A Wolf in Golf’s Clothing

By J.G. Pasterjak
Jun 18, 2015 | Volkswagen | Posted in Features | From the May 2015 issue | Never miss an article

It would seem that only one thing stands between the insane new Volkswagen Golf R and true automotive greatness. Just a single flaw in an otherwise exquisite jewel.

It’s not the 292-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. Even at 5000 feet above sea level, it makes the kind of smooth power that pushes you back in your deeply bolstered seat.

Nor is it the exceptional chassis, tuned with the considerable input of none other than Mr. Hans Stuck, who has gone fast in more types of cars than you’ve probably driven.

And you may have a hard time believing this, but the Golf R’s biggest problem isn’t even its price, which can skirt $40,000 in its most highly loaded form. One drive is enough to convince you that this VW is every bit as sophisticated and dynamically impressive as $40,000 offerings–and even more expensive ones–from other manufacturers, German and Japanese.

No, the Golf’s biggest problem isn’t any of those things. It’s the damn name. We just don’t know if America is ready for a car this good to be simply called a VW Golf. In the U.S., anyway, the Golf name–and VW in general to some extent–has been synonymous with frugality. Fun frugality, maybe, but frugality before frivolity.

Now here comes a car that can stand on its own with the likes of the Subaru STI and the BMW M235i (yes, really), but it still carries the name of a car that most Americans associate with a small economy hatchback.

Get Over It

Well, if those folks can’t remove the firmly wedged stick that prevents them from accepting what the Golf R truly is, screw ’em. That’s because the Golf R–regardless of the name badge that’s on it–is a true badass.

Let’s start with that 292-horsepower 2.0-liter.

It used to be that you’d just naturally expect a 292-horsepower 2.0-liter to be peaky as all hell. Those days are gone. VW could have told us this engine had pretty much any displacement numbers they wanted to and we’d have believed it. There’s a bit of softness off-idle–just enough to remind you it’s turbocharged–but once the boost comes up, there’s power and flexibility and thrust wherever and whenever you flex your right foot.

The Verdict

So what’s the downside?

Honestly, not much. The Golf R is a sophisticated, modern sport sedan that can easily hold its own against the best of BMW, Audi, Subaru and several other manufacturers. Stacked up against other $40,000 hypersedans, it gives no quarter.

We just wonder if the world is ready for a $40,000 VW Golf.

VW does, too, and is trying to keep the hype factor high as the new Golf R rolls out. The first batch will be limited to 500 examples–all of which are already spoken for–and it will be several months until the next wave of Golf Rs hits the U.S. Hopefully that’s enough time to show people that the Golf R transcends its economy-car roots and stands shoulder to shoulder with giants.

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captdownshift GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
6/18/15 9:33 a.m.

IMO it blows the STi away, and that's coming from a former STi owner. I may be crazy for thinking this, but I think the bonkers boy racer Focus RS coming will help the more mature, buttoned up, Golf R. AS the RS will destroy the notion of stereotypes based off of names.

Now VW needs to bring over the Polo, enter the B segment and drop the 1.8T turbo for the Polo GTi and a detuned 2.0T for the Polo R.

petegossett GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
6/18/15 11:29 a.m.

I wish I were in the market for a $30k+ car, because this one ticks all the right boxes for me. Bring on the depreciation!

docwyte Dork
6/19/15 12:01 a.m.

Not available in 6MT yet. Totally bogus.

tjbell Reader
6/19/15 6:38 a.m.
jj wrote: Is stability control fully defeatable?

on my 2009 GTI it is defeatable only with VAGCOM

tjbell Reader
6/19/15 7:10 a.m.
jj wrote:
tjbell wrote:
jj wrote: Is stability control fully defeatable?
on my 2009 GTI it is defeatable only with VAGCOM
I googled it after I posted and apparently it is 100% defeatable.

That makes me happy, and want one even more

KyAllroad Dork
6/19/15 8:01 a.m.

Adjusted for inflation it's a smoking deal.

Back in 2001 my Allroad stickered for just over $50K, the Golf R is 10 grand less 14 years later. Not bad at all.

pinchvalve GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/19/15 8:44 a.m.

I think we can all agree that they are all available in blue. And that they are all based on economy cars. And we would rock any of them gladly.

NGTD UltraDork
6/19/15 8:50 a.m.

In reply to pinchvalve:

I will take one of each please.

docwyte Dork
6/19/15 2:59 p.m.

I'd be far more interested in the STI if it was available in a 5 door and if they'd dropped the old 2.5 liter engine. People with the new STI's are still having issues with the motor spontaneously blowing apart in completely stock form.

NGTD UltraDork
6/19/15 6:28 p.m.

In reply to docwyte:

Just buy a WRX then. It's 95% of the STi without the EJ motor.

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