“It looks quite understated” thinking out loud with a bunch of other motoring hacks during the Mk7.5 Golf’s official launch in Bangsar. Sure, its got large air intakes for better cooling, large alloy wheels and stickier tyres along with the ‘R’ badges its quite a statement, but for the laymen, it look just like another Golf kitted out to look aggressive.
This is how a high-performance hot-hatch should look; blending with the environment nicely without scaring your relatives, yet letting enthusiasts know what’s up. If you park this car side by side with the Golf GTI, the red striping and badges are much more recognisable than the R. To the untrained eye, the R looks very normal, but don’t let its innocuous appearance deceive you.
The R is actually easy to spot simply by looking at a few areas; a much lower ride height, matte chrome wing mirrors with black trimming all round, wide 19-inch Pretoria Black alloy wheels, or the 19-inch Spielberg alloy wheels, beefier wheel arches, the R Styling body treatment with proper air intakes unlike on the weaker R-Line, and ‘R’ badging to tell the world that this is a Golf R.
Being the top dog in the Golf family, the R obviously gets all the goodies. Flanking the gloss black grille is a pair of LED headlamps with LED daytime running lamps built into them. The front illumination system also comes with dynamic headlight range control, which allows you to leave the high-beams on without blinding oncoming traffic, and dynamic cornering light illuminated the curvature of the corner so you’ll wont miss the apex in pitch dark roads.
Likewise, the taillights are fully LED and comes with dynamic signal indicators which can be pretty mesmerising to look at, especially if you do happen to tail another Golf R-Line, GTI or R. Also, you can either opt for the three-door or five-door, the former is RM10k cheaper than the latter. There are two tones and a colour to choose from; Deep Black, Pure White, and Lapiz Blue as featured.
Unlike many of its direct rivals, the Golf R is just as sensible inside, and if the Golf R were a person, then it would a lot like Audrey Hepburn. There’s a lot in common with the regular TSI R-Line with the range-topping R model, but there are subtle hints indicating that this is the range-topper, like the R logos stitched into the front seat backs, a small R insignia at the bottom of the steering wheel, and a ‘4Motion’ badge tucked at the bottom of the centre stack cubby door.
Other than that, the interior of the Golf R is very much similar to the ones in the R-Line and GTI. The cabin is wide and spacious; there’s a generous amount of space between the door and the front seats with a comfortable distance between the front occupants, a wide adjustable centre armrest that also hides a deep centre cubby, stow away tray on the centre stack, deep wide door pockets all-round, and overhead sunglass compartment.
But with a generous cabin space, comes wide and comfortable seats. The R comes with Vienna leather sports seats with lumbar support. The 12-way electrically adjustable driver seat with electric lumbar support, and the mechanically adjustable front passenger seat offers comfort and support to the driver, which makes them suitable for long distance travelling. The great thing about these seats is that the bolsters are not solidly hard, which makes getting in an out easily. They’re not as flimsy as you may think, as the seat bolsters do offer adequate lateral support.
Likewise, the rear occupants can expect adequate space in the second row with generous leg and headroom. The rear bench comes with ISOFIX anchorage guides which makes installing a compatible child seat easier and without much of a hassle. The Golf also comes with rear air vents that channels cool air from the front.
The rear bench seat fold 60:40 and comes with a load-through hatch that accommodates long items through the centre armrest, and if there isn’t anything long to lug about, the adults at the rear can rest their arms on and place drinks in the cupholders.
At the rear most, the boot compartment measures in at 380-litres by default and by folding them down flat frees the rear storage space up to 1,270-litres. Other features to take note of are front and rear reading lights, 12v sockets in the centre stack cubby and rear luggage compartment.
Just like in the R-Line and GTI, the R comes loaded with the techy bits. The first thing a driver would notice is the 12.3-inch Active Info Display (AID), replacing the traditional analogue dial clusters in the pre-facelift model.
