Volkswagen Golf R review - a consummate all-rounder - Engine and gearbox

The best iteration of the Golf yet?

Evo rating
Price
from £31,685
  • Not just faster than a GTi but more fun too
  • ...but not quite the ultimate hot hatch

Engine and gearbox

With the area of V6-engined Golfs a fast-receding memory, the latest R is, predictably, powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged engine. It’s a heavily ‘breathed on’ development of VW's familiar 'EA888' unit, as used in the Golf GTI for the past two generations. The modifications are pretty substantial and include a new cylinder head, new injectors, a larger turbo and different pistons.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to have every issue of evo delivered straight to you. You'll SAVE 39% on the shop price, and get evo for its original cover price for a whole year!

Peak power is 297bhp - a 29bhp improvement over the old car - yet VW claims the new engine delivers 39.8mpg with the manual gearbox. That’s 18 per cent better than the last R, and comes with a 34 g/km reduction in CO2 emissions.

Power is channelled to all four wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox or an optional six-speed DSG double-clutch automatic with steering wheel paddles and the latest iteration of VW’s 4Motion Haldex system, now boasting a fifth generation multi-plate clutch and upgraded suite of electronic aids.

Under normal use torque is biased to the front wheels, with drive transferred rearwards when slip is detected. Almost 100 per cent of torque can be sent to the back: but only if the front wheels have no grip. The system is claimed to react more quickly than before, and it will also send more power to the rear if it detects the front running wide.

evo has run a long-term Golf R for nearly a year now. Fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox rather than the optional DSG, it has proven an engaging, if not slightly troublesome spec choice. The gearbox has a slightly notchy shift and lumpy clutch, which can make pulling away in first gear difficult to do smoothly.

evo readers have actually reported similar clutch-related kangarooing with their own Golf Rs. Conversly, the DSG is extremely responsive but doesn't offer quite the level of interaction that the manual gearbox does. 

Most Popular

Visit/best-cars/203098/the-worlds-10-best-gt-cars-6-4
Best cars

The world's 10 best GT cars - 6-4

These cars have the ability to make long-distance journeys relaxing while still being able to thrill on a twisting road
16 Sep 2020
Visit/porsche/911/203110/porsche-911-rsr-v-gt3-r-v-gt3-cup-track-only-911s-driven
Porsche 911

Porsche 911 RSR v GT3 R v GT3 Cup - track-only 911s driven

They’re aimed at different levels of motorsport, but what exactly separates Porsche’s 911 RSR, GT3 R and GT3 Cup models, and what are they like to dri…
20 Sep 2020
Visit/best-cars/203099/the-worlds-10-best-gt-cars-3-1
Best cars

The world's 10 best GT cars - 3-1

These cars have the ability to make long-distance journeys relaxing while still being able to thrill on a twisting road
16 Sep 2020
Visit/toyota/20522/986bhp-toyota-gr-super-sports-hybrid-hypercar-teased-in-new-video
Toyota

Toyota GR Super Sports revealed at 2020 Le Mans 24hr

Toyota is gearing up for the 2022 WEC Hypercar class, showing off it’s contender for the 2020/21 season
21 Sep 2020