If the Golf R were a celebrity in a movie it would be Tom Cruise in the new Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation thriller. His character, Ethan Hunt, makes quick work of the competition and doesn’t take any prisoners. Cruise drives a BMW M3 in the movie, but the agile and fast Volkswagen Golf R would make a good vehicle to battle the bad guys. For the money, the Golf R performance hatch is a good value compared to the higher-performance M3 sedan and a lot more versatile.
The Volkswagen Golf is all-new for 2015 and the performance R model gets the same exterior changes that feature a slightly lower, wider and shorter front overhang. Headlights are narrower and underneath, Golf R gets a new architecture too. The 2015 Volkswagen Golf is about two inches longer, an inch lower and slightly wider, riding atop a wheelbase that’s stretched by more than two inches. The front wheels sit 1.7 inches farther forward, giving the R an even more aggressive stance to match its performance.
Features and option packages
This week we test drive a Reflex Silver Metallic Golf R ($36,595) that’s powered by a 292-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine, comes standard with all-wheel drive, sports suspension, lower ride height, performance summer tires, 6-speed DSG automatic transmission, heated leather seats. A 6-speed manual gearbox will be available later this year. Total MSRP including destination: $37,145.
The Golf R interior is conservative but tastefully done with high quality materials throughout and gets high marks for comfort and roominess for a compact car. The R gets a few badges to differentiate itself from the other Golf models and sport front seats to hold the driver and passenger in place. The back seat is big for a compact hatch and the adult riders we took to lunch thought it had good legroom.
Behind the rear seats, the Golf R measures 22.8 cubic feet of cargo carrying ability, and the Golf’s boxier shape allows stuff to be stacked nearly all the way to the roof. With the seats folded completely flat, there’s a generous 52.7 cubic feet available, making it a cargo-carrying leader in the class. For more cabin info, read about the new Golf TSI SE we tested recently.
VW Golf R differences are subtle, with an updated front bumper design with larger air intakes, bi-xenon headlights with LED surrounds, black finish side mirror backs, R-specific wheels, four tailpipes, and R logos on the front fenders and rear hatch. Other than these few changes, the R is a real sleeper and can fly under the radar. You can see the R logo peaking through the 18-inch alloy wheels on all four corners if you look close.
Engine and power specs
The new 2015 Golf R performance hatch is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine pumping out 292 hp and 280 lb. ft of torque, 36 hp and 37 lb.-ft. more than the outgoing model. It’s EPA rated at 23/30 mpg city/highway and 26 combined mpg, an improvement of 3 miles per gallon over the previous-generation Golf R. The hot hatch does require premium unleaded gasoline, like nearly all performance-oriented cars. The 2.0-liter comes mated to a slick 6-speed DSG automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
We couldn’t get behind the wheel of the Golf R fast enough after it was delivered this week. We’ve read a lot about the R performance version and it didn’t disappoint us one iota. This performance hatch is a rocket and blows the lid off the fun-to-drive meter. It’s small and maneuverable and the 2.0-liter turbo is lightning fast when you need it to be. The all-wheel-drive R is what sets it apart from the competition except for its chief rival, the Subaru WRX STI.
The 6-speed DSG automatic provides lightning quick upshifts and we found it can be delivered easily with the steering wheel paddles. Volkswagen says the Golf R can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, and it even feels quicker from behind the wheel. Top speed is an electronically limited 155 mph, which unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to check out.
We did get to drive the Golf R in the curves in the mountains west of Denver and found the R to be dynamic and is the best performance hatch in the world at allowing the driver to push the limits. The hot hatch inspires driver confidence in its ability to carve the corners like they were barely there. The suspension is firm and some may not like the ride but it virtually eliminates body roll, particularly with the optional DCC auto adjusting damping. The big ventilated disc brakes are the best we’ve tested and will stop the small performance hatch quickly as often as you need them to.
The 2015 VW Golf R DSG automatic is a hoot to drive and absolutely pegs the fun-to-drive meter in all driving situations. The R is quick, powerful and agile in the city and on the open road. Volkswagen says the Golf R is the fastest car they have ever shipped to U.S. shores and we think it’s one of the best examples of German engineering on the planet. For those wanting a ride that thrills the senses along with practicality along with a useful hatch, the R is a great choice for urban commuters in all climates with the all-wheel-drive. If you want to fly under the radar, the Reflex Silver Metallic is a sleeper and is the one to get.