Powered by a direct-injected, turbocharged, and intercooled 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces an impressive 270 horses and 258 pound-feet of torque, the Golf R is far and away the most powerful production Golf Volkswagen has ever offered. Despite being down two cylinders on the R32, the Golf R boasts more power and torque than the 250-horse V-6 R32 and considerably more power than the 210-horse Mk VI Golf GTI, thanks in part to a healthy 17.4 psi of boost.
Naturally, the power boost correlates with a boost in performance and the Golf R will hit 62 mph in 5.7 seconds with a manual transmission and 5.5 seconds with Volkswagen's DSG dual-clutch gearbox and an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph, VW says. Either car handily outaccelerates the R32, which needs 6.5 seconds to get to 62 mph. And the Golf R does it all using less gas, getting roughly six more mpg than the R32. It also offers an improvement in emissions, emitting only 0.71 pounds of CO2 per mile compared with the R32's 0.91 pounds per mile.
After power leaves the engine and travels through either the manual or DSG transmission, it's routed into the latest version of Volkswagen's 4MOTION AWD system. Unlike previous generations, the latest AWD unit doesn't need to wait for a speed differential between the front and rear axles to leap into action and can vary the power split between the axles continuously. If needed, it can even route nearly 100 percent of the power to the rear wheels.
To match the enhanced power, Volkswagen has also done some work on the suspension. The Golf R rides nearly an inch lower than the Mk VI GTI, itself already lowered versus the previous generation. MacPherson Struts in front and a multilink setup in rear remain, though the spring rates, dampers, and stabilizer bars have been retuned to offer better handling performance. Brakes are stout 13.6-inch discs up front and 12.2-in. units out back.
On the electrical side, Volkswagen's Electronic Stability Program has been updated with a new Sport setting that will allow the driver more leeway before stepping in. When equipped with the optional Dynamic Chassis Control, the power steering also adjusts itself depending on the driving mode selected -- Normal, Comfort or Sport.
To distinguish the Golf R from the standard Golf and GTI, Volkswagen designers massaged the bodywork and came up with new front and rear bumpers and new side skirts. Large air intakes, bi-Xenon headlights, Audi-esque LED running lights, and a chrome R logo on the grille set the nose off while a rear diffuser and twin chrome exhaust tips exiting at the center of the bumper, ala R32, freshen up the rear. The Golf R rides on either 18- or 19-inch Talladega wheels, and gloss black mirrors and grille louvers complete the look.
Inside, the gloss black theme carries on with piano-black paint on the spokes of the leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel. Grey and Black "Kyalami" sport seats -- named for the South African racetrack -- are standard and race seats are optional. R logos on the special shifter and embroidered on the headrests, steering wheel, aluminum doorsill plates, carpets, and special gauge cluster make certain you and your passengers don't forget you aren't driving any normal Golf. Stainless steel pedals, automatic climate control, and a CD/MP3 stereo complete the package.If you're lucky enough to live in Germany, the special-edition Volkswagen Golf R goes on sale at the end of this year. Other markets haven't been announced yet, but given that the R32 found its way to America, there's hope the Golf R will as well. Pricing hasn't been announced yet, but expect it to cost significantly more than a standard Golf or GTI.