$50-100K: Volkswagen Golf R #4

Master of all trades

Volkswagen Golf R

God, this thing just gets better every year, doesn’t it. You drive a front-wheel-drive Golf GTi (even the Performance version with that tricky diff) and you wonder if you need the all-paw R in the first place. And then you go and drive a Golf R. And the answer is simple: Oh yes you do.

The biggest surprise for me was that some of the numpties along for the BFYB ride this year preferred other stuff – like the Audi TT, for one – over the Golf R.

This is a bit like saying: Mila Kunis is okay, but I can’t go past the excellence of Rosie O’Donnell’s housekeeping. Spare me. Now, I know the Golf R only finished fourth in its price category, but even a quick drive will start to make you think that that’s a bit harsh.

For a start, the R is quick in a straight line. Sub-five-seconds for the 0-100 dash and 13.2 over the 400m aint waiting for the kettle to boil. And yet, the lap-time at Winton was a distinctly mid-field 1.01:6. So what gives?

Volkswagen Golf R driving rear

Corner speed, kids, and for whatever reason, the Golf R just didn’t hustle as hard once you had the lock wound on. In fact, though the sweeper, the VW was mid-pack with a 106km/h V-max. But slower turns were its real problem and at the patience-is-a-virtue Turn Nine, the R was down to a piddling 47.5 kliks…stone motherless last.

So there’s your problem. It could be something to do with the all-wheel-drive wanting to make the front-end wash a bit wide at times, but only Luffy would be able to tell you that. And, in fact, that’s a very valid point: For anybody with mortal-ish skills, the Golf R would probably be faster than just about everything else here, purely because it’s so confidence inspiring and otherwise balanced.

And let’s talk just for a moment about how the thing feels, because for X-factor (which doesn’t come into BFYB reckoning) the Golf R had things kicked to bits.

Not only does it give the impression that it has boundless grip, it’s also super stiff corner-to-corner and that gives it great feedback through the driver’s perch. That said, those same spring and damper rates also make it ride a bit sharpish and this is one car you wouldn’t take near the kerbs on a wet track.

Volkswagen Golf R sideLess happy is the way the gearbox doesn’t give you full over-ride (unless you stay out of the kick-down zone on the throttle).

But here’s the real reason the Golf R is a brilliant bit of kit: Instead of naming the most aggressive electronic setting something nebulous like ‘Dynamic’ or ‘Sport Plus’, Volkswagen has done the right thing by tappetheads everywhere and called it ‘Race”. Brilliant.

0-100km/h – 4.95sec (4th)
0-400m – 13.24sec @ 168.10km/h (4th)
Lap time – 1:41.6sec (=5th)

Overall Scoring

Bang Index – 98.4
Price - $55,240
Bucks Index – 120.3
BFYB Index – 162.9

Judges’ Rankings

Campbell 3rd – “Love how this thing fires up. Press a button, goes from mellow to monster.”

Morley 3rd – “Utterly resolved, beautifully done.”

Newman 4th – “Very difficult to fault, but stronger opposition this year.”

Spinks 2nd – “Now this is how a flagship Golf should drive.”

Luffy 3rd – “An easy car to drive on the limit, but the biggest thing that lets it down is the electronics in the gearbox. Even in full manual mode it wants to upshift and won’t downshift when you want it to, which tends to hurt it up in the tight stuff. It’s good on the change of direction and has a great chassis.”


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