The understatement can be a powerful thing… It doesn’t always pay to be the centre of attention. Hot hatchbacks, by their very nature, are somewhat rebellious machines of which like to pass the time by troubling some well sorted sports cars. Looking like a BTCC racer certainly has its place within this arena, but in reality that level of attention can get a bit tiring. Can you imagine turning up to a funeral in a Type R? The Golf R has always had an air of sophistication to it within this new breed of hyper hatchbacks. For those who want to have their cake and eat it, the 2017 Volkswagen Golf R might just be the “Jack of all trades” you have been looking for.
Our test car, finished in that signature Lapiz Blue, looked purposeful as the sun refracted off of the bodywork. This model year brings some subtle revisions to the MK7 Golf including an intricate set of LED headlights and reworked bumpers. The R retains its chiseled no-nonsense stance that clings to the ground beneath it. 19 inch Spielberg alloy wheels filled the arches and the contrasting wing mirrors created a sense of class. It doesn’t kick and scream for attention and for many that under the radar “Q car” styling is what will make the new Golf R appeal more than its competitors.
The grown-up attitude continues inside as the cabin is forged from high quality materials. Comfortable and supportive leather seats proudly wear the R logo. A chunky flat bottomed steering wheel is presented to the driver, garnished with contrasting stitching. The biggest change to the 2017 Volkswagen Golf R can be found on the centre console. A lack of clutter is thanks to a new 9.2 inch Discovery Pro infotainment system that now incorporates many buttons into its interface. The system itself is easy to use and very visual in its operation. Another new addition is the 12.3 inch display that replaces the driver’s analog dials. This instrument display changes with what the car is currently doing and can insert key map information directly in front of the driver. The rear bench seats three with the outermost passengers enjoying good amounts of head and leg room. However, a hump in the floor reduces leg room for the middle occupant. You do lose some boot capacity due to the all wheel drive system vs a front wheel drive model such as the GTI. That said, it is still a usable 343 litres with a large opening to aid the ingress of bulky items.
Whilst the Clubsport S briefly stole the spotlight, this facelift Golf R solidly asserts its authority as top dog in the VW stable once again. Now powered by a 306 BHP 2.0 litre turbocharged engine, accompanied by 400Nm of torque, this all wheel drive hatch blitzes 0-62 MPH in just 4.6 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 MPH. Put your foot to the floor and it will willingly demonstrate this with an impressive launch from standstill. Momentum builds relentlessly thanks to the responsiveness of the engine and that delicious torque. Whilst the rate of knots you find yourself doing is mighty, the whole event is actually rather effortless. The 7 speed DSG rapidly charges through the gears as the intelligent all wheel drive system maximises the grip available. Selecting Race Mode stiffens the dampers, adds increased weighting to the steering, sharpens the throttle, and allow the gearbox to hold onto rations when you are pressing on. Approach a series of complex bends and the 2017 Volkswagen Golf R takes it all in its stride. Aggressively tipping the car into a corner simply results in Scalextric-like commitment to the chosen line. The steering could be more communicative but the expertly judged weighting allows for very precise inputs. You can feel the weight of this car from time to time, but the unrelenting grip proves that the AWD system was well worth the trade. It corners nice and flat whilst said system shifts power to the appropriate corner. This car eats B-roads for breakfast! Yet, put everything back into a more docile setting and it proves to be comfortable and refined on our less than polite British tarmac. Enter the urban sprawl and good visibility makes it easy to park too. Volkswagen claim emissions of 160g/km CO2 and fuel consumption of 40.4 MPG combined.
This 2017 Volkswagen Golf R takes that wonderfully balanced equation that the car has always been, and adds just the right dose of chilli. It is such a complete car that provides all of the real world, all weather performance you could ask for. Being a hot hatchback means that whilst you reap the rewards on country roads, the family also benefits from having a solid means of transport. This DSG model (manual is also available) starts from £33,935 and when you think about it, that is a lot of performance for the money.