Impressive performance car has arrived

This is one of mostly hotly anticipated new machines of 2022 and it delivers thrills and luxury you’d expect from a more expensive car.

Volkswagen’s Golf R has established itself as one of the world’s most capable hot hatches and the new model reinforces that reputation. The improvements come at a cost though.

There’s some interesting new tech on board

It’s been about eight years since the last Golf R and the needle has moved in terms of performance and technology. The most noticeable change is the car’s adaptive suspension. Most hot hatches will allow you to choose between three drive modes, with softer shock absorber settings in comfort mode and firmer ones in sport. The Golf R has 15 different suspension settings ranging from pillow soft to rock hard. You select them via a menu in the centre screen. “Race” mode combines the firmest settings with more direct steering and maximum throttle response.

The all-wheel-drive set-up is more sophisticated

Most on-demand all-wheel-drive systems can split power delivery between the front and rear axles for maximum traction but the R has torque vectoring, which can vary the amount of power delivered to either rear wheel. Volkswagen claims that sending more drive to the outside wheel on a corner reduces understeer and provides more accurate cornering. On a track, with “drift mode” engaged, 100 per cent of the rear torque can be sent to a single wheel, allowing the driver to hang the backside out like a rear-driver. We struggled to pick up the torque vectoring at work on the road but can report that the R corners superbly, turning in eagerly and displaying tenacious grip mid-corner.

The numbers are impressive

The Golf R’s updated 2.0-litre turbo puts out a meaty 235kW of power and 400Nm of torque. Those outputs are up 22kW and 20Nm on the previous model. The R retains the 7-speed dual-clutch auto of its predecessor, although Volkswagen says new “shift-by-wire” tech and improved software have improved the gearbox’s response. Those who like to can change their own gears via new larger paddles mounted on the steering wheel, but most won’t bother as the auto intuitively picks the right gear for maximum thrust out of corners. Volkswagen claims the R will reach 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds. The 2.0-litre turbo is a willing unit with seemingly unending torque reserves, but some more fireworks from the tailpipe would be welcome.

The cabin’s a bit posh

The Golf’s interior design matches the exterior styling; the sporty cues are subtle. There are body-hugging Nappa leather seats with splashes of blue, a flat-bottomed perforated leather steering wheel, alloy pedals and faux carbon-fibre inserts. A digital screen in front of the driver can be configured to suit individual preferences and ambient lighting lifts the mood after dark.

The asking price is a bit rich

The last Golf R update brought upgrades for no extra cost, but this new model is roughly $10,000 more than its predecessor at $65,990 plus on-road costs. That translates to about $73,000 on the road, although some greedy dealers are asking impatient customers to fork out up to $90,000 for low-kilometre versions. It’s a well equipped car and the safety kit is extensive but it’s no bargain.

Originally published as 2022 Volkswagen Golf R review

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