Volkswagen Golf R review - a consummate all-rounder - Ride and handling

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

The Golf R sits 5mm lower than the GTI and has firmer springs. The optional adaptive chassis control system – which progressively firms the dampers, sharpens throttle response and reduces steering assistance as you click through the modes – culminates with a more aggressive 'race' setting, chiefly for track days.

It's worth noting that the Golf R's DCC mode was originally controlled using a button next to the gearstick, but this has been moved to a sub menu within the car's navigation system.

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Uniquely among modern Volkswagens – and a sure sign the company sees the car as a rival to the ostensibly harder core Renaultsport Megane - the R allows you to fully switch off its stability control system (lesser versions limiting you to a 'Sport' mode).

On initial acquaintance, the R has that familiar GTI fluidity and feeling of supple, lucid response. But push on a little harder and the more powerful car’s tighter body control, quicker steering and more incisive turn-in soon shine through. In simple terms you turn the wheel and the R grips and goes.

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In fact, the Golf R actually gets better the harder you push it, rising up onto its toes and coming alive just at the point where previous generations would fall to pieces. There's a crispness and a purity to the steering, a sense of lightness and agility to the way it darts towards an apex and, by virtue of its four-wheel-drive system, none of the tugging at the wheel under full load tat that you get in front-wheel-drive cars.

There’s more to the R than merely going fast from point to point, too, the most welcome difference being greater throttle adjustability and a more intimate connection between you and the chassis.

You know exactly how hard all four tyres are working, and depending on how you set the R up for the corner you can lean hard on the front end for added bite in tighter turns, pitch it in for some fun through medium-speed corners or keep things ultra-neat through fast sweeps. It’s a cerebral process, but one laced with perspiration and adrenalin. From take-off to landing, the Golf R is quick with a capital F but thoroughly engaging, too.

It's also worth noting that the Golf R is fairly unflustered by poor conditions. Snowy drives home in evo's long term car have resulted in very few issues, even on Summer tyres. 

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