ROAD TEST VW Golf R New Golf bridges the per­for­mance gulf

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Motors Today - MATT JOY MO­TORS Re­pORTeR

PROGRESS doesn’t come for free. If you want more, you have to give more, which is why the lat­est and great­est high-per­for­mance Golf is quite a dif­fer­ent beast to its pre­de­ces­sor.

The old car was called the Golf R32, and it packed a creamy 3.2-litre V6 un­der the bon­net, with its 247bhp de­liv­ered to all four wheels. It was the ul­ti­mate Golf of its day and had a lot go­ing for it.

Trou­ble is, it’s hard to make a large ca­pac­ity petrol en­gine par­tic­u­larly fru­gal. It of­fered a mod­est 26mpg and C02 emis­sions were 257g/km. That was then, and the Golf R is now. What you lose is two cylin­ders and the sound­track of a six-cylin­der en­gine, which is a bit of a shame. But what you gain is an ex­tra 20bhp, and the four-cylin­der tur­bocharged en­gine that delivers it is also 35kg lighter. Mod­ern tur­bocharg­ing is all about ef­fi­ciency, so the ex­tra punch you get also comes with a large slice of fru­gal­ity: com­bined fuel econ­omy is now up to 33.2mpg and C02 emis­sions drop to a re­mark­able 199g/km. This is a per­for­mance car you don’t need to apol­o­gise for.

Nei­ther will you have to ex­plain its pur­pose. The Golf R has a sporty and tough ex­te­rior, but sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent to that of the GTI. There are unique front and rear bumpers, with large in­takes to feed the en­gine and cool the brakes, while a pair of LED day­time run­ning lights gives it an ex­tra shot of class - as well as a dis­tinc­tive ap­pear­ance in rear-view mir­rors. At the rear, a pair of ex­hausts pokes through the rear dif­fuser, an­other nod to Golf Rs from the past. That said, the Golf R hasn’t aban­doned its clean-cut ap­pear­ance: this is still a taste­ful and well-ex­e­cuted piece of de­sign that will win praise and ad­mi­ra­tion rather than of­fend. Yet the ex­tra spice pro­vided by the larger wheels and taste­ful bodykit are just the sort of the thing that a per­for­mance car re­quires.

The same goes for the cabin. You should know by now that the in­te­rior of a Golf MkVI is wor­thy of a case study in good de­sign and qual­ity fin­ish. It’s im­pos­si­ble not to feel slightly smug once you’ve slid be­hind the wheel, sit­ting snugly in the very sup­port­ive sports seats, grasp­ing the thick-rimmed steer­ing wheel and sur­vey­ing the lay­out in front of you. The R comes with a pi­ano black fin­ish, gor­geous blue nee­dles on the in­stru­ments and a re­spectable haul of equip­ment: dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, bi-Xenon head­lights, au­to­matic lights and wipers and re­vised ESP to name a few - and that’s ig­nor­ing the hard­ware un­der­neath.

The Golf R is lower and stiffer than its sib­lings, in­clud­ing the GTI, and is also the only Golf to use the 4Motion four­wheel drive sys­tem. Here it has been re­vised again, with hy­draulic ac­tu­a­tion that speeds up re­sponse times and also al­lows up to 100% of the power to be sent to the rear wheels. Which all sounds very tech­ni­cal, but as the driver all you need to know is that the Golf R can use ev­ery last drop of that 266bhp al­most all the time, thanks to phe­nom­e­nal trac­tion.

In­evitably there will be com­par­isons with the GTI, so let’s get them out of the way now. With that ex­tra power and the trac­tion of four-wheel drive, the DSG-equipped Golf R will blast to 62mph from rest in a stun­ning 5.5 sec­onds. The GTI takes 6.9, and runs out of puff at an ad­mit­tedly-quick 147mph. The R on the other hand is limited to 155mph: der­e­stricted it could eas­ily pass 160mph.

The DSG gear­box is worth a spe­cial men­tion here too, for al­though it adds £1,305 to the price, it cuts the 0-62mph time by 0.2 sec­onds and saves a lit­tle in terms of C02 and fuel econ­omy. But what it means out on the road is a lan­guid, easy one-foot drive when you want it, and in­stant pad­dle-flick con­trol when you’re in the mood. With all that trac­tion, con­trol and power to ex­ploit, a twisty road can be despatched in a flash, re­gard­less of the weather. How­ever hard you press there al­ways seems to be more grip in re­serve, and con­trol of the gear­box is all yours with a quick flick of the pad­dles. It’s thrilling, yet with a re­as­sur­ing amount of con­trol and safety sit­ting along­side the whole time.

The Golf R has the breadth of abil­ity to make it both prac­ti­cal and a play thing, what­ever your mood.

There is a price to pay for this of course, and un­sur­pris­ingly it comes when you sign on the dot­ted line. But there are few cars at any sort of price that are prac­ti­cal, com­fort­able, welle­quipped, well-made, lu­di­crously quick in all weathers and gen­uinely de­sir­able to own, whilst be­ing cleaner and greener than be­fore. Con­sider all the boxes well and truly ticked.

Model: Volk­swa­gen Golf R 2.0 TSI 5-door, £30,885.

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