Friday 17 November 2017

A 300 horsepower football hooligan, the Volkswagen Golf R will kick you in the head

The Golf R
The Golf R
Volkswagen Golf R: 300 bhp on tap.
Bob Flavin

Bob Flavin

The Golf R is a bit of a bully, there's 300 horsepower shoved through a four wheel drive system that can get you to 100kph in under five seconds. It's a bit of handful to drive but there's competition and it comes from within.

Volkswagen know that they are on a winner with the Golf Seven and they aren’t resting on their laurels. The Golf R is 300 horse-power of raw grunt with added fury on the side, the competition in this segment is massive and most of it comes from within.

The Golf R is the fastest Golf ever built, there’s 300bhp but it feels like double that when you put your foot down. It’s the way that horsepower is put on the road that makes all the difference, the 4Motion system is delivered by Haldex and when it’s engaged it acts like warp-drive. The 0-100kph sprint is over in 4.9 seconds when you take the DSG auto box.

You might think that with all this power that it would be hard to control it but, Volkswagen are German and that means they want you to be safe. This safety means lots of electronic stuff sorts out the problems of cornering and speed. In a car like the R you want to feel like you’re on the ragged edge but in reality you aren’t because the 4Motion system is there helping you with corners.

There's no driving modes in the Irish version, normally you'll find that you can have race mode or comfort but the Irish version has only one mode, rapid. It's a shame because the UK spec comes with the versions as standard and it would be nice if you could calm it down for a spin to the shops.

The really big problem for the Golf R comes from within the Volkswagen group because the Golf GTI with a performance pack is just so good and its cousin the SEAT Leon Cupra is almost as capable of the same feeling. The GTI comes with 230bhp and the Cupra has 280bhp so they aren’t far off the R with 300. It isn’t the figures that stack up as much as the feeling behind the wheel.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Golf R will leave the other two standing on any road, anywhere, but you’ll have a lot more fun and a little more fear in the GTI. That’s what’s missing, fear. In any performance hatchback you need to feel like you’ve reached your limit in terms of skill, it’s at this point when you are sweating and your heart is pounding that you feel like a driving god. Those moments do come in the R but they only happen when you are moving really fast.

If the GTI version didn’t exist I’d be telling you to go buy the Golf R in a heartbeat, it’s big, mean, fast and roars around the place like a football hooligan at a cup final. However the GTI is still the car I’d want to own, it does everything and does it well and if you need some extra horses then buy a SEAT Leon Cupra which is nearly eight grand cheaper than the Golf R with an automatic box. 

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