This week I am racing around in the 2017 VW Golf R 4 door hatchback. This is the 7th generation Golf that was first produced in 1974. Here in the United States, for a while we knew this car as the VW Rabbit. The Golf falls in the “hot hatch” category of cars like the Subaru WRX and the Ford Focus RS.
Under the hood, my review car has a 2-liter 4-cylinder engine with a turbo charger, putting out 292-horses, but it feels like a lot more since the Golf only weighs 3200 pounds. This one has the 6-speed manual transmission, but you can also get a dual-clutch 6-speed automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters. All Golf R models are equipped with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, and this is the most powerful Golf offered.
For 2017, all Golf Rs come standard with Navigation system and DCC, which is dynamic chassis control. In previous years, you could get a base model R.
Outwardly, this is a hot-looking car.
The R-designation is understated on the exterior, but the car is an eye-catcher especially in this Lapiz Blue color and 19” wheels. There is a spoiler above the hatch and quad exhaust under it. I find it kind of cool that the VW emblem on the hatch rises to activate the rear camera, and it serves as the opening mechanism for the hatchback.
Moving into the Golf, you notice a very attractive interior although it is a bit dark. There is offset stitching that looks good on the bolstered seats and flat-bottom steering wheels. The seats have the R designation on the seat back, and are comfortable and do a good job holding you in place while zipping around in the Golf. The steering wheel is leather wrapped, it has a leather shift knob, and one nice touch is alloy pedals.
In the middle of the blue-accented gauge cluster is a multi-function display controlled from the steering wheel that gives you a lot of information on driving history, fuel economy stats and settings. There is even a timer to check track times. Gauges are bright and easy to read.
In the center of the dash is a 6.5” touchscreen that houses the rearview camera, the 400-watt Fender sound system, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay or Android capability, and VW Car-Net, which allows you to duplicate your phone apps on the screen. Even without a phone hooked up, you can get real-time traffic, weather, sports scores, and more. Screen changes are very quick and responsive and everything is easy to understand.
Dual climate-controlled air conditioning are controlled by round knobs, as are the sound system volume and radio station selector.
In the center console to the rear of the shifter are ample cup holders, an electronic parking brake, and one of my favorite features, called Auto Hold. Auto Hold is a true blessing with a stick shift car. Turn it on and once you come to a complete stop, you can place the car in neutral, and take your foot off the brake. Once you release the clutch on takeoff, Auto Hold releases. Unlike other similar systems I have seen, you don’t have to turn Auto Hold on every time you start the car.
Also in the console is the drive mode button, which lets you choose between comfort, normal, race, and a mode to customize the car to your liking. In all honesty, you cannot tell a lot of difference between the mode choices, but you do sense some small differences in race mode.
Although it is officially rated as a 5-passenger, if all occupants are adults, 4 is about all it can handle.
Back seat legroom and headroom is impressive and the rear seats fold down in a 60/40 configuration that will give you a massive 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space. Golf has very tall doors, making entry and exit quite easy.
My review vehicle only has one option, which is the $895 Driver Assistance package, which gives you front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, and high-beam headlight assist.
Standard features are plentiful. At no charge you get leather interior, heated seats, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, front collision warning with emergency braking, keyless entry, and push button start.
Handling and steering are exceptional, the car corners very well, and although firm, the ride is not sacrificed. Golf has great grip and extremely balanced driving dynamics. I expected a good amount of torque steer, but honestly there is very little.
Fuel economy is good at 25 City and 31 highway for a combined mileage of 25 miles per gallon. I actually did a little better than that when I was behaving, but I do admit your tendency will be to drive this car hard, and it can handle it.
This Wolfsburg-made Golf R has an MSRP of just over $40,000 which might seem steep, but that puts it in line with Subaru WRX and Focus RS, and I find the VW to be more comfortable as a daily driver. Check with your local Car Pro VW dealer, the Golf R is a limited production vehicle.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen