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2013 Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet review
What is it?
Just after the hatchback Volkswagen Golf R bows out – an equivalent mk7 Golf can’t be far away – the convertible Golf gets the R treatment. Like the mechanically similar Scirocco R it has drive to the front wheels rather than all four, and an adequate 261bhp from its 2-litre turbocharged engine. Effectively it's a Golf GTI convertible on performance-enhancing drugs, and it's the first open-top Volkswagen with an R badge.
To cope with the 261bhp and 258lb ft of torque that the boost peak of 1.2bar brings on, the EA113-series engine (not the later EA888 design) has stronger pistons and connecting rods reciprocating in a reinforced cylinder block. The gearbox is a six-speed DSG with no manual alternative, while the firmer suspension brings with it a 25mm drop in ride height.
Giant 17in front brake discs sit within 19in wheels. Adaptive dampers with Comfort, Normal or Sport settings are optional in usual high-end VW fashion; here, the electric power steering's weighting is subtly altered with each of the three settings.
The open Golf's impressively rigid structure (torsional stiffness is just under 10,000lb ft per degree) was the VW group's strongest open-top shell at launch, but the current Porsche Boxster out-stiffs it. We'll come back to the Boxster in a minute.
What's it like to drive?
Fast, despite weighing a corpulent 1539kg. Standstill to 62mph takes 6.4sec, while top speed is the expected electronically-limited 155mph, no doubt a breezy business with the roof down (opening it is a 9.5sec operation as speeds up to 31mph). The best bit, though is what happens after a slight turbo-spooling pause: the Golf is catapulted forward, even if your starting revs are under 3000, with the usual deep, boomy growl overlaid by a breathy whoosh like a Renaultsport Megane's as slower traffic is eaten up and spat out behind.
This combination of huge overtaking urge and a compact open-top, four-seater body is an unusual and beguiling one. The DSG gearbox's quick shifts keep the torque flowing, but in automatic mode they aren't always smooth and gentle driving uncovers some sleepy habits. It's more satisfying, and controllable, in manual paddleshift mode, though the 'box always upshifts automatically on the rev-limiter's threshold.
All this power and torque is delivered tidily to the road, while corners are devoured with determined precision, but this Golf is more rapid ground-coverer than interactively-balanceable plaything. The steering weight and feel are credible for an electric system, with some messages about surface slipperiness filtering through.
The three suspension modes work as expected, Normal being the best bet most of the time, but the rock-solid structural feel of the regular Golf cabrio hasn't survived the fitment of stiffer suspension and 235/35 tyres. You can feel the bodyshell shudder a touch over a ripply road. The brakes are magnificent. So is the operation and windproofness of the hood.
How does it compare?
It's more engaging than, say, an Audi TT RS, but there's one big problem. The price starts at £38,770, which would buy you a Porsche Boxster 2.7 with a grand left over. End of argument, really.
Anything else I need to know?
All that remains to say is that, expensive as it is, the Golf R Cabriolet is a unique car. No other manufacturer makes a comparable open-topped, four-seater, hatchback-related hotrod.
|Engine||In-line 4-cyl, 1984cc, turbocharged|
|Max power||261bhp @ 6000rpm|
|Max torque||258lb ft @ 2500-5000rpm|
|0-60||6.4sec (claimed 0-62)|
|Top speed||155mph (limited)|