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Volkswagen Golf R's poetry in 4Motion

Some hot hatches seem to look the part, but suffer from one basic problem: Too much hatch, not enough hot. Thankfully, there are no such worries with the new Golf R, which not only looks mean, but has enough performance to make you wonder about whether you really need to blow all that money on a proper sportscar.

Some hot hatches seem to look the part, but suffer from one basic problem: Too much hatch, not enough hot. Thankfully, there are no such worries with the new Golf R, which not only looks mean, but has enough performance to make you wonder about whether you really need to blow all that money on a proper sportscar.

It sits one notch above the formidable Golf GTI, lording over it with more power and Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system.

The engine has been tamed slightly for our tropical weather, but it’s still good for 280hp (European markets get a 300hp version). That’s a 60hp increase over the Golf GTI.

The Golf R’s engine is closely related to the GTI’s, but it has a redesigned cylinder head, new pistons and a different turbocharger.

 

Top Dog

 

To reflect its status, the Golf R has a front bumper with enormous air intakes, R-branded side sills and wing mirrors finished in satin silver. The LED lamps are lit with a double-U design and the rear features four tailpipes.

In case you’re the forgetful sort, the Golf R’s cabin is festooned with the R emblem of the VW subsidiary that engineered the car.

But it’s a sporty car to sit in, R lettering or not. The large, supportive seats are clad in Alcantara, and if it wasn’t wrapped in so much leather, the flat-bottomed steering wheel would look like it could have been nicked from a racing car.

The instruments have a cool blue glow to them and the speedometer tantalisingly reads up to 320kmh.

 

Taking on the tundra

 

VW had lower speeds planned for us, though, by letting us loose in the Golf R on one of Northern Sweden’s many frozen lakes.

Presumably the idea was to give us a taste of the car’s 4Motion system, which actively juggles how much of the engine’s power is sent to each axle. Make use of the Golf R’s basic agility and ability to make sharp changes of direction, and you can exploit the 4Motion on ice for lurid yet controllable powerslides.

The engine hits noticeably harder than in the GTI, too, and has a surprisingly bass-heavy rumble, particularly when you engage the car’s Race Mode. Doing so turns up the volume on the soundtrack and stiffens the suspension, but without turning the Golf R into a spine-jangling go-kart.

Interestingly, the Golf R is now the only Volkswagen in which the ESC (Electronic Stability Control) system can be fully switched off, “for professional driving on a race track”, said VW.

It may be a swift and well-appointed executive car that you can drive comfortably every day, in other words, but you’re meant to take it to the track now and then.

The 4Motion system should be handy there too, giving the car the traction to slingshot out of corners or letting you indulge in big tail slides.

Ultimately, the Golf R is one of those rare driving machines that seem to do it all for you, without being boring. As a hot hatch, it glows.

 

Volkswagen Golf R

Engine: 1,984cc 16V turbo in-line 4, 280hp & 380Nm

Performance: 250kmh, 0-100kmh 5.0s (estimated),6.9L/100km, 159g/km CO2

Price: TBA

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