The greatness of a car can mostly be measured by how thrilling it is to drive. While entertainment isn’t tied to horsepower alone, the 315-hp Volkswagen Golf R is one of the best at filling tummies with butterflies. At a higher level of performance than the already delightful Golf GTI, reviewed separately, the R adds all-wheel drive with a Drift mode that allows the Golf to hang everything by distributing torque to one side of the rear axle. While this dance feels more natural in a completely rear-biased car like the Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro, the fact that it’s probably in a very similar package to the Honda Civic Type R is inherently true. The Golf R is a hotter hatch than the GTI in part due to bigger brakes and acceleration to 60 mph which is more than a full second faster. However, the R’s heavier price tag puts it in Toyota Supra sports car territory.
What’s New in 2023?
While the Golf R hasn’t changed much for 2023, Volkswagen has added a 20th Anniversary Edition model with visual changes including 20th-birthday badge, blue “R” logo inside and out, and a special puddle light that illuminates the “20R” graphic on the ground. 19-inch black wheels are standard, and 20th The Anniversary R is offered in blue, black, or white. Only 1800 special editions will be made.
Price and Where to Buy
Since the Golf R is primarily offered as a fully loaded model, the biggest decision to make when purchasing it is whether you want to swap the standard six-speed manual for the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Choosing the latter increases its base price by just $800. However, we prefer stick shift.
Engine, Transmission and Performance
Under the hood of the Golf R is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder engine that produces 315 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque—up from the 288 hp and 280 pound-feet of the last-generation R. The engine is paired with one of the six-speed manual transmissions. or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The standard 4Motion all-wheel drive system features a rear differential that can actively distribute torque between the left and right rear wheels for better handling. The Golf R’s selectable driving modes (Comfort, Sport, Race, Special, Drift and Individual) can be activated by pressing the “R” button on the steering wheel. We have taste the Drift hatch mode, which proves entertaining on slippery surfaces, but that won’t replace the fun factor of a rear-drive muscle car. Each model is equipped with a sports exhaust system, variable-ratio steering, and larger front disc brakes than before. It also rides a set of 19-inch wheels shod with summer performance tires. During our first trip in Germany, the Golf R showcases the speed and toughness of its powerful engine, reactive automatic dual clutch and intelligent all-wheel drive system. The version we rode also comes with the optional Performance pack which adds two more riding modes, including the entertaining Drift mode that allows for some glide antics. On our test track, our Golf R test car with a seven-speed automatic transmission sped to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds, beat the 2021 Honda Civic Type R by 0.9 seconds.
Real World Fuel Economy and MPG
The EPA estimates the most efficient version of the Golf R is the automatic transmission, which scores 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway ratings. Going with a manual transmission lowers those numbers to 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, a decent tradeoff in our opinion for the more attractive six-speed stick. We haven’t had time to run it on the 75 mph highway fuel-efficient route, which is part of the our extensive testing regimen, but when we do, we will update this story with details. For more information on the Golf R’s fuel economy, visit EPA website.
Interior, Comfort and Cargo
The Golf R mimics the new GTI cabin design, providing a sportier aesthetic than the last-generation Golf. Both have thick-framed steering wheels with touch-sensitive controls operating a 10.2-inch digital gauge cluster with a configurable layout. Unlike the GTI, the Golf R is not available with checkered seat inserts, but has reinforced front seats wrapped in nappa leather. This exclusive bucket features blue accents and carbon displays on the sides and a blue “R” logo on the backrest. Other interior features include ambient lighting with 30 colors, stainless-steel pedals, and more carbon trim on the dashboard. The new Golf R also has impressive cargo space and comfortable rear seats.
Infotainment and Connectivity
As seen on the new GTI, the Golf R’s infotainment system will run via a 10.0-inch touchscreen located in the center of the dashboard. Secondary controls include a touch-sensitive slider versus physical knobs and buttons. Along with the mandatory charging port, the system should be available with Harman/Kardon premium stereo. We also expect popular content like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Wi-Fi hotspots.
Safety Features and Driver Assistance
The new Golf R offers more driver assistance technology from its predecessor, including blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and lane guard assistance. For more information on the results of the Golf R crash test, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) website. Key security features include:
- Standard forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking
- Standard lane departure warning and lane guard assistance
- Standard adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous driving mode
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
While VW’s powertrain warranty isn’t top notch among its classmates, its limited warranty and free scheduled maintenance are top notch.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Free maintenance covered for 2 years or 20,000 miles
2022 Volkswagen Golf R
Vehicle Type: front engine, all-wheel drive, 5-seater, 4-door hatchback
Basic/As Tested: $44,640/$45,440
Options: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, $800
turbocharged and DOHC 16-valve inline-4 intercooler, iron block and aluminum head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 121 inches31984 cm3
Power: 315 hp @ 5900 rpm
Torque: 310 lb-ft @ 1900 rpm
7 speed automatic dual clutch
Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 14.1-in vented, cross-bored disc/12.1-in vented disc
Tires: Pirelli P Zero PZ4
235/35R-19 91Y R02
Wheelbase: 103.5 inches
Length: 168.9 inches
Width: 70.4 inches
Height: 57.7 inches
Passenger Volume: 92 feet3
Cargo Volume: 20 feet3
Curb weight: 3360 lb
CD TEST RESULT
60 mph: 3.9 seconds
100 mph: 10.0 seconds
1/4-Mile: 12.5 seconds @ 111 mph
130 mph: 18.4 seconds
The result above eliminates a 1-ft launch of 0.2 seconds.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 5.2 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 2.7 seconds
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 3.6 sec
Top Speed (CD approx.): 155 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 151 feet
Braking, 100–0 mph: 304 feet
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.99 g
CD FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 23 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 26/23/30 mpg
CD TESTING EXPLAINED
More Features and Specifications