Featured in the Passat and Tiguan Highline models, AID provides a long list of current driving and vehicle information at the touch of a button. Drivers can switch up to six different interface configurations: Classic, which only displays the rev and speedometer; Speed & gear, displays the gear position and driving speed in digits; Consumption & range provides the average fuel consumption of the day and range before the petrol tank runs dry; Efficiency likewise provides average fuel consumption figure but with an eco gauge to better judge frugal driving habits – odd in a performance-focused car but why not?
Also new in the refreshed Golf R is an even larger 9.2-inch Discover Pro infotainment system with USB, iPod/iPhone interface, SD card slot, Aux-In, and Bluetooth. There’s also App-Connect smartphone connectivity, which is compatible with MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Besides being a fully touch, the Discover Pro system also comes with gesture control, so you can browse through pages by just swiping your hand left or right.
Like in the pre-facelift model, the new 9.2-inch system also comes with the Think Blue Eco trainer, but also comes with newer additions such as driving mode selection and performance monitor which displays the engine output in Kw, turbocharger boost pressure, G meter and engine coolant temperature. However, the lack of a playback feature prevents the driver from reviewing the car’s performance of the day.
The 8-inch touchscreen also features additional options of the ‘Climatronic’ 2-zone automatic air conditioning system. The Golf R also comes with Air Care Climatronic, which filters out dust, and pollen in the cabin while ensuring healthy humidity levels and helps windows from misting up.
Sound reproduction comes from eight speakers located around the cabin of the R-Line, which consists of two tweeters located on the A-pillars, two rear tweeters and four mid-range speakers mounted in the doors. Audio quality is pretty good and above average in comparison with many systems in this price range. You can go from pop to rock, soundtracks to orchestra, the sound system stays faithful with much clarity throughout. But the speakers would tend to clip at higher volumes, but at that point, it would be too loud to enjoy.
Engine & Transmission
Besides the unusually unflashy exterior and its many standard features, the engine is the no-nonsense part of the R experience. Hiding quietly under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre EA888 direct-injection and turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which makes 287hp at 5,000 – 6,500 rpm and 380Nm of torque from 2,000 – 5,400 rpm, and mated to it is the 7-Speed direct shift gearbox transmitting power to all four wheels, but not all the time.
The 4Motion all-wheel drive system drives the front wheels most of the time, only when the car is driven uphill, over slick surfaces or driven at its limit is when the drivetrain sends power to the rear wheels up to 50 percent via a Haldex-type takeoff shaft from the transmission and controlled variably by a electronic hydraulic pump located at the rear axle.
This isn’t a bad thing because this helps in saving fuel and only when necessary that the R drives on all wheels. Like the GTI, the R comes with a front Extended Differential Lock (EDS) electronic differential lock, which sends more power to the outside driven wheel (relative to the direction of the corner) with more force and works in tandem with the 4Motion system. In conjunction with XDS+, the R gains agility and stability by applying brakes gently on the inside wheels.
Fuel consumption wise, the R is not too shabby in this area as well. As tested, the Golf R manages to achieve 6.7 L/100km, not bad for a car that is able to accelerate from 0-100 within 5.1 seconds and reaches its electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h effortlessly.
Volkswagen Cars make common sense cars and that is true with the Golf R; the ergonomics are well planned out, and no matter how you sit inside, the buttons and dials are within reach with tactile feedback. The view outside is unobstructed at all sides allowing the driver a far and unobstructed line of sight ahead.
Navigating through tight junctions and intersections is a lot easier thanks to the progressive steering rack which provides a variable steering gear ratio which reduced the lock-to-lock distance in low speeds and increases at higher speeds. This benefits the R in a way providing drivers a more direct steering connection to the front tyres.
Cruising on highways is where the R excels; Thanks to its torquey engine and snappy 7-speed DSG gearbox, overtaking slower vehicles is a breeze. It’s very much a mile muncher as well; capable of cruising comfortably between 130 km/h and 160 km/h, which the R is suitable for long distances travelling within a 600 km radius before the need to refuel. Not surprising as it’s a car that is designed with the German autobahn in mind.
