New Car Review

2017 Volkswagen Golf R: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2017

The 2017 Volkswagen Golf R is for people who want something that goes beyond the GTI. If the superb, almost legendary GTI is a hot hatchback, the R is scorching, confirming that this Golf platform is capable of great things.

The Golf R makes an extra 72 horsepower (compared with the current GTI) in its 4-cylinder, 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and then sends it through to all four wheels. In the sprint from standstill to 60 mph, the R beats the GTI by about 1.4 seconds, clocking in at 4.5 seconds with the DSG transmission. Which is quick. The manual-transmission version is around 0.8 of a second slower.

It rides on a sport suspension that's 0.8 of an inch lower than the regular Golf (0.2 of an inch lower than the GTI) and has an XDS electronic limited-slip differential feature at both ends, giving the R some serious handling talent. This is complemented by a stronger braking system with larger discs. The usual high-quality interior takes a few more steps up with R-specific cabin accents, gauges and sport seats. And because it's still a Golf, that means a ton of practicality as well, with plenty of space for passengers and cargo.

Ultimately, its pricing seems pretty high for a Volkswagen, but the Golf R really has to be driven to be fully appreciated. That's when it starts to exert a tug, when you start thinking of ways to make ownership possible, like selling those Apple shares or breaking into the kids' college funds.

What's New for 2017?

The Driver Assistance Package (adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation with autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert) is now standard. Lane departure warning, parking sensors (front and rear) and high beam control are also included when buying the DCC adaptive suspension and navigation package.

What We Like

Engaging turbocharged engine; handling, grip and traction enhanced by standard all-wheel drive; premium interior; highway champ

What We Don't

Pricey; not significantly faster than the GTI

How Much?

$36,475

Fuel Economy

A 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder makes 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard.

With the 6-speed manual transmission, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel consumption as 21 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined. With the 6-speed automated manual (called DSG; it works like a regular automatic but also offers the driver the choice of manual selection by using the shift lever or paddles mounted under the steering wheel), consumption is 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Volkswagen Golf R ($36,475) comes as one well-stocked model.

Standard equipment includes 18-in alloy wheels, keyless entry/push-button ignition, automatic headlights with LED running lights and taillights, rain-sensing wipers, leather-wrapped steering wheel/brake lever/shift knob, leather seating surfaces, dual-zone climate control, ambient cabin lighting with LED reading lights, leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, drive mode selection, rearview camera, Bluetooth, infotainment system with 6.5-in touchscreen, USB port, SD card slot, satellite radio and an 8-speaker audio system.

The DSG transmission costs another $1,100.

The adaptive suspension (DCC) and navigation bundle also brings 19-in alloy wheels, and a Fender-branded audio system upgrade.

Like other Golf hatchbacks, the R enjoys some of the most generous cargo space in its class: 22.8 cu ft behind the rear seats and 52.7 cu ft when those seats are folded down.

Safety

The Golf R comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, hill hold assist, and six airbags (front, front side, side curtain airbags). Post-collision braking is also standard and something of a Volkswagen specialty. In the event of a collision, it automatically applies the brakes to reduce the chance of a secondary impact. The adaptive cruise control doesn't work below 19 mph when paired with the manual transmission; it will bring the car to a complete stop if necessary when paired with the DSG transmission.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given the Golf R a maximum overall score of five stars; four for front impact protection and five for side impact protection.

The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 4-door regular Golf its highest rating of Good in every category and made it a Top Safety Pick+.

Behind the Wheel

The Golf R has excellent road manners to go with the muscle, along with a quiet cabin. And the all-wheel-drive system with the XDS electronic differential function makes a real difference when powering through the bends. Whereas the GTI sometimes wants to understeer wide of the intended course, the Golf R gives that familiar "invisible hand" sensation of all four wheels working to keep the car in line. The R is completely composed at high speeds and its upgraded brakes provide all-day stopping power without fade.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 BMW M240i xDrive -- Smaller and not quite as practical (although its trunk is pretty good at 13.8 cu ft), the M240i xDrive also has all-wheel drive and replaces the M235i. Horsepower goes up from 320 to 335 hp.

2017 Ford Focus RS -- The Focus is another compact hatchback with another world-class chassis. The full-on RS version beats the Golf R with 350 hp going to all four wheels. Anyone thinking about an R really has to check out the RS.

2017 Honda Civic Type-R -- All-new. Front-drive/manual transmission only. But 306 hp, limited-slip differential and 20-inch alloy wheels are all part of a recipe for sharp handling and sharp looks.

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLA45 -- Runs with 375 hp going to all four wheels. Slightly more of a crossover than a regular hatch and firmly in the $50,000 region.

2017 Mini Hardtop John Cooper Works -- Less expensive than a Golf R, smaller, less powerful (228 hp) and only front-wheel-driven. But one of the most entertaining rides around.

2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI -- Take a GTI for a spin to see if it works well enough. It has 220 hp and sprints from standstill to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. For many drivers, this is all perfectly fine.

Used BMW M3 -- For power, poise and prestige, there's nothing better.

Autotrader's Advice

This is an enthusiast's car, so consider staying with the manual transmission, and with the fewest bells and whistles possible. Then again, to those who want the absolute best Golf and can afford it -- dive in and enjoy.

Find a Volkswagen Golf R for sale

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Volkswagen Golf R: New Car Review - Autotrader