ICE DRIVE: Volkswagen Golf R VII

John Carey samples the latest Volkswagen Golf R on a frozen Swedish lake.

Wheels magazine, motoring news, Wheels, Volkswagen Golf R, Haldex, ice driving

This should be Volkswagen’s greatest-ever hot hatch and in the cold the new Golf R certainly is superb. With all four of its studded-tyre shod wheels spitting ice crumbs, it’s an adept drifter on a deep-frozen lake in northern Sweden. As it’s based on the great Golf VII, the all-wheel-drive R’s basics are sound. But Arvidsjaur on a clear-skied, minus-15 degree morning isn’t the right environment to discover whether this car truly lives up to its promising pedigree.

After Arvidsjaur, we know the Volkswagen’s heater is life-savingly effective and its 2.0-litre turbo four has a nice, big-dog bark, but this icy playground isn’t the place to learn anything about the Golf R’s performance, brakes, handling, comfort or overall refinement.

Like other Golf VII models, the R is lighter – by 45 kg – than the car it replaces. Its engine is a development of Volkswagen’s latest-gen EA888 2.0-litre, with a new cylinder head, pistons, injectors and turbocharger explaining its 52 kW power increase – to 221kW – over the related engine in the Golf GTI Performance. Transmissions are a six-speed manual or six-speed double-clutch transmission, and drive to the rear wheels is handled by the latest, fifth-gen version of Haldex’s familiar coupling clutch.

Exterior modifications are on the subtle side, while the interior has excellent sports seats and blue-needled instruments. While the Golf R is to be produced in three- and five-door forms, only the latter will be exported to Australia. Both transmissions are to be offered. The Golf R’s Australian launch is scheduled for April, and pricing is yet to be fixed, but is likely below $55,000.

The Swedish message is that the Golf R shows promise of being worthy of its price tag. And after driving it on normal tyres on a normal road, we’ll let you know if our suspicions of greatness are confirmed… or not.


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