The 19-inch Continental ContiSportContact UHP tyres are wide and provide a large footprint. It rides with poise with a sense of isolation from the road beneath while potholes and crevices can still be felt without much drama. But one thing’s for sure is that it will take a lot of effort to completely unsettle the car.
The R handles much like it’s expected to do; it is genuinely enjoyable to drive and does not intimidate. The steering is light and precise, which makes the car easy to place on the road with a small turning radius. When introduced to some corners, the Golf R doesn’t roll too much through corners with plenty of usable traction.
It’s fast but yet graceful and civilised in nature. The R handles with much enthusiasm and feistiness and thanks to EDS, which provides agile and stable cornering agility. And in conjunction with XDS+, the R corners competently well in tight corners with without a hint of understeer.
Adaptive Chassis Control (DCC) that allows you to choose the style of drive you want at any time. There are six drive settings available: Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport, Race and Individual. In Eco and Comfort mode, you’ll get a comfortable and supple ride, but it doesn’t feel lazy and sloppy. In Normal mode, its just as comfy but with a little less roll and the steering feels sharper and the car nicely balanced.
And in Sport mode, you’ll get flatter cornering, firmer damping, and a lot less roll. In Race the dampers are at their stiffest, the throttle is much more responsive, the steering feels much heavier and direct, and the synthesized engine noise becomes much louder. And Individual allows the driver to pick and choose individual drive settings to fit your ideal driving style.
The Golf R also comes with launch control; switching the electronic stability control off, setting the transmission mode in Sport and depressing both the brake pedal and accelerator pedal sets the engine revving at 4,000 rpm with an angry exhaust soundtrack accompanying the launch sequence. And it’s not like in the GTI; the R’s launch control programming is much more aggressive with the 4Motion system engaging all four wheels. It’s a kin to launching a World RX Supercar from the starting grid as the lights go green.
Driven at the limit on Sepang International Circuit’s cold and damp southern loop at night, the Golf R is a weapon in such conditions. In Race mode, the damping is firm enough to keep the body level in the bends, and the good news is, switching both the traction and stability management off requires the driver to do most of the work.
Although driven mostly at the front wheels, the Haldex system kicks in when it senses the lack of traction at the front, which allows smooth corner exit and higher speeds, and helps the car to turn in on throttle. The R is balanced and poised, and is able to take quite a beating on track.
The Continental ContiSportContact works pretty well in the tropical climate; be it on a sweltering hot day, or on a cool and damp night, the tyres do like heat and retains it consistently. Just that when the weather is cool and wet, keeping the heat in the tyres would require some work to keep them warm.
Driven hard at ten-tenths, the brakes still has plenty of bite even when the discs are glowing red hot; there’s plenty of bite with good amount of feedback from the pedal, that said brake fade is a non issue. The 7-speed DSG box does take quite a while to shift down, and you’ll have to be patient with it.
The Golf R is a drivers’ car, one that is pragmatic and practical. The 2.0-litre packs a punch while it can be driven frugally and on relatively long distances, plus being able to accommodate drivers for a quick spirited drive on isolated trunk roads or on the track competently. You can expect it to be a good daily driver too, where the DCC does provide plenty of plush on bumpy and blemished roads, while offering rock hard stiffness when the driving gets spirited, and between these two extremes, the differences can be felt.
And with its 55-litre fuel tank, you can drive the R within a 600 km radius before the need to refuel arises. And even with a heavy left foot, the engine management control unit adapts to different drivers and uses the least amount of fuel possible. To put it simply, the Volkswagen Golf R is an everyday racecar which you can live with daily.
Volkswagen Golf R
Price Msia: RM305,562 (Without Insurance)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged direct-injection in-line four cylinder
Power: 287hp at 5,000 – 6,500 rpm
Torque: 380Nm of torque from 2,000 – 5,400 rpm
Fuel Economy: 6.7 L/100km (Tested)
Transmission: 7-Speed Direct-Shift Gearbox