I generally like any car that is functional, affordable and well-made. Volkswagen fits into that category; every VW I’ve ever tested meets the aforementioned criteria.
Most of them are just boring.
Take the Jetta for example. I saw a TV commercial for it recently; one that showed it sort of dancing to a funky beat. I had to laugh for two reasons: 1. The concept of autonomous cars is getting a little out of hand, and If my Jetta started dancing on its own, I’d have to shoot it in the hood. And 2. While the Jetta is a good, decent car, it’s boring and trying to jazz it up with clever CGI is really doing it a disservice; I can imagine someone buying one and trying to find the “dance” button.
Sorry, I digress.
This is about a Golf, specifically the R model which VW says it the “the most powerful Golf model ever to be sold in the North American market.”
On the surface that sounds fun.
And on the surface, it looks is should be fun. The Golf R has a 292-hp turbo 2.0-liter inline-four, all-wheel drive, a sport suspension, 18-inch wheels, and the 2018 model I was delivered for a recent week even had a 6-speed manual.
For 2018 the Golf R lineup has been joined from two to one, with the formally higher-level Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) and Navigation model becoming a single model. There were some minor exterior updates that include LED headlights and taillights; inside there is now a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen—up from 6.5 inches in 2017—and a customizable instrument display VW calls a Digital Cockpit. There’s also pedestrian detection, and a new seven-speed automatic transmission that replaces last year’s six-speed automatic.
That new six-speed automatic has launch control for some reason.
As mentioned, my 2018 had the 6-speed manual which was just fine by me.
On the road the Golf R was indeed a great deal more fun than the Golf I had last year. The all-wheel drive and the adaptable suspension and the Dynamic Chassis Control holds the car to the road very well and can produce a smile behind the wheel.
The interior is pretty roomy, the hatchback practical, and like the Golf this should be a very good car.
Yet, the interior is still all business, no-nonsense industrial sort of interior that VW seems ‘famous’ for. It’s fine, just, well you get the idea.
The problem is among the ‘hot hatchback’ crowd it’s barely smoldering. Good car, yes, but in a very crowded field that includes the Civic, Focus RS (for now) and others that have a bit more style inside and out, it’s in danger of fading into the background.
There’s also the price point. MY tester topped out with an MSRP of $40,000. Yes, standard features include satellite radio, heated seats, navigation, and Bluetooth, making is a bit more of a value, but others in the class have a bit more flash and cost less.
Little doubt however that there are plenty of Golf aficionados who will love the R version, and that’s okay; it’s a good car. Just be careful it might start dancing without warning.
The 2018 VW Golf R
MSRP (as tested): $40,635
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 292hp @ 5400 rpm 280 lb-ft torque @ 1800 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 21 city, 29 highway, 24 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 26 mpg
Base Curb Weight (lbs): 3300 lbs
Cargo Area Dimensions
Cargo Volume with Rear Seat Up ft³:22.8
Cargo Volume with Rear Seat Down ft: 52.7
Passenger Capacity: 5
Passenger Volume: ft³ 93.5
Front Head Room: in 38.4
Front Leg Room: in 41.2
Front Shoulder Room: in 55.9
Front Hip Room: in N/A
Second Head Room: in 38.1
Second Leg Room: in 35.6
Second Shoulder Room: in 53.9
Wheelbase: in 103.5
Length, Overall: in 168.4
Width, Max w/o mirrors: in 70.8
Height, Overall: in 56.5
Track Width, Front: in 60.7
Track Width, Rear: in 59.7
Min Ground Clearance: in 4.8
Basic: 6 Years/72,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 6 Years/72,000 Miles
Corrosion: 12 Years/Unlimited Miles
Roadside Assistance: 3 Years/36,000 Miles