DISCREET BUT DEVASTATING
THOSE in the know might like to call the new Golf R a ‘four-door Scirocco’, but those not so clued up on hot machinery will probably think it’s a regular Golf.
The difference is like comparing Tiger Woods with the country club champ.
And that’s part of the beauty of the R. Its styling is subtle, making it the Clark Kent of the Golf range. But keen motorists will be quick to spot its striking 19-inch alloys, low stance and quartet of big-bore tailpipes.
And as for the Scirocco connection, well, it does have the same power output: a mighty 206kW, which gives it 44 more kilo Watts than its better-known and greatly respected GTI sibling.
The Golf R costs $10k more, sits lower, comes with a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG dualclutch transmission, five switchable chassis settings, four electronic diff locks and various other features that give it a bucketful of extra zip and grip. And more economy.
Priced from $51,990 for the manual and $2000 more for the DSG version, as tested, the R is aimed at a splinter sector of the market that really appreciates sporty motoring, something far removed from the daily plod from the suburbs to the city and back in a SUV or a Getz .
So while it won’t excite avid watchers of Home and Away, it will certainly raise the neck hair of sporting car club members.
The big-turboed 2.0litre 206/380 all-wheel drive hatch can run to 100km/h in five seconds flat – and its average fuel consumption is down from 8.7 to 7.1litres/100km.
Drivers can choose between Eco, Normal, Individual, Comfort and Race settings, plus there’s an ESP Sport switch that lets folk letting their R off the leash at a track event push into the corners a bit harder before electronics step in.
So it’s a car for all seasons: a regular Golf if you choose Eco and potter off to the shops Monday to Friday, a somewhat more involved drive for a weekend outing in Individual or Comfort, and a potential class winner at the circuit in Race mode.
The DSG swaps cogs faster than the human hand, the AWD and low centre of gravity give the R astounding roadholding and there are huge brakes to pull it up quickly and securely.
Of course it has all the in-car infotainment nonsense du jour, a million stars in safety, lovely interior lighting and space for four, but it’s essentially a driver’s car, rich in driver data, superb controls and a delightful burble from the potent motor.
Sole niggle for me was the electronic parking brake. A real car like the R needs a real handbrake.
Verdict: One for the committed driver.
The R is the hottest Golf yet.