Volkswagen would never say it, but we reckon it’s a bit frightened by its new competition.
As we brace for hatches like the Hyundai i30 N, Honda Civic Type R, and incoming Renault Megane RS 280, it seems as if VW has scrambled to launch a counter attack with new technology, more variants, and smaller price tags.
That, of course, is great news for punters, as the Golf R has been reeled closer to their reach with the new bargain-focused Grid Edition. Like a Golf GTI Original, the thinking behind the Grid is to ditch any equipment deemed superfluous.
For a 2018 Golf R that happens to be leather seat trim, a newly introduced 9.2-inch digital instrument cluster, silver mirror covers, electric driver’s seat adjustment, seat heating, and a passenger’s seat under-drawer. They’re replaced by Alcantara seat trim, a good ol’ analogue cluster, and black mirror covers.
Lead foots can breathe a sigh of relief, though, that programmable adaptive suspension is carried over. It rides as good as anything less than $100K and can inject racetrack-ready responses back into the suspension at the switch of a mode. Its gentle damping also means it clings to everything but the roughest of surfaces and you’d have to be doing a pretty rough job of it to make the thing understeer.
There’s also the same 2.0-litre EA888 with 213kW and 380Nm, backed by an all-wheel drive system spinning four 235mm-wide tread patches. It’s a versatile unit that rarely feels strained, punching hard in its top end; however, we reckon its grip levels are crying out for Europe’s full-fat 228kW and 400Nm tune.
We know from experience a dual-clutch ’box makes the Golf R a genuine 12.0sec car, but there’s no shame in opting for the manual. For one, it’s a sweet device that’s leisurely weighted and matched with a great clutch feel. There are more direct shifts out there, but that’s quickly forgotten when you remember how much this thing costs.
Remarkably, the absence of a few luxury touches slashes the Golf R’s price by $5500, driving down the six-speed manual transmission car’s price to $47,990 and the seven-speed DSG variant’s to $49,990.
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Despite this drop the interior doesn’t feel particularly budget. Alcantara seat inserts lift the interior’s ambience while the recently introduced 8.0-inch infotainment keeps tech levels high. The GTI Original’s three-door body and passive dampers would drop its price and weight again, making us wonder ‘what if?’ But it’s hard to complain. This is as good as it gets for an all-rounder right now.
2018 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF R GRID EDITION SPECS:
Engine: 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 213kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 380Nm @ 1850-5300rpm
0-100km/h: 5.0sec (claimed)
Price: $47,990 (manual)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Like: Sleek looks; arresting price; polished dynamics; punchy engine; plenty of kit
Dislike: Heavy steering in Race; detuned engine; there are more thrilling hatches out there