2022 Volkswagen Golf R Road Test

It’s been practically a yr since we acquired behind the wheel of a Euro-spec 2022 Volkswagen Golf R for our First Drive. Now, VW has its U.S.-spec Golf R out, and we determined to search out out if our finish conclusion of it being “far more enjoyable” nonetheless holds.

There’s one massive distinction (amongst different smaller ones) between this Golf R and the earlier one we drove, and it’s all to do with the transmission. This Golf R is fitted with VW’s six-speed guide, which is a particular deal with for North America. You see, the Golf R in Europe is completely fitted with VW’s seven-speed DSG automated, however us fortunate people within the U.S. get to decide on our most popular methodology of shifting. 

Sadly, deciding on a guide transmission does lead to a barely much less torquey engine. The up to date 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder within the Golf R makes 315 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque with the DSG, however VW dials again torque to 280 pound-feet with the guide. We’re positive your native tuner will fortunately provide the twist again, however wave goodbye to your guarantee whilst you’re at it.

Regardless of the small penalty in shove, the supply of a guide continues to be one thing to be grateful for. The transmission itself is completely advantageous. Shifting the shifter by the gates isn’t some biblical expertise, however there’s sufficient suggestions to maintain us entertained and to chorus from calling it rubbery. 

VW swapped the characterful golf ball-shaped knob for a chunky, sq. knob, and it seems like a downgrade. And whereas first impressions with the clutch had us wanting for extra really feel, we warmed as much as it with use. The package deal as an entire is common relating to guide transmissions in efficiency vehicles, however beggars shouldn’t be choosers: its mere existence continues to be sufficient to make us blissful. On the identical time, we don’t besmirch anyone for choosing the superb seven-speed DSG over it.

One merchandise we notably fell for in our first time behind the wheel of the European Golf R was its elective Akrapovič exhaust system. That titanium exhaust isn’t out there for the U.S., however our automobile will get its personal valved exhaust as a substitute. Fortunately, the alternative isn’t a lot of a downgrade versus the Akrapovič system in sound degree and high quality. It blats, pops and crackles with loads of authority. The perforated quad ideas of the Akrapovič system win on type, however relaxation assured that the U.S.-spec exhaust would possibly really be a little bit bassier and guttural. We’d want back-to-back comparisons to make sure, however briefly, it doesn’t appear to be we’re utterly lacking out. 

Above left: What you see at evening; Above proper: What you see with inside dome lights on at evening

It’s been completely beat on at this level, however in case you wanted one other reminder, Volkswagen’s new local weather and audio controls are the least user-friendly within the enterprise. Be sure that it’s mild outdoors the primary time you drive a Golf R, as a result of in any other case you’ll have to flip on the dome lights to alter the cabin temperature or alter the quantity. VW makes use of contact capacitive panels on the middle stack proper under the infotainment system, however these panels aren’t backlit at evening (drawback depicted above), leaving you utterly clueless as to the place you should stab or slide your finger.  

They’re not precisely simple to make use of at excessive midday, both. Even after you understand the place the sliders are, it’s hell to make use of them whereas driving along with your hand bouncing each which approach over poor roads. Plus, unintentional touches of the quantity or temperature adjustment occur with frequency whenever you’re simply attempting to navigate by the infotainment system instantly above. Maybe placing contact delicate controls within the excellent spot for a palm stabilizer was a nasty thought? We didn’t look after this setup final yr, and extra time with the Mk. 8 has solely solidified our pondering that this poor design should be changed within the Golf R, GTI, ID.4 and any future Volkswagen that finally ends up with it.

Fortunately, driving the Golf R is an absolute delight. The extent of enjoyment is very depending on what drive mode you dial in by way of VW’s complicated new drive mode selector. For many roads, merely chucking it into the “Particular” mode configured particularly for Germany’s Nürburgring that can help you derive essentially the most enjoyable from the chassis. This places the throttle response, steering and exhaust of their most aggressive settings, however retains the dampers in a softer state of tune. James Might should be perplexed by this, however seems the “Nürburgring” setup is the perfect setup for slicing up America’s poorly maintained labyrinth of roads. Take it one step additional by going by the varied screens to activate “ESC Sport” (no, there isn’t a easy TCS/ESC button to press), and also you get to tangibly really feel the benefit of VW’s trick rear differential by the use of small allowances of power-driven slip angle.

