The VW GTI is one of our favorite cars, not only because it’s fun to drive, but it can also double as the perfect commuter car with a dash of versatility thrown in. But what if you want something even more special? You’re in luck, the Golf R takes everything we love about the GTI but amps up the sport even more. Is the 2018 VW Golf R the perfect car for those of us that only have room for one car in our lives? Yes!
The Golf R competes at the pinnacle of the hot hatch segment, against rivals, like the Honda Civic Type R, Ford Focus RS and the sedan only Subaru WRX STI. The 2018 Golf R is powered by a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine that generates 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft. of torque. The four-cylinder can be mated to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic transmission. With the DSG, the Golf R sprints from 0-60 mph in under five seconds. Unlike the GTI, which sends its power to only the front wheels, the Golf R sends its power to all four wheels via the standard 4Motion all-wheel drive system. The all-wheel drive system can also send up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels when you need it to.
The 2018 VW Golf R with the manual transmission is rated at 21/29 mpg, while the DSG equipped model is rated at 22/29 mpg.
With 292 horsepower on tap, the Golf R comes in a bit under the 306-hp Civic Type R and the 310-hp Subaru WRX STI, but you’ll hardly even notice the difference sends the Golf R’s turbocharged engine spools up the power effortlessly. The 2.0L engine does feel a bit tame below 2,000 RPM, but there are up to four different driving modes that adjust the engine response. Obviously the Race driving mode was our favorite. Our Golf R came with the DSG transmission, which even if with the “Automatic” label, it’s the faster choice between the two available transmissions. Of course the manual transmission is more engaging, but it makes the Golf R a bit slower and if you really want more control, the DSG comes with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Around town the Golf R can easily double as a comfortable commuter car. Its sport tuned suspension offers three settings that you can choose from based on how sporty you want the experience to be, but none of them make the driving experience too harsh. Change the drive mode to Race and the Golf R comes to life. The throttle response becomes more sensitive and the DSG’s shift points become a bit more aggressive. We only wish that the exhaust sound also came alive more, since even in the Race driving mode, the exhaust sounds a bit too subdued.
Floor it from a stop and the Golf R takes off faster than your passengers would ever expect a practical hatchback could ever do. Throw the Golf R fast into a corner and it responds with very little body roll. But the best part, the Golf R easily transitions into a comfortable cruiser once you’re through the fun back roads.
On the outside most people won’t even notice the difference between the GTI and the Golf R, which might be an issue if you like the in your face styling of the Civic Type R. The Golf R takes a more conservative aka grown up approach compared to the wild Civic Type R and the WRX STI with its huge rear wing. The Golf R’s lower front fascia has a few small differences compared to the GTI, but the only real way that you’ll be able to pick a Golf R out of the lineup is at the back with its dual exhaust with quad tips. The 2018 Golf R also rides on unique 19-inch wheels.
Inside the 2018 VW Golf R comes standard with sporty black leather seats, which give it a more refined feeling than what you’ll get in the cloth-only Civic Type R. The Golf R also features the latest tech from VW, including the customizable Digital Cockpit, an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and a Fender audio system. Even if the Golf R is meant for fun, that doesn’t mean that VW has left out the latest safety technology, since adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and an automatic post-collision braking system are available.
For those of us that enjoy a sportier driving experience we often have to make a compromise with a more practical everyday car that can get us to and from work, transport the kids to school and make a trip to the grocery store. The 2018 VW Golf R says that you no longer have to make a compromise. With a 0-60 mph time under five seconds the VW Golf R can out accelerate some sports cars, but then it can also fit up to five passengers and enough gear for a fun weekend get away.
Pricing for the 2018 VW Golf R starts at $39,785.