|Subtle but awesome, the Golf R speaks softly and carries a big stick. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
At first glance it doesn’t look all that different, other than a few unique aero aids, 19-inch Cadiz alloys, a quad of chrome-tipped tailpipes poking through a rear diffuser, and a big “R” badge on the liftgate, but VW’s usual subtlety (compared to Subaru’s dinner table-sized WRX STI wing) masks a seemingly rally capable drivetrain boasting a 292-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 280 lb-ft of torque (the same mill as used in the Audi S3 and TTS Coupe), a six-speed manual or dual-clutch automated transmission, and a sport-tuned version of Volkswagen’s already capable 4Motion all-wheel drive.
|Clean, unadulterated lines from all angles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Annoyingly true to VW form, I had to test this quickest-ever Golf and fastest VW overall
|A focused yet luxurious business office lets you get down to the task at hand. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
While the process isn’t as physically involving, a good thing during busy commutes, it’s a lot more engaging than most automatics and a helluvalot more entertaining than some performance-oriented CVTs in this class, but truth be told VW’s DSG is nowhere near as over-the-top-capable as the one in Mitsubishi’s Evo MR-RIP. That’s the best autobox in this class, as is (or should I say, was) its otherworldly all-wheel drive system, but alas it is no more.
|Large colourful dials are interrupted by a nice big multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Really, you’d think with all that power it would be a wild ride, but despite the R being brilliant fun off the line and even better through the corners it’s a refined near luxury machine compared to it’s domestic and Japanese contenders. Sure the sound of the engine reverberates thought the cabin at takeoff, but it feels more like a compact Audi than anything remotely high volume, the Golf being my reference here, not the R.
|How’s 8.0 inches for you? And this touchscreen’s size isn’t even the best part. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The R arrived for model year 2016 and therefore the 2017 model carries forward mostly unchanged except for standard blindspot monitoring, and standard Driver Alert, which pays attention to a variety of parameters and then recommends you take a break when you may be getting tired. The 2017 model also includes a Sport HMI display that provides performance details within the base 6.5-inch colour infotainment touchscreen (that also features a rearview camera), while the exterior paint palette has grown to include the Limestone Grey Metallic shown here.
|Dual-zone auto HVAC comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Therefore, leather upholstered sport seats with light grey contrast stitching come standard with the R, 12-way powered for the driver no less,
|These are some of the best sport seats in the class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The only way to make the Golf R more practical would be to add a wagon variant, but so far VW hasn’t responded to the ultimate wishes of its five-door zealots. Still, standard 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks maximize utility.
A $1,945 Technology package adds a big, beautiful 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, accurate navigation with detailed mapping, dynamic cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and parking sensors are also part of the upgrade.
|Rear seat room and cargo space is very generous, just like the regular Golf. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
It almost seems silly to tout fuel economy numbers when discussing cars like this, but VW has done a good job of making the Golf R a daily driver that won’t break the bank thanks to a five-cycle fuel economy rating of 10.4 L/100km city, 7.9 highway and 9.3 combined with the as-tested DSG auto, or 10.9 city, 7.7 highway and 9.4 combined with the manual.
If you want superb power and grip from a car that flies under the radar better than any of its super sport compact peers, the Golf R should be high on your priority list. I only hope VW gives me a 2018 model to play with. Could I order that up with a manual gearbox please?
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