228kW, yes please. The Golf R returns.

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By: Charles Molefe

Week in week out, motoring journos are presented with the opportunity to test, live and become one with products on offer from different manufacturers. I had the splendid opportunity to test the accomplished Volkswagen Golf R over the long weekend. When the vehicle was dropped off, my initial thoughts were, here we go again, a week-long adventure of countless gear changes accompanied by the rousing VrrrrrrrPhaaaaa made famous by the Volkswagen brand.

Way back in March when the 228kW Golf R was introduced, many saw this as a marketing stunt or just another ploy to sell more cars. Well, let me bring you up to speed, this is not a marketing gimmick but a rather real thing. The following review will give you a snippet of why I think this is the ultimate hot hatch.

Aesthetics

The Golf R has carried over a number of toys from its GTI sibling, the touch, feel and visual cues are all too familiar, however, the Golf R packs a huge dose of obscene performance. This is a premium interior that houses materials that feel and look expensive, what sets it apart from the GTi is the Blue lit door panels, the R logo infused into the heated seats and the wireless charging pad that enables you to charge your mobile device hasslefree. 

The test vehicle was equipped with the brilliant DynAudio system, I had a decent amount of time to fool around with all the different options it presented, you have options such as Apple Carplay, Android Auto and MirrorLink which makes pairing your device to the audio system, seamless.

I found it very difficult to find fault with the interior, controls are easily accessible and clearly marked, so, you won’t struggle to select the different options, however, it does become a little bit of a challenge whilst you are behind the wheel, but, with time It is more than likely that you will get accustomed to the location of the different options presented to you.

Performance

To put things into perspective, the Golf R is the most powerful Golf ever produced. Previously, our gracious country was marked as a hot climate location, unfortunately, this classification restricted the potential of previous Golf R models, however, we are now in the fortunate position to experience the full might of the Golf R.

The Golf R now comes with 228kW and a huge chunk of torque, 400Nm to be exact. Since this was my first real experience with the Golf R, it came as a shock when I engaged launch control, the optional R 40 000 Akrapovic Titanium exhaust, came alive, ructabundus and crackling as the Golf R readied itself for whatever lay ahead.

As soon as you release your left foot from the anchors, you are quickly warped into a hyper-lapse state, bang, 2nd gear as you grapple on the steering wheel as you wait for 3rd to whizz you past the speed limit, the Golf R is fast, I would recommend that any prospective owners consider enrolling for the advanced driving course offered by the Volkswagen driving academy, your new-found skills will enable you to enjoy the R to its fullest.

The surprising aspect of the launch control feature is that you don’t get the traditional VrrrrrrrPhaaaaa that you would experience whilst you shift gears at the limit, I guess retarding the timing would affect the 0-100km/h sprint, however, in all honesty, I don’t mind the lack of the ruckus pops and bangs.

The big three is claimed to be achieved in a mind-boggling 4.6 sec’s, who would have ever imagined that hot hatches would be outperforming supercars of yesteryear? The Golf R will shoot past the quarter-mile mark in 13.43, as tested by Mark Jones. When you look at such figures, you will be quickly reminded that the likes of the E46 M3 and C55 AMG were achieving those figures eons ago, however, the former has a high strung straight 6, whilst the latter has a 5.5L V8. The Golf R will achieve those times with a measly 2.0L, this is one of the greatest representations of how rapidly technology moves on.

I have always wondered why I see a number of Golf R’s that are modified to the helm, my experience with the car has answered many questions, it is most probably the easiest car to modify and has a number of aftermarket tuners who are squeezing hordes of power from the EA888, to give you an indication, some heavily modified Golf R’s are showing the likes of the Nissan GT-R a clean set of heels, that is an achievement in anyone’s books.

Summary  

During my tenure with the Golf R, my colleagues and I decided to take a drive to one of the most scenic places in South Africa, the Drakensberg, the 420 km trip included some long stretches on the N3 and some tight and twisty turns on the R74, competing with gale-force winds, fog and a slippery road surface the Golf R was in its own element, it handles the road with ease and it excelled at soaking up even the most of uneven surfaces.

Upon our arrival, the weather was still not playing ball, we then decided to trot along to the coast, Umhlanga to be specific, the drive there demonstrated how capable the Golf R was, whether it was overtaking the odd 18 wheeler or blasting off from the toll gate I was content knowing that I was in control of an extremely competent vehicle.

Some of my envious brethren were shocked when I told them that I decided to include the return leg on the same day, what they didn’t know is that the adaptive cruise control made the trip a lot easier to cope with the copious kilometres that lay ahead. How the system works is quite intuitive, It enables you to set a speed and it will maintain that speed as long as you don’t have another vehicle that is obstructing your lane, the car will come to a gracious stop in the event of heavy traffic, take note though, In Johannesburg you will be amidst some impatient drivers, you may need to accustom yourself to the occasional honk from the extremely intolerant of a slight delay. 

When it comes to spending time with cars, I always prepare myself by reading what others have experienced and what opinions they have formed. The sheer performance experienced in the Golf R can not be prepared for, mind you, it’s not the fastest hatch out there, however, it is the one hatch that can easily obtain its peak at any given time, irrespective of the conditions. I was extremely impressed with the time I spent with the GTI, but I have to concede, the Golf R is by far the benchmark, Golf, and I look forward to the next iteration.

Recommended Retail Price

R 681,000

TSI 7-speed DSG® engine with 4MOTION® all-wheel drive

Power and Torque

228kW and 400Nm

Standard Features:

LED headlights.

Active Info Display.

Panoramic Sunroof.

Gottagged Rating:

9.5/10

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