Caught in the classifieds: 2014 Volkswagen Golf R
In last week’s “Caught In The Classifieds” section, I highlighted a gorgeous 2004 Porsche Carrera 911, which at just under £20,000, is a bargain any way you look at it. That being said, I realize not everyone can afford the upkeep associated with an old 911, and frankly, not everyone has room for a 2+2 sports car in their garage. So, in an effort to give you a ‘one-car-do-it-all’ alternative, this week I’m highlighting what might be the single greatest car ever made: the Volkswagen Golf R.
I know it’s ‘just a Golf’, but hear me out before you close this tab in anger. If you’ve got a budget of, say, £15-£20k, and you can only have one car in your life, what else fits the bill as well the Golf R does? I would argue not much, and throughout this article, I’ll try to elaborate on why. Out of hundreds of examples on our site, I chose this particular one because it’s a four-door, and because it has just 30,000 miles on the clock, so it’s barely had time to be run in yet.
Styling-wise, The Golf R isn’t exactly the most exciting hot hatch on sale. That can be a major advantage or a significant disadvantage, depending on how you look at it. If you like your hot hatchbacks shouty and angry, a-la Honda Civic Type R, chances are you’re probably not too fond of the way the Golf R looks. Alternatively, if you like civilized cars which blend in with the crowd but can demolish most cars on the road, then the Golf R is the perfect Q-car for you.
It’s understated and flies under the radar for most people, but petrolheads instantly recognize it and you often get smiles and nods of approval from other enthusiasts. Personally, I love driving something as quick as the Golf R without attracting unwanted attention from the general public. If you’re in a Ferrari or a Porsche, everyone starts assuming and stereotyping what you’re like before they’ve even met you. If you drive a Golf, you’re just another friendly Joe who isn’t too concerned with telling the world how much money he has (despite the fact you and me both know that’s not why enthusiasts buy Porsches or AMGs).
Overall, I think the Golf R is a good-looking car. It’s based on the already-excellent Golf Mk7, and the only real giveaway as to its true potential are the rear exhaust quad pipes, the R wheels, and perhaps the body kit if you can differentiate the GTI from the R.
The cabin isn’t remarkable or special in any way, but it’s a really pleasant place to spend time in. Compared to the regular Golf, the R gets special seats with greater support, a different steering wheel, and ‘R’ badging scattered throughout. It just feels like a Golf inside, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Most of the materials are superb and the build quality is excellent. Along with Audi, VW builds some of the most robust interiors in the business. It feels like a quality item because it was built to last. The ergonomics are perfect too. The seating position is amazing and the seats themselves are comfortable. You do sit a tad too high, but this is a hot hatch and not a sports car like the Porsche 911, so I can’t fault the Golf for that.
The Golf R is, shockingly, just as practical and roomy as a regular Golf. The rear bench has a ton of headroom and legroom, making it ideal even for slightly taller passengers. You can sit three abreast quite comfortably, but the passenger in the middle will start to struggle after an hour or two. Boot space is perfectly adequate too.
Engine and Performance
Here’s where the Golf R starts to shine and really come into its own. Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, the Golf R sends power to all four wheels through a Haldex 4Motion four-wheel-drive system. Available with either a manual or a seven-speed DSG, the Golf R is the true definition of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Performance stats are extraordinary for such an unassuming vehicle. The sprint to 62 mph takes just 4.9 seconds for cars equipped with the DSG, and it’ll top out at a limited 155 mph. To give you some reference as to just how absurd that is, consider this: a brand-new Porsche Panamera 4 will do the same 0-62 run in 5.3 seconds, almost half a second slower than a Golf.
Obviously, I know the Panamera is a luxury saloon and not a hot hatch but did anyone really think they’d live to see the day when a Golf is quicker than a Porsche? Definitely not me.
The Golf R isn’t all about straight-line speed though. Because VW made their own tweaks to the Haldex AWD system, they’ve managed to improve it massively compared to the way Audi uses theirs in the RS3. As a result, the Golf R is much less prone to understeer and can extract grip from almost any road surface in a manner which beggars belief. As much as I love manuals and hot hatchbacks, and think they’re a match made in heaven, there’s no denying how effective a DSG-equipped Golf R is.
If you ever find yourself on a twisty B-road in a BMW M3 or a C63, don’t even attempt to keep up with a Golf R because you’ll get properly demolished. The power delivery coming out of corners is so savage it reminds me of a mini Nissan GTR. With a simple tune and a few bolt-on upgrades, people have been reliably extracting over 400 horsepower from Golf Rs, transforming them into actual giant slayers.
Model: VW Golf
Trim: R DSG
It’s a practical hatchback that can show a Ferrari a clean pair of heels on most damp roads. I can’t praise the Golf R enough even if I tried. The car speaks for itself, and anyone who’s had the pleasure of riding in one will tell you how amazing they are. If you’ve got the cash and have a strict one car policy, almost nothing else will fill the role as well as the Golf R will.
DesperateSeller.co.uk rating: 9 out of 10