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2022 Volkswagen Golf R: First Look

The new 2022 Volkswagen Golf R made its online debut today to the excitement or VW enthusiasts everywhere. The Golf R is the highest performing version of the VW Golf, and it looks mean and purposeful. You can think of the R as a VW Golf GTI that’s been to racing school.

This latest VW Golf R rides on the 8th generation Golf chassis which, like the 7th generation, uses VW’s MQB platform. So, it’s virtually the same size and uses some of the same parts as the old one. But the design is fresh, there’s more power, and there are big improvements in the chassis and electronics tuning. VW says this new Golf R can complete a lap of the famed Nürburgring racetrack in Germany in just 7 minutes and 51 seconds — 17 seconds quicker than the last Golf R and closing in on the blistering 7 minute and 43 second time set by the Honda Civic Type R.

Horsepower Bump

Under the new Golf R’s aggressively sloped hood is an upgraded version of the same turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter 4-cylinder as before. The company says it has been tuned to produce 315 horsepower — a significant bump of 27 horsepower over the previous-generation Golf R. And there’s a solid 310 lb-ft of torque available as a torque plateau from 2,100 rpm to 5,350 rpm. The Golf R channels this newfound power through either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch direct-shift gearbox (DSG). VW says the shift paddles on the DSG models were designed to allow for comfortable shifting no matter what position the steering wheel is in. That newfound power needed a brake upgrade, so there are big new 2-piston 14.1-inch diameter discs up front that use aluminum components to shave weight. The anti-lock braking system has been recalibrated so that you’ll have a firm pedal when the car is deep into hard braking.

Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive

Most Golf models make do with front-wheel drive. But the Golf R has always used all-wheel drive for improved traction. The 2022 Golf R carries on the tradition but makes a big technical leap. Like the previous generation R, this one uses VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. And VW says it can if needed, split torque equally to the front and rear wheels. But engineers have gone a step further by adding a torque-vectoring rear differential similar to ones used on more expensive Audi high-performance models. The differential uses two electronically controlled clutches, which can open and close within milliseconds to vary the torque distribution across the rear axle. This allows for locking capability as well as the ability to target just the right amount of wheel torque for a given situation. VW says this is particularly effective in a corner, where the system can feed-in extra torque to the outside rear wheel to improve handling poise. And speaking of traction, the Golf R wears big 235/35R19 tires.

Tuned Suspension

The new Golf R sits almost an inch lower than a standard Golf. And compared to the last Golf R, the engineering team altered the geometry of the MacPherson strut front suspension to improve grip. The spring and stabilizer bar rates are ten percent firmer, and VW revised the dampers too. The steering uses the same ratio and has around two turns from lock-to-lock. But the team developed new software algorithms to control the system so there’s more feedback coming up through the steering wheel to the driver’s hands. And that’s a very good thing.

“You can touch apexes as close as possible and feel the limit of the tire through the wheel,” says Benjamin Leuchter, VW Golf R Development Driver.

Electronic Sophistication

The Vehicle Dynamics Manager (VDM) is essentially the brains of the car. VW says that VDM controls all the car’s performance systems, including the dampers, throttle, all-wheel-drive system, and the torque-vectoring rear differential. There are pre-set modes or profiles to control all these functions — Sport, Comfort, Race, Individual, Special, and Drift. The first four are self-explanatory, and the car defaults to Sport at startup. Special is essentially a mode designed for the Nürburgring racetrack. Drift mode, as one might imagine, frees up the stability control as well as the torque-vectoring rear diff to let the driver slide the car around. VW is quick to mention that this mode is not to be used on a public road. And these modes can all be accessed through an “R” button on the steering wheel, so you never have to lift your eyes from the road.

Behind the Wheel

Climb inside and unlike Golf Rs of the past, you’ll be greeted with lots of screens. The gauge cluster is completely reconfigurable too. One of the coolest settings changes the tachometer from a round gauge to a linear one that flashes as you approach redline. And in both Drift mode and Special, the new Golf R will hold onto the gear you’ve selected and won’t upshift until you pull that paddle.

VW says the 5-door 2022 Golf R will arrive fully loaded when it hits our dealers about a year from now in just three colors (blue, black, and white) and carry a sticker price close to the last one. We expect it to start just north of $41,000. Find a Volkswagen Golf R for sale

Ben Stewart
Ben Stewart
Ben Stewart is an author specializing in automotive testing and technology. He has a unique perspective—as a lifelong 4WD enthusiast Ben has driven just about every production 4X4 on road and off for the last 20 years. But his expertise and experience goes deeper. Ben has had the opportunity to drive and report on a wide variety of vehicles ranging from pre-production fuel cell cars to... Read More about Ben Stewart

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