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VW Golf R Special Edition track review: 7th place, Bang For Your Bucks 2019

By Louis Cordony, 28 Jul 2019 Best Value Performance Cars

2019 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition track review

Special it is, cheap it ain’t, and that’s the problem

Volkswagen has built many fast Golfs in limited numbers to spike sales during model lifecycles and last year at BFYB it deployed the cut-price Golf R Grid Edition.

This track review was carried out in conjunction with MOTOR's Bang For Your Bucks 2019

As you can imagine, a discounted all-wheel drive turbo hottie, with all the usual dynamic polish we expect from a performance Golf, did pretty well. It snatched third. But for this year the Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition lobbed and tried to decode the formula from another direction.

2019 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition performance
Instead of slashing its price by fitting lesser equipment, Volkswagen fits choice bits from its Performance Options catalogue for a small premium. The upgrades include the same Pretoria 19-inch alloys used on the GTI Clubsport S, the car which conquered the Nürburgring Nordschleife front-drive record for a brief moment. They’re 1kg lighter each.

Next are the brakes. Again, they’re from the Clubsport S, and the discs are now cross-drilled, to shed heat more effectively, while better pads and a ‘composite’ construction help the entire system drop 2kg. But the real gain comes from the Akrapovic titanium exhaust. The active unit saves 7kg compared to the car’s stock system while adding a great dose of aggression to its aural character.

Drivetrain wise, the R is now an automatic-only affair. That turbo 2.0-litre inline four still makes 213kW/380Nm and pulls cleanly from early in the rev range accompanied by a concentrated rorty note.

MOTOR comparison: Golf R v Focus RS v WRX STI

2019 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition gearshifter

Inside the car you’re somewhat insulated from its slightly raspier noise, but pluck a gear to upshift and it sounds as if the exhaust tips blast straight into the cabin when the spark cuts.

It’s also still a crushingly effective car on track. Adaptive dampers and all-wheel drive give it ultimate stability and surefooted handling.

Europeans can option Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s on their Rs, however ours come with standard Continental ContiSportContact 5Ps. They clung to a wet Winton track and yet easily wriggled into oversteer. As always, though, it felt fastest when driven cleanly.

2019 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition handling

We felt, especially in the wet, that the all-wheel drive system was driving it through the tight ‘boobs’ of Winton from the rear-axle, freeing the front tyres to guide its nose along your intended line. It’s no wonder that it was the only car outside the top two that scored so consistently with the judges.

Where it all comes undone for the Special Edition is, as mentioned, price. The car’s position as the performance Golf ‘with the lot’ means a new audio system and extra active safety systems not only add weight – after its aforementioned diet – but also jack the price $4800 above a standard example.

So, while it’s the top ‘dawg’ in its own kennel, that’s not the case here.

Where price meets performance on Bang For Your Bucks 2019

Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition BFYB 2019 Results - 7th place

2019 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition results

0-100km/h: 4.8sec 
0-400m: N/A
Price: $61,990
Bang Index: 125.5
Bucks Index: 84.1
BFYB Index: 104.8

Bang For Your Bucks 2019 Judges' Comments

2019 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition R badge

Campbell - 4th
“Initially single-minded MkVII Golf R has evolved into something highly desirable.“

Cordony - =3rd
“The Porsche 911 Turbo of hot hatches.”

Morley - 3rd
“If you buy a lesser VW and value contentment, don’t ever drive this thing.”

Scott Newman - 4th
“Special Edition hurts the value equation but adds welcome aggro.”

Luffy - 3rd
“The R had really good grip and drivability considering the conditions. If you trail brake on entry, you can really get the back end to slide nicely. It’s a fun car and felt really sure-footed underneath. But like on the GTI, the paddleshift lacks feel or sportiness; it feels more PlayStation than VW Golf. However, it is the Golf to go to if you are looking for the best Volkswagen, offering more than the
Polo and GTI do.”

2019 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition specifications

BODY: 5-door, 5-seat hatch
DRIVE: all-wheel
ENGINE: 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
BORE/STROKE: 82.5 x 92.8mm
POWER: 213kW @ 5400rpm
TORQUE: 380Nm @ 1850rpm
WEIGHT: 1450kg
POWER-TO-WEIGHT: 149kW/tonne
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch
SUSPENSION: struts, adaptive dampers, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); multi links, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
BRAKES: 340mm ventilated drilled discs, single-piston calipers (f); 310mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers(r)
WHEELS: 19.0 x 8.0-inch (f/r)
TYRES: Continental ContiSportContact 5P, 235/35 R19 (f/r) 
PRICE: $61,990

Bang For Your Bucks 2019

The Contenders, Judges & Criteria
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