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Buy the new Volkswagen Golf R or get a used Porsche Macan S

By Trent Giunco, 18 Oct 2019 Advice

Buy the new Volkswagen Golf R or get a used Porsche Macan S

Would you rather a competent and capable hot hatch or an SUV with performance and practicality?

You can now buy a used Macan S for roughly the same price as a new Volkswagen Golf R. However, can the Porsche be a hot hatch on stilts, or is the venerable Golf really all the car you’ll ever need?

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF R

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is a very good thing. As an all-rounder, it’s hard to go past. So much so, that some see little point in gaining drive to the rear wheels, adding 33kW of grunt and slapping an R badge onto a Golf’s rump. The EA888 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo might not sound the same as the creamy V6 in the R32 of old, but with 213kW and 380Nm (from just 1850rpm), it’s a rapid little thing. Plus, traction is rarely an issue with the Haldex-based all-wheel drive system.

Despite its relatively demure exterior, the R knows how to have fun. And crucial to that is the fact you can turn the ESC completely off. Additionally, Volkswagen claims 100 percent of torque can be distributed forward or aft under severe provocation, while the wet-clutch seven-speed DSG keeps things on the boil.

Dynamically you can induce rear movement under brakes to keep things interesting, yet it’s also easy to access an inherent neutral balance. There’s an enjoyable compliance to the suspension tune and overall, the R covers ground at an astounding rate while never making you feel uncomfortable. Although a proper mechanical front diff would make the experience even better.

Inside the cabin is another area where the Golf package shines. It’s a premium place to be with plenty of infotainment firepower and door ‘thunks’ aplenty. The all-wheel-drive system cuts the boot space over a front-wheel-drive Golf by 37 litres to 340, but there’s a wagon version if you need more space. Overall, the R has adequate levels of cabin space for heads, knees and toes.

PORSCHE MACAN S

If Porsche decides to emblazon a car with its prestigious badge, we can assume it’s going to cut the mustard. Yet, even with that knowledge, when the German marque turned its hand to SUVs, well, let’s just say there was some bated breath. Hindsight proves there was nothing to worry about – especially with the smaller Macan. It genuinely puts the ‘Sports’ in SUV like few other offerings can.

Thanks to the depreciation gods, you can now get a Porsche Macan S for around the same price as a brand-new Golf R. For a circa $60,000 spend you’re afforded a 3.0-litre turbo V6 with 250kW and 480Nm. That translates to a 0-100km/h time of 5.4 seconds – or, more to the point, you’ll arrive at 100 klicks 0.6sec slower than the Golf R. The Macan still feels properly quick in the real world and the S can pile on speed quicker than it has any right to.

Despite weighing in at 1865kg and having a higher centre of gravity, the Porsche attacks corners with a level of finesse that warrants its performance cues. Body movements are well controlled and the brakes arrest the substantial speeds with aplomb. Taking control of the seven-speed PDK with the steering wheel-mounted paddles increases the engagement.

Inside, the S variant remains up to date in terms of tech, but current-generation Porsche interiors have dated the Macan’s dash. The centre console is littered with buttons, however, everything is clearly laid out. Overall space is more accommodating than the R, with enough room for adults to sit comfortably in the four main pews, while the driving position is nice and low for an SUV. The boot offers 500 litres of cargo capacity, which is significantly larger than the Golf.

Specs comparison

  VOLKSWAGEN GOLF R PORSCHE MACAN S
Price (new) $57,190   $95,500
Engine 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 2997cc V6, dohc, 24v, twin-turbo
Output 213kW/380Nm 250kW/460Nm
Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h 4.8sec (claimed) 5.4sec (claimed)
Efficiency (combined) 6.9L/100km 9.0L/100km
Drivetrain AWD AWD
Doors 5 5
Seats 5 5
Wheel size 19-inch 19-inch
Country of origin Germany Germany

Wheels staff picks


Trent Giunco
Staff Journalist

Initially I picked the Golf R straight away without even needing to think. However, it’s not that cut and dry, such is the Macan S’s competence as both a practical SUV and a performance offering. The divide is muddied further by the fact that the Golf R is now a DSG-only proposition. Having said that, the VeeDub hot hatch is still the winner for me as there’s something about its do-it-all nature I can’t ignore. And it’s far from placid, with an underlying cheeky character if you scratch beneath the surface. It’s also worth noting that the used Macan S is going to be out of warranty and I wouldn’t like to be facing an expensive repair bill should anything go wrong. It’s the Golf R for me, but I wouldn’t disagree with anyone who chose the Porsche.


Andy Enright
Deputy Editor

I’ve long had a bit of a soft spot for the Porsche Macan, but this is a really interesting comparison. That’s, largely because I’ve always rated the Porsche for the way it drives, not generally because of other more practical SUV-type things. The Macan has a bigger boot than the Golf (500L vs 380L) but the Golf counters with superior rear passenger space. And as good as the Macan S is on a challenging piece of road, the Golf R is better. In fact, on a twisty circuit like Hockenheim’s stadium section, a Golf R records a 1m14.5s lap whereas the Macan S’s punchier siblings, the Turbo and the GTS both log identical, 1m16.1s times. So the Porsche wouldn’t see which way the Golf had gone on any stretch of bitumen that involved steering. The Golf’s superior power-to-weight ratio, lower centre of gravity and superior braking abilities would soon see it dance away from the Porsche. With the latest 7.5 generation car, you don’t even lose anything in the way of cabin ambience to the far more expensive Porsche either. The badge cachet of the Macan is always going to be a tempter, but there’s just too much substance to the Golf to deny it this time round.


Cameron Kirby
Staff Journalist

For someone who just last week stood atop a soapbox declaring I’d buy a wagon over an equivalent SUV every day of the week, this is a harder choice than I first thought. It’s hatch vs SUV this time around, so I’ve got one excuse prepared already. Thing is, the Golf R just doesn’t thrill me. It’s competent and accomplished, but doesn’t have any real allure. While the Macan S isn’t exactly an object of desire either, the prospect of owning a Porsche is a tantalising one – it’s easy to understand why this is the most popular model in Porsche’s range. Being outside warranty is enough to warn me off for now though, and I’ll be throwing my cash towards the hatch.

 

Reckon we’ve got it right? Or are we way off the money (literally)? Find your best and let us know in the comments what you’d buy.