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Golf R: The Holy Grail

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Published on Sat, Mar 26, 2016

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2016 Volkswagen Golf R

Evil Genius? Volkswagen is reeling from the revelations of Dieselgate—the admission that its 2009-2015 four-cylinder Clean Diesels incorporate software that allows the vehicles to pollute up to 40 times the permitted limit under driving conditions, and simultaneously keeping the cars compliant under emissions testing conditions. While the general public has expressed outrage, the diehard VW aficionados have taken a different perspective. “Is what they did a really bad thing or a stroke of evil genius?,” says a member of the automotive forum VWVortex. “This all kind of reminds me of the antics around F1. So many little tricks to gain a small advantage…I am not endorsing what VW did but let’s hear the whole story before we pass judgment.” Another Vortexer chimes in, “Well, I remember back in the mid 70s removing emission equipment from cars. The fact that VW did it for me makes me want another one! …Love the switch they installed!” “The fact is, in states that don’t have to pass an annual inspection, these cars will sell like hotcakes …due to the fact that they are incredibly reliable vehicles, which get insanely high amounts of mileage,” points out another member of the forum. “…I’m looking forward to the sub-economy that is created in the wake of this scandal. And yes, VW will bounce back. I’m ready to put my own money on it.” While Volkswagen ranks 16th in USA automotive sales, VWVortex is the most popular automotive forum by most accounts. It’s a reflection of how deep the dedication runs for many VW fans.

Golf R

The holy grail of Volkswagens

The Holy Grail To appreciate this deep dedication, we spend some time with the car the fan base regards as the holy grail of VWs: The R. We are referring to the Volkswagen Golf R. Sometimes called the GTI on steroids, the R takes the GTI, lowers it another 0.2 inch, borrows the powertrain from the Audi S3, adds a 4Motion all-wheel drive system with fifth-generation Haldex coupling, and a host of other features that separate the R from the lesser Golf models. New for 2016 is a manual transmission model that enters the price stream at $35,650. Visually, the Golf R does not scream “look at me”. On the contrary, it takes a careful eye to spot the R—the lower stance, the 18/19-inch wheels, the front air dam, and the quad exhaust tips out back. In some ways, it’s less ostentatious than the GTI, lacking the latter’s red pin-striping and (non-functional) front gills. Viscerally, the R seems more naughty than the GTI. The suspension feels stiffer, the tires are less compliant, and you notice the irregularities of the road more than in the GTI. The power of the R’s engine, while clearly more abundant than the GTI, is delivered in a less linear fashion—i.e., the turbo lag is noticeable. The sound coming from the exhaust is certainly less polite.


From the side, only the wheels and microscopic R badge give away the identity.

In return, you get an all-wheel drive car that goes quicker and flatter around corners, as well as in a straight line. Fitted with the DSG transmission and engaging launch control, the Golf R is estimated to take you from zero to 60 miles per hour in about 4.7 seconds. To put this into perspective, that’s quicker than a mid-1960s 427 Ford with the dual-carb 425 horsepower V8 engine. That 427 Ford would get you less than 10 miles per gallon. The Golf R is powered by a four-cylinder engine with an EPA fuel economy rating of 31 miles per gallon (highway). Still, for most enthusiast-minded car people, the GTI represents the more practical choice. For about $10,000 less, you get a car that’s plenty fast, exhibits virtually no turbo lag, handles better than 95 percent of the cars on the road, rides more comfortably, and has almost all the creature comforts and fit-and-finish of the Golf R. On the other hand, there are countless GTI owners who end up lowering and stiffing the suspension, upgrading the turbo, and changing the stock wheels to larger and wider varieties. One can easily end up spending the difference between the GTI and the R. For those of you that are likely to go this route with a GTI, why not just get the Golf R? It’s like getting the GTI, having it further hot-rodded by the factory from the ground up, dialing in all-wheel drive, and having the street cred and resale value that few aftermarket GTIs can match. Volkswagen’s future with “Clean Diesel” may be in question, but the fan base for its performance line looks to be pretty solid. We can report that all is well with the holy grail of VW performance cars. - Roy Nakano


The view from within the R.

For more information about Volkswagen products, go to SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2015/2016 Volkswagen Golf R Price: $35,650 (2016 base manual) $37,895 (2016 manual $37,415 (2015 base DSG-transmission R) $39,090 (as tested, 2015 & 2016 DSG-transmission R with Dynamic Chassis Control, Discover Media touchscreen navigation system and 19-inch Cadiz wheels) EPA fuel economy rating (miles per gallon): 22 city/31 highway Engine: 2.0 liter TSI DOHC 16-valve turbocharged four-cylinder engine with direct injection Horsepower: 292 at 5900 rpm Torque: 280 at 1800 rpm Transmission: 6-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic with paddle shifters and programmable modes Steering: Progressive variable-ratio Servotronic electro-mechanical power steering Drive configuration: 4Motion all-wheel drive system with fifth-generation Haldex coupling Suspension Adaptive four-wheel independent suspension with four-mode Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) and XDS+ Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) Brakes: All-wheel vented discs brakes with R logo on front calipers Wheels and tires: 19-inch Cadiz alloy wheels with 225/35R-19 summer performance tires Dimensions Length: 167.9 inches Width: 70.8 inches Height: 56.5 inches Curb weight: 3340 pounds ””

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