There was a fear not so long ago that fitting a stock standard, high-performance VW Golf with an all-wheel drive (AWD) system would not only blunt the liveliness of the hot hatch but also scare the hardcore performance enthusiasts away from owning an R.
Neither has proven to be true. VW’s Golf R is still an agile car and it has also become an icon within the brand for many an enthusiast. I would go so far as to say, even if you are not a VW fan, you would still respect the performance on offer from the top-of-the-range R derivative.
Now, right at the end of the current Golf generation, which is colloquially known as the 7.5, VWSA has decided to offer their performance top dog with its full overseas spec 228kW of power and 400Nm of torque. Up till now, we were only able to get the Golf R 7.5 with a claimed 213kW and 380Nm on tap. This detune was said to be because of our hot climate and poor-quality fuel.
Running their tried and tested 2.0-litre TSI engine, much is expected from this full power Golf R, which is also the most powerful Golf you can buy off the showroom floor in South Africa right now. While on this topic, put your hand up if you know of anybody who actually drives a stock standard GTI or R.
If you are driving a fast hatch or even a supercar, one thing you can be assured of is that there will always be a Golf ready to take you on. Tuned and modified Golfs rule the streets and the drag strips, and these days you are not safe if you pitch up at an event or even arrive innocently at a traffic light on the road down to your local shopping centre in a R2 million-plus Nissan GT-R.
Okay, now let’s get to the real purpose of us getting this car on test and that was to run it against the clock at Gerotek and see how the numbers stack up.
The reason I say this was the real purpose, not much has changed with the previous R to this one in terms of standard spec, which will now set you back R676 500. But you can dig into the options basket and get the likes of an Akrapovic titanium performance exhaust for R39 900, R-performance brakes that feature brake calipers painted black with R-logo for R9 900, for that slightly sharper stop-and-go feel and sound for your new Golf R.
Dig deeper and you will find plenty more in the form of KESSY Advanced Key, Nappa-Carbon leather seats, mobile phone interface comfort with inductive charging function, DynAudio sound system, Discover Pro Satellite navigation system, rear assist – rear view camera, blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, adaptive chassis control including driver profile selection, adaptive cruise control with front assist and emergency braking system, carbon exterior mirror housings, and 19-inch Pretoria alloy wheels.
For your information, these options push the price of your R to a rather steep R800 000. Right. Test day. The weather was good at 16°C, not a breeze to be felt. The car was filled with 95 octane fuel, the highest grade we have at the pumps and no octane booster was used, just like with all my test cars. The same place, same time, same way, same equipment principle was applied like always and this is done so I can compare apples with apples, or in this case, Golf Rs with Golf Rs.
I wish I could tell you that this full power Golf R ran close to its claimed time of 4.6 seconds to 100km/h or was at least faster than the less powerful version. But I can’t. Run after run, making use of its launch control programme and the 4Motion AWD system never breaking traction, the best I could manage was 5.14 seconds.
The previous 213kW 7.5 R ran a 4.95-second zero to 100km/h time at the same venue and unfortunately, things didn’t improve much from there. The less powerful R stayed slightly ahead all the way to its electronically controlled speed limiter just short of 260km/h. I went home with more questions than answers, even though the numbers the car did achieve hardly make it slow, I did expect it to be a little bit faster. I went on the hunt for answers, but I didn’t really find any.
I even roped in a friend with the less powerful R and the cars were almost identical, exactly as my results suggested. And then a highly respected and experienced motoring media colleague of mine, who also happens to use Racelogic VBox test equipment and Gerotek as a venue to test, sent me an early morning message asking about my numbers, because his test car was also down on the less powerful one.
His numbers were spot-on with mine, so at this point I decided to accept that the 228kW Golf R as tested on the day was slower than the 213kW Golf R. It will be interesting to see what happens when a tuner runs the two cars on a dyno; my guess would be that the numbers shown will be pretty much the same. Maybe those clever VW engineers were right, the sweet spot for getting the best out of the R in SA was at 213kW and now at 228kW, the car might be a little closer to its tuning edge versus reliability and factory warranty and its engine management system is holding the horses back a little.
Maybe these little nuances will simply be blown away and forgotten about if the rumoured Golf 8 R400 makes it to production and takes on the likes of Audi’s RS3 and Merc’s A45 AMG.
But as much as everybody gets excited each time such a project is mentioned and vows to sell their kidneys on the internet, this uber Golf never seems to make it to production.
Who knows? Maybe in Golf 8 it finally will. For those of you who might look a little further than outright performance from a Golf R, I can tell you that this seventh generation Golf R continues to be a benchmark for driver assistance systems in the compact class, by employing the likes of the mentioned optional Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert as well as Adaptive Cruise Control with Front Assist and Autonomous Emergency Braking System.
The Golf R also comes standard with a five-year/90 000km service plan, three-year/120 000km warranty and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. Service intervals are set at 15 000km.
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