New Volkswagen Golf R: We drive VW's hottest hatch


Even so, when fired up in this manner, the Golf R still lacks the instant aural drama of the Audi RS3 or even the (admittedly much pricier) Mercedes-AMG A45 S. There’s a greater baritone than before, but the Golf R remains a fast hatch that would rather let others play the peacocking game.

That said, the sound actuator that pumps synthetic engine noise into the cabin has been given a more gravelly delivery. 

Thankfully, it can be switched off through the enhanced drive mode set-up, which offers greater customisation and even a new Eco mode that softens the throttle response and provokes earlier shifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

Despite the 12bhp uplift in power (torque is unchanged, at 310lb ft), Volkswagen’s venerable EA888 turbocharged 2.0-litre four feels much as it did before. Almost lag-free, it doles out satisfyingly elastic performance as it pulls hard and smoothly from idle all the way through to the 6800rpm cut-out.

Few cars deliver such easily accessible performance, and if anything the R responds a little too alertly to initial throttle applications, meaning a sensitive right foot is needed to avoid neck-snapping getaways even when you are trying to go gently.

Once you are moving, the powertrain remains a highlight, the eager engine matched to a DSG ’box that shuffles cogs quickly and decisively. Better still, in the raciest drive modes, the transmission now holds gears when in manual mode, refusing to shift up whenyou hit the limiter.



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