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Based on the current seventh generation Golf, the R sticks to a now established recipe to distance it from its sibling; four wheel drive, turbocharged power and a subtle, powerful look. It is only when you feast your eyes on the four oval tailpipes that you get any real sense of hot hatch theatre, although there are several other subtle ingredients such as unique U shaped LED daytime running lights.
This latest Golf R has big alloy wheels, a discreet bodykit and ‘R’ badges on the outside, while inside there are special sports seats, a fat three spoke steering wheel and some extra equipment. As before there is four wheel drive and the newly developed 2.0 litre turbocharged engine produces 300PS, making this comfortably the most powerful production Golf to date.
The standard Golf is sensitive to colour and can look weedy on small wheels, but the R has those problems licked. Finished in deep blue and on19 inch wheels (18 inchers are standard) it looks superb; smart and sporty but without being garish.
Extra performance over the GTI model and the reputation of previous hot Golfs all add up to make it a very desirable car.
But despite the added performance the Golf R manages to be virtually as practical as the standard car.
In the cabin the space is excellent, with enough head and legroom to suit even the tallest drivers, while you can fit tall adults in the rear seats too and choose between three or five door versions.
Because of the four wheel drive boot space is reduced, but only by 37 litres so there is still 343 litres on offer.
Like many modern performance cars, the Golf R offers a number of modes to tailor the car to your current driving style. In Comfort mode the sensitivity of the accelerator and steering is backed off and the exhaust is quiet, so other than a slightly firmer ride than the standard it drivers much like a regular
However, switched into the most aggressive Race mode, which enables ESC to be fully switched off, the Golf R is a beast transformed. Fully extended it will rocket to 62mph in under 5 seconds when fitted with the DSG gearbox, accompanied by a purposeful roar from the engine even though this is enhanced artificially.
The steering is super sharp, the suspension firm but well judged and the grip deeply impressive. Few cars can cover ground with such ease and pace.
Apply the reasoning that this is ‘just another Golf’ and the list price of a fraction under 30,000 (over it if you have DSG or five doors) and it might seem like an expensive piece of kit. But this isn’t just a Golf; it’s a five seater family sized car that can crack 150mph and out accelerate far more expensive cars.
Life feels good in the Golf R. There are some lovely touches such as the neon blue strips on the door interiors, sills and instrument dials, the pseudo sporty heated seats, automatic climate control, headlights and wipers, parking sensors and LED reading lights front and rear.
You are left wanting very little else, but the test car came with an optional eight inch touchscreen navigation/DVD radio system with integrated voice activation and hard drive, plus dynamic chassis control, which doesn’t come cheap but certainly add to the driving experience.
The standard fit progressive steering lets drivers make a turn of a given radius with smaller steering wheel inputs than with conventional steering, thanks to a varied steering gear ratio.
As well as providing an even more enjoyable and dynamic driving experience, progressive steering requires perceptibly less steering effort in parking and manoeuvring.