Cars

Published on April 2nd, 2016 | by Subhash Nair

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Volkswagen Golf R Review: A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

Not so long ago, Volkswagen Golfs were a rare find on Malaysian roads – rarer than supercars in some states. Now, thanks to Volkswagen Malaysia, we have thousands of them scattered throughout the country – mostly in urban areas where young executives have been waiting decades for a European alternative to the Civics and Corollas their parents drove. The version of the Golf we’re testing – the Golf R – probably isn’t something your parents would approve of though.

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From the moment we hit the ignition, we were blown away. This thing roars like a beast being awoken from its slumber. And at the heart of this beast is a 2-litre TSI engine. Doesn’t the Golf GTI come with a 2-litre TSI engine? Yes it does.

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In fact it’s the same ‘EA888’ engine, but in the Golf R, it has been further developed. So instead of getting 217hp and 350Nm of torque as you would in the GTI, the Golf R gets a pretty insane 276hp and 380 Nm of torque. What’s more, the R comes with 4Motion all-wheel drive which makes it a little grippy around the bends at higher speeds.

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Thanks to this combination of increased power and an advanced all-wheel drive system, the Golf R is capable of some truly hair-raising performance. Volkswagen claims that it can get to 100km/h in just 5 seconds and we completely believe them. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if it was a little faster than that.

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Despite the frankly absurd amount of power for a hatchback, Volkswagen have put safety first. There was never a moment where the R felt like it was trying to kill me. It feels more like bungee jumping than skydiving – there’s still some things that can go wrong if you leave things to chance, but the Golf R is designed to pull you back just before anything goes wrong.

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Some might feel the absence of unbridled power upsetting. But to us there’s nothing the Golf R can’t do on the road that will leave you wanting more. And you can fiddle around with the chassis settings to get a bit more out of the Golf R if you really wanted to. But in general, there are faster cars out there but they’ll cost more and be less practical in the real world than the Golf R.

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Speaking of practicality, the Golf R is just as practical as the original, just with a stiffer suspension setup. The 5-door variant we tested was essentially a leather wrapped version of the original with sportier bits. It also had the ‘Tech Pack’, which adds beautiful 19” ‘Cadiz’ alloy wheels, a 12-way adjustable driver’s seat, keyless entry, a sizeable sunroof, ‘Vienna’ leather seats, Dynamic Chassis Control with driver profile selection among other things. DCC does change the way the car drives and is extra useful with the electric adjustable driver’s seat if you expect to share this car with your family and friends on a regular basis.

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Also part of the ‘Tech Pack’is an 8” Discovery Pro Navigation System. The 8” infotainment unit was extremely responsive and had a high-output resolution resulting in images that were extra crispy. Most satisfying was the way it would hide away menu options when not being used – showing them when the finger was brought about an inch away from the screen. This feature was extremely cool to witness and definitely added a futuristic feel to the aesthetics of the interior.

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On the outside, a more pronounced body kit makes the car slightly longer than other variants of the Golf. Stiffer, lower sports suspension also makes it a couple of centimetres shorter than the standard model too. The silhouette of the Golf R is significantly different to the base Golf thanks to these 2 changes.

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It conveys power and presence thanks to its sporty stance and looks so much better thanks to the things like the silver-grey of the side mirrors. Unlike the GTI which has an obvious red stripe to give it away, the R is quieter in looks but you can immediately tell it’s special.

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At a quarter of a million ringgit, it’s not exactly cheap – yet for the performance and equipment  that comes with it, it’s definitely not overpriced. It’s still far more practical than many of the premium hatchbacks offered by the big three and isn’t as shouty too, so you can still sneak up to your average 3-Series driver and put him in his place.

Goodyear f1 650x85(DSF)

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And if it’s fuel economy you’re worried about, it’s actually not as bad as it sounds. As long as you have the discipline, the Golf R will stay far below the 10L/100km mark. For the enthusiast driver who can’t get away from sending his kids to school, look no further than the Golf R.

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