These days, it is not very hard to find yourself on a track, and contrary to popular belief, creating a track weapon is not as costly as many presume. Diehard gearheads build complete race cars out of previously-loved vehicles by completely gutting them and fine tuning to maximize performance and heighten the level of fun. While that leg of the journey is fun in itself, there some that choose to skip the build and buy a car from the factory that was purpose-built to be the best of both worlds. This is where the battle of commuter rockets began.
What can manufacturers create, that will provide the thrill of speed with the character of a road car? Ford just about nailed it on the head with the release of the Focus RS (reviewed here), a toy that will destroy most that go up against it. With track dominance comes a lack of real-world comfort. Volkswagen, on the other hand, offers something just short of a miracle. They have created a hot hatch that is both stellar on the track, and is just as much fun on the street. The 2017 Volkswagen Golf R combines racing dynamics with everyday sensibility in a seamless dance with full intention of giving you goosebumps every step of the way.
The last Golf R, the Mk6, left enthusiasts and potential buyers wanting more. The Mk6 was, and still is a highly sought-after car. Low mileage examples will still run buyers upwards of $30,000 and that’s if you can find one. In our current market, finding a hot hatch with a manual transmission and all-wheel-drive is almost unheard of, which is part of the reason why it will hold its value. As we fast forward into the present, the current car is taking the market by storm as quite possibly the best affordable sporty car money can buy.
When considering the number of different things that makes the car so appealing, we must first look what is under the hood. The inline four-cylinder turbocharged engine produces 292 horsepower at 5,400RPM and 280 lb-ft of torque at only 1,900RPM. What’s nice about the R is that when you want power, the turbo is always ready to spool-up almost instantly with little to no lag. As earlier mentioned, the Golf R does come standard with Volkswagen’s 4MOTION all-wheel-drive.
Buyers have the option of a six-speed manual transmission or a dual-clutch (DSG) system. While many purists will insist on opting for the manual, the DSG is not only faster, it offers one hell of a launch control system. Activating the launch control is as simple as it gets. Set the DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control) into “Race” and ensure that traction control is turned off. Once these steps are completed, press down on the brake pedal and hit the accelerator. The car will hold the revs at 4000RPM; let go and you’re ready to get to 100 km/h in under five seconds. The amount of grip this car has is just sensational, both during acceleration and around corners.
As a daily commuter, the Golf R performs rather well. Whereas the Focus RS has very stiff suspension that lets you feel every bump in the road, the Golf R is more forgiving and will save your back from harsher surfaces. Though the R does perform very well in many areas, it does have some shortcomings. The most prominent is the synthetic engine noise that is blasted into the cabin through the speakers. This does make the car sound more aggressive, and it is pretty exciting for the first little while.
The problem becomes more prominent the longer you drive, for several reasons. The vibrations created by the drone inside the cabin cause some components in the dashboard to rattle. The car would benefit from a genuine note from the actual exhaust rather than through a synthetic audio program. Many owners are turning to third-party modifications that disable the synthetic sound, which helps quiet down the cabin and makes the actual engine sound more authentic.
Our test vehicle was optioned with the DSG transmission. Whether you’re shifting up or cycling down gears, the gearbox is very responsive to commands. While cruising at 100km/h, the car holds at its revs at roughly 2,600RPM, which as we all know, increases fuel consumption. The factory rates the R at 10.9L/100km city and 7.7L/100km highway. After our real world test we managed to get the car to 11.0L/100km. This rating seems a little more realistic considering most owners will not be able to resist the temptation of spirited driving.
The aggressive nature of the Golf R commands some aggressive styling cues. The front bumper sports some large air intakes and lights comprised of LED daytime running lights and bi-xenon headlamps unique to the R. The rear end is where the certainty of an R comes into fruition, with signature chrome quad exhaust tips and a sport diffuser that truly encompass the sporty nature of this car.
One thing that the Canadian market unfortunately does not receive are the LED taillights that are found on European models. The colour options for the R are rather limited, with some vibrant choices. Our car was dressed in the subtle Limestone Grey Metallic, perfect for those looking to fly under the radar. The 19” Pretoria rims were at one point on available on the European cars, though Canadian cars can now be optioned with them as of mid-2016 as a welcomed upgrade from the dated Cadiz rims from VW.
The five-door Golf R has a starting price of $42,095. At this price, buyers can expect standard equipment to include a 6.5” touchscreen display with satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity, also incorporating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A Driving Profile Selection program allows drivers to personalize driving characteristics of the car with three preset modes (Comfort, Normal, Race). Other standard features include a review camera, keyless entry with push-button start, and Dynamic Chassis Control.
The Top Sport racing-inspired bucket sets embroidered with the unique “R” do a good job holding passengers in place when taking a bend. When adding the Technology Package ($1,795), the 6.5” touchscreen gets upgraded to a larger 8” display with proximity sensor. This package also adds safety features like Front Assist with automatic emergency braking and Park Distance Control. After all is said and done, the as tested price of our Golf R comes to $44,020 the Tech Package. The 2017 Volkswagen Golf R is the perfect combination between daily driver and track weapon, and it may be the best option if buying a new toy for under $50,000.