2022 Volkswagen Golf R First Drive – Track-Focused Toy For The Grown-Up


The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R stays a potent backroad weapon – nearly too potent.

I got here to this conclusion whereas driving a part of North Carolina’s famed Rattler freeway. The Golf R, one of many hottest of scorching hatches, was making me really feel a bit like a superhero because of stout brakes, the flexibility to shorten straightaways, and agency and correct steering that allowed me to position the wheels precisely the place I wished/wanted them to be.

And all this whereas I used to be driving comparatively conservatively as a result of I used to be on a public highway. Think about this automobile unleashed on a monitor.

Undoubtedly, that’s what VW desires its prospects to do. As a result of why pay extra for a steroidal GTI – a automobile that, as you’ll see in a forthcoming first drive, can do 80 % or extra of what the R can do, shares the identical MQB platform, and can also be extra relaxed in city driving – if you happen to’re simply going to make use of it to combat parking wars at Dealer Joe’s?

The automobile actually has the correct specs: 315 horsepower and as much as 295 lb-ft of torque from the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, all-wheel drive with torque vectoring, and a selection of both a six-speed handbook or seven-speed DSG computerized transmission. The engine’s energy numbers are elevated from earlier than.

Volkswagen Golf R. Tim Healey/TTAC

Different modifications/updates embody a redone cabin, new drive modes, bigger brakes, updates that goal to enhance dealing with, and the addition of VW’s IQ.DRIVE driver-assistance bundle.

(Full disclosure: Volkswagen flew me to Asheville, North Carolina, and fed and housed me for 2 nights so I might drive the Golf R, GTI, and Jetta GLI, plus some other present VW I wished to. They supplied socks in the identical sample as GTI seats and I left them behind.)

On the highway, it feels nearly like overkill. The automobile scoots from level A to level B with common ease. It doesn’t harm that peak accessible torque is readily available proper off idle – at 1,900 RPM in manuals (which do surrender 15 lb-ft to the automated) and a pair of,000 within the DSG. There have been a few moments within the twisties when I discovered the engine lugging on an uphill and wanted to drop a gear, however these situations had been few.

Extra to the purpose of this automobile’s mission, the dealing with may be very nicely buttoned down. That’s very true when the automobile is positioned in Sport mode, which will increase steering heft and adjusts throttle response (together with offering for more-aggressive shifts with the DSG) for sportier driving. I additionally tossed the automobile into Race mode, only for grins, which made the steering even heavier, although neither Race nor Sport fully eradicated the traces of artificiality that snuck in.

Volkswagen Golf R. Tim Healey/TTAC

I didn’t typically flirt with “the restrict” – public highway, keep in mind, and one with little or no shoulder and many bushes just some ft away – however to the extent that I did, there was a little bit of predictable and controllable understeer. Physique roll does rear its head right here and there, nevertheless it’s not obnoxious.

The Golf R is normal with DCC adaptive damping, and makes use of a strut-type setup with decrease management arms – the spring charges are stiffened by 10 % over the earlier automobile – in entrance. Camber is elevated, amongst different tweaks. In the meantime, the multi-link rear makes use of an anti-roll bar, additionally has 10 % stiffer spring charges, and equally makes use of smaller tweaks and changes in a bid to enhance dealing with.

Different drive modes embody Consolation, Customized (allows you to customise the setup, duh), Particular (programmed for driving the Nürburgring Nordschleife), and a Drift mode, which is clearly meant just for non-public roads. What it does needs to be self-explanatory, and it really works by sending all accessible torque to the surface rear wheel.

Volkswagen Golf R. Tim Healey/TTAC


The automobile’s cross-drilled vented disc brakes get a shout-out right here for being agency and fast to chunk throughout aggressive driving with out being grabby throughout gentler moments.

I did most of my driving, apart from some around-town trundling for photographs, in a handbook Golf R. The clutch is unremarkable when it comes to take-up and really feel and the shifter isn’t a selected pleasure to row, however each work nicely sufficient to be counted on the constructive aspect of the professional/con ledger.

