2015 Volkswagen Golf R Euro-Spec First Test
A Rocket for Bigger, Deeper Pockets
Not content to tease us with forbidden fruit from afar, European automakers including Volkswagen occasionally ship said fruit over to our shores just long enough to get us hooked on the sweet, sweet taste of it. Such is the case before us, wherein Volkswagen USA phoned us one day to say its engineering team had a Euro-spec Golf R in for some testing, and would we like to test it?
The answer to that question is always yes. Never mind we'd have the car for only two days. Never mind that in that time we'd need to test it, photograph it, and oh yeah, drive it a bit. You just don't say no when you get an offer like this.
It's a good thing we didn't say no, because we'd have been missing out. As you read in our First Drive, during which Rory Jurnecka walked you through driving a 2015 Volkswagen Golf R on ice, the new king of the Golf course is a riot. It has a ton more power, all-wheel drive, a brake-based torque vectoring system, and you can buy one with three pedals. And did I mention you can turn the stability control off? That's a big deal for a Volkswagen.
In fact, it was one of the chief complaints against the last Golf R. That car was smaller in length and height (by several inches in the former), but weighed 103 pounds more than the new Golf R, with an ever-so-slightly more forward-biased weight distribution (60 percent to 59 percent). The old car didn't have torque vectoring, either, and it made do with 256 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. The new car rocks 290 hp and 280 lb-ft, officially. It'll probably cost more, too, but we don't know how much yet. The old car stickered at just under $35,000.
More power and less weight make for a quicker car, but you'd be surprised how much quicker. The new Golf R, with manual transmission, needed just 4.9 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start. The old car needed a comparatively lazy 5.8 seconds. The old R needed 14.2 seconds to finish a standing quarter-mile and crossed the line at 97.9 mph. The new R does it in 13.5 seconds at 101.3 mph.
The new R does other things better than the old car, too. Stopping, for example. The new car stops from 60 mph in just 104 feet. The old car needed 128. The old car pulled 0.89 g average on the skid pad. The new car pulled 0.97 g average. The old car took 26.5 seconds to lap our figure-eight course and average 0.69 g doing it. The new car took just 25.0 seconds to do the same and pulled 0.77 g average all the while. Some of those numbers the new car put down would've been supercar numbers earlier this century.
The new R isn't just better than the old R, either. It is, as you would expect, better than the new 2015 Golf GTI as well, though not by as much. In a straight line, the R has it, no contest. The manual transmission GTI needed 5.7 seconds to hit 60 mph and 14.2 seconds to run the quarter-mile, trapping at 99.9 mph. Stopping, though, was the 199-pound lighter GTI's game. It needed just 100 feet to stop from 60 mph. The GTI was also nearly as good as the R going around curves, pulling 0.96 g average on the skid pad and running the figure eight track in 25.1 seconds at 0.76 g average.
How does it drive, though? Unfortunately, a thorough and proper real-world driving evaluation is going to have to wait until we get the car back, as the short schedule left virtually no time for spirited driving. From the test track, we can tell you that the Golf R shows tremendous grip and, at the handling limit, will begin to understeer slightly. Lifting off the throttle will bring the nose back inline rather than send the tail out. The car rewards a bit of patience, waiting to apply throttle until the right moment as the steering wheel begins to unwind. Then you get maximum corner exit speed.
Around town, we can tell you that the Golf R's heavily turbocharged engine lags noticeably under 2000 rpm as you laze along, conserving gas. Once peak torque comes on at around 1800 rpm, though, it's on. The Golf R has tremendous power for such a small, practical car. Passing just about anything is a breeze. Power remains strong through the midrange, then tapers off above 5000 rpm. Short-shifting is encouraged to keep it in the thick of the power band, especially if you're at the drag strip.
Also quick is the steering, which turns the car into the corner crisply with no slop in the wheel. Slow hands and deliberate movements reign here. Same goes for the throttle and brake, the former of which can be made quite sensitive by putting the car in "Race" mode. Doing so also stiffens-up the dampers -- if you've opted for the Dynamic Chassis Control system -- and uncorks the growling exhaust pipes. Like the GTI, the Golf R feels rock solid on the road, unfazed by bumps and responding instantly to steering inputs. It's great fun to drive just around a parking lot, let alone the street.
If we could fix one thing about the Golf R, though, it would be the pedal spacing. The manual transmission model's brake and gas pedals are too far apart to easily employ heel-toe downshifting, and that's half the fun of driving a manual. Thankfully, the manual shifter itself is a peach. Throws are short and spacing is tight, allowing you to hit the right gear every time with a pleasant click as the cog engages.
That leaves only two big questions, then: how does it drive on a proper road, and is it better than its sworn enemy, the Subaru WRX STI? The former will have to wait, though bench racers will no doubt enjoy comparing the nearly identical test track performance of the Golf R Euro-spec and WRX STI (0-to-60 mph in 4.6 seconds, quarter-mile in 13.1 seconds at 104.4 mph, 108 feet to stop from 60 mph, 0.97 g average on the skid pad, and 24.9 seconds around the figure eight at 0.79 g average). We can't wait to find out, either.
|2015 Volkswagen Golf R Euro-Spec|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 4-door hatchback|
|ENGINE||2.0L/290-hp/280-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3287 lb (59/41%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||168.4 x 70.5 x 56.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.9 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.5 sec @ 101.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||104 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.97 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||25.0 sec @ 0.77 g (avg)|