Volkswagen Golf R Hits all the Right Notes

It’s more than just a super sports car.

Wynter Murdoch
Golf R

With extra power under its bonnet and the pipes of a four-bore, performance exhaust system protruding from its rear, the latest version of the hottest Golf in Volkswagen’s line-up hits all the right notes. Wynter Murdoch reports


You’re likely to hear Volkswagen’s latest Golf R coming long before you see it. The sound emitted by the vehicle’s Akrapovic-made, R Performance Titanium exhaust system is deeply thunderous, authoritative and distinctive – especially if the car is being driven in Race mode.


By contrast, the exhaust note emitted by the previous version of the model – which also featured a four-bore stack – tended to sound muffled, its tenor lacking vitality and crispness. So, it’s fitting that Volkswagen has decided to offer the new system as an option for what company spokesmen describe as the most powerful Golf ever sold in South Africa.


With an extra 15kW of power and 20Nm of torque available from the turbocharged, four-cylinder, 2,0-litre engine – bringing the unit’s output into line with those of models sold in Europe – the facelifted R delivers 228kW and 400Nm, enough to propel it from standstill to 100km/h in 4,6 seconds, according to Volkswagen’s claims. 


Transmission is through a fast shifting, seven-speed DSG gearbox that incorporates launch control, with drive to all wheels. Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.


Viewing the car from the outside, you’d be hard-pressed to believe it’s capable of those performance figures. Though sporty, looks remain understated despite R specific bumpers, latest LED headlights and tail lights, mirrors caps finished in matt chrome – or, optionally, carbon fibre – and discreet R badging. 


However, there are some clues to the derivative’s go-faster credentials: Low-profile tyres wrapped around 19-inch alloy rims – the wheels feature a Spielberg design as standard, a metallic grey Pretoria equivalent as an option – and, at the rear, the protruding pairs of Akrapovic tailpipes, each bank positioned towards the Golf’s outer extremities to help to emphasise width. 


That said, perhaps the understated looks are intentional, for the R provides remarkably easy real-world drivability which, in my view, makes it eligible to cater to a variety of motoring tastes. 


For instance, the all-wheel-drive system makes power easy to harness and adds stability in wet weather; suspension can be adjusted for comfort rather than performance thanks to optional adaptive dampers; the gearbox operates super-smoothly whether going up or down the cogs; steering is well-weighted and accurate; brakes are easy to modulate and the bolstered seats are well designed – supportive but not confining.


Further, noise from tyres and wind is minimal, especially when compared with other high-powered sport compacts. And the interior is well appointed and luxuriously fitted, with Nappa leather, soft-touch plastics and plush carpets dominating a spacious, light and airy cabin. Oh yes, and if you don’t like the noise the exhaust makes, you can dial down the volume to a point which makes the sound barely audible.


What’s more, the R’s performance orientation doesn’t curtail its practicality. Thanks to wide doors and a well-construed seat height, the car is easy to get into and out of. Utility space rivals that of small SUVs thanks to folding rear seat backs. And the view from the driver’s seat – whether looking forwards or backwards – is good, too.


Volkswagen’s spokesmen claim the seventh generation R continues set benchmarks for driver assistance systems in the compact class, employing technologies that significantly improve safety. These include an optional Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert as well as Adaptive Cruise Control with Front Assist and Autonomous Emergency Braking.


Standard features include an Active Info Display – the 9,2-inch Discover Pro version with gesture control is an option – a panoramic sunroof and a drive profile selection which incorporates a Sport Human Machine Interface (HMI). The infotainment unit features high-definition graphics which complement an easy-to-operate interface. Connectivity potential is state of the art. 


Ahead of the driver, gauges are of the digital variety, set in an instrument cluster that is sharp, attractive and easy to read. In all, the model’s blend of performance, luxury, dynamic ability and comfort make it one of the most alluring prospects in South Africa’s hot hatch segment.


It’s more than just a super sports car – it’s a practical, refined commuter, a vehicle that makes you appreciate and enjoy the benefits of top quality engineering. Incidentally, since the launch of the seventh generation Golf model range in 2013, performance derivatives such as the GTI, GTD and R have comprised more than 45% of all Golf sales in South Africa, underlining the popularity of the models.



  • Volkswagen Golf R 228kW DSG: R676 500

The vehicle is sold with a five-year/90 000km Service Plan, a  three-year/120 000km warranty and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. Service intervals are 15 000km.