As for the automated, it appeared to work nicely for city driving, however I’d must spend extra time hustling it to get a way of its shifts and the way nicely the paddles work. I did discover the shifter to be irritating to make use of, particularly throughout a drive-to-reverse-back-to-drive parking maneuver. Add VW to the record of automakers who might be accused of overthinking this primary management.

Our drive wasn’t all enjoyable and video games, as we wanted to hit the freeway to get to the Rattler, and that is the place the Golf R’s flaws began to emerge. The excellent news is that its journey was acceptable on the freeway, particularly in Consolation mode. The unhealthy is noise – tire noise was prevalent, and engine noise was ever-present, even at low RPMs. I perceive that it is a trade-off most Golf R prospects will fortunately make, however I’m additionally paid to level these items out.

Volkswagen Golf R. Tim Healey/TTAC

There’s a bit of larger unhealthy information, and that’s the truth that VW has gone nearly all haptic contact with its digital cockpit. Meaning no quantity or tuning knob, and no HVAC knobs or buttons. Adjusting the cabin temp the old style method is infuriating and takes one’s eyes off the highway for too lengthy. Ditto adjusting the seat heater – which was mandatory on a cold Carolina day. The haptic contact buttons on the steering wheel labored a bit higher, at the least. I even discovered the touchscreen infotainment system to be too gradual to change screens/menus. The Golf R I drove additionally refused, for causes unknown, to record the gap between waypoints in miles – it went Euro and gave me kilometers.

Volkswagen Golf R. Tim Healey/TTAC

Volkswagen would probably level out that one can use voice recognition to inform the automobile to, for instance, regulate the temperature, and whereas the system appears to work, it appears an pointless step when easy knobs for radio and knobs/buttons for the local weather controls could be the perfect answer. There’s additionally a security situation in how lengthy should take his/her eyes off the highway to make use of the haptic-touch controls.

A step into digital hell apart, the remainder of the cockpit is ok. I do just like the digital gauges – they’re clear and straightforward to learn and provide a ton of menus to play with. The seats are comfy for highway journeys and bolstered sufficient to maintain you roughly in place with out being overly cosy. I discovered headroom and legroom to be greater than positive for my body, and I used to be capable of sit within the rear simply positive, so long as the rear seat wasn’t all the way in which again. Supplies appear class-appropriate for essentially the most half, however some cheaper-looking/feeling plastics appeared to sneak into the cabin in some locations.

Volkswagen Golf R. Tim Healey/TTAC

As traditional with VW, there’s loads of black at play. Ambient lighting apart, the cabin isn’t very colourful.

Space for storing is proscribed – the middle console is deep however small – and also you’ll want a USB-C if you wish to plug your cellphone in.

Accessible options embody Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite tv for pc radio, 4 USB-C ports, navigation, heated seats, and heated steering wheel. IQ.DRIVE consists of lane-centering (which was pretty intrusive on the backroads), adaptive cruise management, blind-spot monitor, forward-collision warning, computerized emergency braking, and extra.

Solely trim is offered, and it’s $43,645 for the handbook and $44,445 for the automated, plus $995 for vacation spot.

Volkswagen Golf R. Tim Healey/TTAC

Gas economic system is listed at 20/28/23 for the handbook and 23/30/26 for the DSG.

Relating to driving dynamics, the Golf R is tough to beat, even at a worth that’s fairly pricey for a hatchback. The largest drawback is that there’s one other automobile that’s nearly nearly as good, extra enjoyable to drive in some methods, prices much less, and is best suited to the mundane commute. And it shares the identical platform and is bought by the identical firm.

The Volkswagen Golf R is actually, actually good. Actually good. However its personal sibling provides it a run for its cash.

Assuming each are inside your funds, it actually comes down to make use of case and whether or not you need the automobile that makes you a greater driver or the one which challenges you however is a tad extra enjoyable. The Golf R is the previous. Store accordingly.

What’s New for 2022

The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is totally refreshed, with a largely modified inside, extra energy, and modifications meant to enhance dealing with.

Who Ought to Purchase It

The weekend-warrior monitor rat. Somebody who thinks the GTI simply isn’t adequate. Somebody who desires/wants all-wheel drive. Somebody who likes the thought of the Honda Civic Sort R and/or Subaru WRX STI however desires to appear to be a grown-up.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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