New for the Mk. 8 Golf R, this differential vastly ups the extent of enjoyable you’ll have when exploring what the automobile can do. On prime of the AWD system with the ability to ship as much as 50% of the engine’s torque rearward, the brand new torque-vectoring rear differential with two multi-plate clutches can distribute as much as 100% of stated rear torque to a single wheel. Which means in a nook, the Golf R can direct extra energy to the wheel on the surface, tightening your line and pushing you thru the nook. In observe, it’s transformative for the all-wheel-drive R. Previous to this new differential, the Golf R has all the time felt like extra of a GTI+ with the rear wheels simply alongside for the journey, offering extra traction when crucial and mitigating torque steer. Now, the Golf R can really feel like a rear-biased all-wheel-drive automobile at occasions. It even has a Drift mode that simply sends you spinning spherical and spherical by overpowering that outdoors rear wheel, and it’s all potential because of the torque-vectoring rear differential.

Dial the Golf R again to Consolation, and it’s a laid again, sedate cruiser. The exhaust quiets down; the steering will get mild, and the journey goes comfortable. VW’s newest era of DCC adaptive dampers handle to melt out the journey sufficient to make sure it’s splendid for each day driving obligation. The breadth of adjustment by way of the damper slider is spectacular — swing all of it the best way stiff, and also you’ll discover it’s seemingly dialed in for the smoothest of racetracks with how harsh the journey will get on the road.

Nevertheless, pretty much as good because the Golf R would possibly drive, the UI fumbles make it troublesome to stay with. Your heated seats are caught within the infotainment system, and ready 15-20 seconds for the display to completely boot-up in winter earlier than with the ability to slam the heated seats on is as infuriating because it sounds. Others on employees have famous their fury with working the radio on different VW merchandise housing this technique, and it’s nonetheless a sound criticism right here with a poor menu construction and nil search or tune buttons to be discovered on the middle stack. And positive, the ambient lighting and a number of screens might be personalized by way of an inventory of 30 totally different colours with innumerable mixtures of these colours, however that’s simply multi-colored lipstick on a pig.

If high-tech and feature-filled is what you’re after, although, the Golf R delivers. VW is selecting to promote the Mk. 8 Golf R in a single fully-loaded trim this yr, and it ain’t low cost at $45,085. That’s the value for the guide, too — if you need the DSG, add one other $800. In comparison with a similarly-loaded GTI, you’re a $6,095 premium for the R. Is the additional energy and AWD price that further money? We’d argue the newfound driving traits with the rear differential give the R a stronger case than earlier than, however when you’re a base GTI that begins at $31,270, keep it up. The R doesn’t supply a $14,000 higher driving expertise. For some perspective with the luxurious realm (as a result of that’s how expensive the R is now), the Audi S3 begins at $46,895, making it fully affordable to cross-shop the 2.

My tester is within the fairly Lapiz Blue Metallic paint, and it’s one in every of solely three choices out there with the opposite two being black and white. We are able to hope that VW brings again its Spektrum paint shade program to spruce issues up, for the reason that palette is somewhat boring in the meanwhile. 

The only inside choice is equally disappointing. Our Euro-spec Golf R was fitted with epic blue, black and grey patterned seats with suede bolsters that held us snugly in place. The plain Titan Black seats within the U.S. Golf R are simply boring as compared, and there are not any choices for various colours or supplies. Nevertheless, that lack of flare and pomp may be precisely what you’re in search of if a Golf R is in your radar. Its bigger rear wing is likely one of the solely boy-racer components somebody might scoff at, for the remainder of this utilitarian hatchback is solely fashion-forward enterprise informal. Your potential backseat riders (shoppers you wish to impress?) will even have heated seats and their very own local weather zone.

It’s nearly just like the Golf R is moonlighting as an entry-level luxurious automobile with its worth and tech options, however doesn’t end the job by swapping out all the standard Golf inside plastics with elevated supplies. That stated, none of its theoretical competitors goes to be notably luxurious inside both. It’s additionally unimaginable to say how the brand new Golf R measures as much as the competitors, for the 2 greatest rivals — GR Corolla and the upcoming Civic Kind R — are vehicles we’ve but to drive. If historical past is any indication, although, the Golf R will proceed to be the costly grown-up within the scorching hatch world. Fortunately, that grown-up is just a bit extra enjoyable this time round.


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