In the past few months, I’ve reviewed a $400,000 Rolls Royce, a 707-horse Dodge Hellcat, a couple of BMWs, a Jag, and some other exciting vehicles. So I am shaking my head at myself wondering why I am giddy over a Volkswagen Golf. It makes no sense at all unless you drive one. Just for clarification purposes, my review vehicle this week is the all-new 2015 VW Golf R. I am not sure I am capable of doing this car justice with my written words.
As I said in my video with the Golf R, sometimes as a reviewer, you forget that a car doesn’t have to have 400-horses to be a ton of fun. Such is the case with this car. It has a 4-cylinder engine that is turbocharged, and somehow VW engineers got 292-horses out of a 2.0-liter engine. Shoot, we drive 2-liter Cokes all the time for comparison purposes. 292-horses in THIS car feels like a lot of cars that pump out over 400-horses.
The big reason this car is so enjoyable is the 6-speed dual-clutch transmission coupled with an all-wheel drive chassis. I’ve honestly never experienced a transmission that shifts like this one. I fully expected to have to use the shift paddles on the steering wheel to really get the car to perform, but I never once used them. This transmission shifts hard and fast when you hit the accelerator hard, and just when you think the engine is going to blow, it shifts and throws your head into the headrest. Hit the Launch Control and before 5 seconds ticks by, you’ll be at 60-miles per hour.
I tried to drive this car normally, but you just can’t resist the sound of the exhaust in this car, and the more you wind it out, the better it sounds. Golf R comes with Dynamic Chassis Control that lets you choose from 4 distinct driving modes. My favorite of course is Race mode, which completely changes the way the car drives, handles, and steers. If you want a more normal ride, choose comfort mode, but it is boring by comparison. Put the Golf into tight turns, it grips into the pavement with no lean and not even the sound of a squealing tire. The all-wheel system will allow for an equal 50/50 distribution of power when needed.
The interior of the Golf R is nice, nothing flashy, but the leather seats are contoured to fit tightly and keep you in the seat as you fly around corners. Like its sister car, the Audi S3, the Golf has a very intuitive dash layout, easy to read gauges, and a nice center stack. Back seat room is greater than I expected and would be comfortable for two adults. Being a hatchback, the cargo area in back is good-sized, and with the back seat folded down, it’s cavernous.
The Fender Premium Audio system runs from an almost 6” color screen in the middle of the dash. From there you can operate the standard Bluetooth, Sirius radio, or listen to HD radio.
Speaking of standard equipment, this car comes with just about everything included in the base price. In fact, this car doesn’t have a single option. It has rearview camera, navigation system, front and rear parking sensors, climate controlled air, heated power front seats, keyless entry, pushbutton start, alloy pedals, electric parking brake, and a lot more. The only noticeable item missing is a moon roof, but it will wash your Bi-Xenon adaptive headlights. The 19” alloy wheels are terrific.
The 2015 Golf is longer, wider, and roomier than the previous model, and this is the faster VW R to hit the United States. The Golf weighs in at a svelte 3300-pounds, further adding to the feel of 292-horses and 280 lb-ft of torque.
I reviewed the Subaru WRX STI, which will be the main competitor to this car. I gave the Subaru a 5 star rating and noted how impressed I was with the engineering and handling of the car. I also noted it is not a car I would personally drive. That is not true of the Golf R. It would be an exceptional daily driver and has great visibility. For me, this car is more mature and more refined than the Subaru.
I got the stated fuel economy of 23 in town and 30 on the highway, which surprised me considering I had my right foot buried in the gas pedal most of the time. I admit that I scoffed at the idea that the VW Golf was Motor Trend Car of the Year, AND more prestigious it won North American Car of the Year in Detroit this past January. I am a doubter no more.
I must note that my review car is a pre-production model, meaning it was built before VW had finished all their quality checks and the cars were being assembled for sale. There was a large warning about this in case I noticed something wrong. This car will end up being destroyed at some point, but if the actual models are better than this car, quality is top notch.
Getting one may be a problem, VW opened up orders for the first 500 of these Golf R to people and they were sold out in just a few hours, so expect them to be scarce this entire year and bringing a premium. I will say that I looked at the window sticker before driving the car, and I wondered if it was going to be overpriced. Those fears went out the window within a couple of hours of driving this terrific hatchback.
Automakers are often nervous about putting the “R” designation on a car. Over the years, it has come to mean the car was something really special and unique. VW should have no worries about this car not meeting expectations, it exceeds them.
What I liked most: Everything, but primarily the performance and handling.
What I would change: I got nothing.
MSRP: Base price $39,090. As equipped $39,910.
Fuel Economy: 23 City/30 highway/26 combined.
Odometer reading when tested: 2215 miles.
Weight: 3340 pounds
Length-Width-Height: 168.4” long/70.8” wide/56.5” High.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 14.5 gallons.
2015 Golf R in a few words: Amazing car and outstanding value.
Warranty: 3-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper with free maintenance, and roadside assistance, 5 years/60,000 miles on the powertrain.
Dealers: We have VW dealers in Austin, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas-Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Houston, two dealers in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Antonio.
Car Pro Rating: 5+ out of 5 Stars
Manufacturer’s website: Volkswagen