Volkswagen is getting more serious about its R Performance sub-brand, and the 2019 VW Golf R Special Edition is Australia’s first taste.
This hot hatch with ‘the lot’ is, essentially the same a standard Golf R with 213kW and 380Nm, Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive, and an interior to suit the tastes of those with the cash to pick one up.
But what said buyers will find is that this R has a little more character, even if it’s more in the bark than the bite.
A handmade Akropovic titanium exhaust, which saves 7kg compared to the R’s standard pipes, provides a more raucous soundtrack than is expected of VW’s otherwise ‘sleeper-like’ hot hatch.
It also scores the R Performance brake system with cross-drilled front discs and better pads, as well as Volkswagen’s fetching Pretoria 19-inch alloys. The brakes are around 2kg lighter than standard in total, while the Pretorias only weigh 9.6 each. That saves 1kg per corner.
The other major addition for the Special Edition is the Dynaudio Excite 400W audio system, which is a $1000 option for the standard R. The Special Edition costs an extra $5,500, coming to $61,990 all up.
At a very rainy Luddenham Raceway in Western Sydney, we had a chance to sample the Special Edition. While wet weather is generally not the preferred condition for testing a car, it gave the 4Motion system a chance to shine on the tight and winding track.
Continental Sport Contact 5P tyres and all-wheel drive do their best to improve traction rather successfully, though one particular off-camber turn at Luddenham provides ample opportunity to rotate the R with some gentle trail braking.
If driven smoothly and with considered inputs, traction control is altogether avoidable – even in the pouring.
On that note, the R Performance brakes didn’t appear to provide very noticeably stronger stopping power or staying ability than the standard R brakes (now on the MY19 GTI, driven the same day), though this could be down to everything being fresh and new on the day, and the relatively short amount of time they were used.
MOTOR first drive: 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI
The biggest selling point, we expect, will be the much more lively exhaust. High revs and gear changes now have a different character to the standard R, sounding more aggressive and louder than before. The Akrapovic’s trademark crackles shine through on the overrun.
Without fundamentally changing what the Golf R is, the Special Edition injects a little bit more fun into a car that is otherwise quite grown-up - and rather luxurious with its exquisite interior, for a hatch.
Unfortunately, only 400 of these versions are to be built, and with Australia being one of the world’s strongest market for R cars, we expect they won’t last a long time.
2019 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF R SPECIAL EDITION SPECS
Engine: 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 213kW @ 5400–6500rpm
Torque: 380Nm @ 1850-5300rpm
0-100km/h: 4.8sec (claimed)