Ordinarily, shipping us a BFYB car with a conventional manual gearbox when the thing is also offered with a sharp-shifting DSG would be a hiding to nowhere. But maybe not this time, in the case of the VW Golf R Grid.
This track review was carried out in conjunction with MOTOR's Bang For Your Bucks 2018
See, what the conventional six-speed manual lacks in shift-speed, it almost certainly makes up for in entertainment value, and there wasn’t a judge here who wasn’t glad to see a Golf R with three pedals.
In fact, if this year’s Bang was anything to go by, we could be seeing the return of the clutch pedal. Although this sadly isn’t the case for the front-drive GTI range as it’s set to go DSG-only in the future.
As it turned out the Grid’s 0-100 time wasn’t too badly distorted by having to operate a clutch and 5.6 seconds is a good result. Even better was the 400m time of 13.6 which, if you ignore the time of the ballistic Audi, is right up there at the pointy end. Okay, so that’s all-wheel drive for you, even if the corner speed average at Winton was a bit less impressive.
What’s going on? Hard to know, because the Grid deal is really just a smaller infotainment screen and a delete of the leather seats. It’s still got the same 213kW tune of the other Golf R, but for some reason, this particular car felt like it had a driveline that was simply a better match for its chassis.
Yes, the 2.0-litre turbo-mill has always been a cracker, but now it just seems even fatter and it’s never in any danger of quitting on you.
Again, yes, the Focus feels fitter (and it is) but you’d never call the Golf R a slacker. And with the manual gearbox with which to keep flogging it along, it’s about as much fun as a Golf has ever been.
MOTOR Comparison: Golf R v Focus RS v WRX STI
And that’s the key, really – the Grid is bulk fun. Even if it’s not going to stay with the Focus (and it won’t, based purely on the numbers for which BFYB is so rightly infamous) it will still be making you laugh lap after lap. Need proof? Okay, so the Nissan 370Z and the Peugeot 308 were both faster around Winton. In fact, almost 3.0sec and 1.5sec faster respectively. But neither of those car was anywhere near as much thigh-slapping fun as the Golf R.
In fact, both the Nissan and the Pug only outgunned the Grid on the basis of superior stomp and when nobody’s grizzling about the Golf’s urge in the first place, can it not be said that enough is enough? Especially if it means more smiles-per-hour anyway?
In the end, it comes down to the way the car interfaces with you rather than simply its clinical abilities. The Golf has beautifully weighted steering, for instance, with enough feel to remind you that, really, nobody does electric power-steer as well as the VAG. The Grid sounds good, the seats are lovely and there’s just enough tail-out action – if you’re game – to keep you entertained without getting you in too deep.
Fact is, we’ve often driven Golf Rs and GTIs back-to-back and wondered out loud if maybe the purity of the GTI’s execution would get it over the line against its big bro. But this time, even though it was predictably grippier than the GTI, the Grid in R spec just seems like a double helping of that concept.
Balance is a word used a lot at times like these, but often it’s to paper over a shortfall in some area or other. But in the case of the Golf R Grid, ‘balance’ is still entirely appropriate, yet it doesn’t infer the same apology. Not a bit.
Getting your money's worth on Bang For Your Bucks 2018
Volkswagen Golf R Grid Edition BFYB 2018 Results - 3rd place
0-100km/h: 5.61sec (6th)
0-400m: 13.62sec @ 170.31km/h (6th)
Lap Time: 1:39.80sec (7th)
Bang Index: 152.0
Bucks Index: 105.8
BFYB Index: 131.2
Warren Luff - 5th
“The R Grid Edition takes the fundamentals that make the GTI so great and simply adds to it again. It’s got all the things you want to have on your wish list in one car. You can definitely feel the difference with the adaptive dampers as you can trail brake and get a bit of looseness in the rear. VW has given it back a bit of liveliness and character that it always had. You’ve got to be smooth to get the most out of it, but it’s a 10 out of 10 for fun factor.”
David Morley - 3rd
“Manual gearbox returns to hero’s welcome”
Dylan Campbell - 5th
“The best ‘car’ here. What is the Golf R not good at?”
Scott Newman - 3rd
“Most don’t realise just how good this car is. Shame on them”
Louis Cordony - 5th
“Amazing all-rounder, but can’t help wanting its oily bits under a lighter three-door bodyshell”
2018 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF R GRID EDITION
BODY: 5-door, 5-seat hatch
ENGINE: 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
BORE/STROKE: 82.5mm x 92.8mm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 9.6:1
POWER: 213kW @ 6000rpm
TORQUE: 380Nm @ 1850-5300rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
SUSPENSION: struts, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f); A-arms, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
BRAKES: 340mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (f); 310mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (r)
WHEELS: 19.0 x 8.0-inch (f/r)
TYRES: Pirelli P Zero; 235/35 R19 (f/r)
Bang For Your Bucks 2018
The Contenders, Judges & Criteria
15 of the hottest new fast cars under $100K roll up to take on our famous formula. Which will be number 1?