Volkswagen Golf R
There is one more piece of the GTI story that needs to be told.
It starts with a bit of confusion. For years, a lot of people confused the Golf R as being part of the GTI legacy. Not quite, however. It is very complimentary that as the two represent the capabilities of a performance Golf model. Though the GTI is recognizable as the original hot hatch, the Golf R is completely different animal.
The Golf R was developed as a showcase of the upper limits of performance for the car. They were inspired by rally cars, especially the ones running in the World Rally Championship, which explained the extreme performance tuning used on then-current engines and the use of a performance all-wheel drive system. The goal was to give enthusiasts a halo car that had the spirit of the GTI, but with more with practically everything.
Our first Golf R came for 2004 as the R32 in the Mk 4 body. The beefier body kit and deep sports performance seating was just the beginning. As soon as the hood was opened up, a 3.2liter VR6 appeared with 237 horsepower on tap. Volkswagen added a Haldex 4Motion system that came from the Audi TT Quattro. A six-speed manual was initially available, however the R32 introduced the world to the DSG gearbox, as first installed in a Golf model. In fact, the driveline itself came from the TT, since it rode on the same platform as the Golf. Even with a more upright body, the Golf R32 promised quick performance times – a 14.1 second quarter mile at 99.2MPH.
The Mk 4 R32 is a rare find. It is also one of the most desirable Volkswagen models for collectors and enthusiasts.
After a successful run in the Mk 4 body, the Mk 5 R32 showed up for 2008. The specifications were the same as before, except for an 88-pound increase in body weight. Performance times did not change. In the Mk 5 body, enthusiasts began to notice how well the rounder shape was transformed into the more desirable R32. Again, it was sold in very small numbers due to its delayed introduction.
When it came time for the Golf R to be introduced in the Mk 6 body, the wait was even longer. When it arrived for the 2012 model year, a few more changed occurred. You can now get the Golf R in a two- or four-door hatchback. The VR6 was gone, replaced by a 256-horsepower 2.0liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder. The DSG was not available in this model, with the six-speed manual as the only choice. What remained was the Haldex 4Motion all-wheel drive system. The Golf R soon became the ultimate showcase of what Volkswagen could do with its engines – the 56-horsepower jump in the TSI turbo engine was a result of extensive on the engine to allow for a freer-breathing exhaust, a higher boost level on the turbocharger and optimal internal cooling to reach higher performance levels than before.
Compared to other generations, Volkswagen promised the Mk 7 Golf R sooner in the generational cycle than before. In fact, it is due in the spring of 2015. When it does arrive, it will become the ultimate Golf. Power will be up to 292 horsepower with even more modifications to the 2.0liter TSI turbocharged engine. The 4Motion system remains, now tasked to sending 280 lb-ft of torque through the Haldex system. The DSG becomes standard, but a six-speed manual is promised for late deliveries.
This Mk 7 Golf R will also be the fastest Volkswagen production car ever. The 0-60 time has but cut to 4.9 seconds. It lapped the Nurburgring in 8 minutes, 11 seconds. And, yet, it will get 30 MPG on the highway.
The enthusiast knows the difference between a GTI and a Golf R. There are some similarities. It is still a Golf – room for five, a hatchback with expandable cargo space, and equipped the same with active and passive safety features to keep everyone in check. The Golf R may have the performance of a sports car; it follows the same principle as being a practical car for everyday use.
While enthusiasts are simply happy to take a GTI and modify it to try to match the Golf R’s performance levels, there is really no substitute. The GTI will always be a front-drive hot hatch. The Golf R is simply the next level for the enthusiast who is ready for more – much more.