100% electronic differential locks integrated into the stabilisation program also perform the role of a transverse differential lock on both axles. If we had not previously experienced how good the overall system in the VW Golf R is first hand – then at least we really know we have now.

Horst von Saurma



Rossen Gargolov


10 August 2015
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