Volkswagen has revealed details of the new Golf R, ahead of its launch at the Frankfurt Motor Show and compared to its predecessor it now packs an extra 35bhp and 22 lb-ft of torque.
We should be celebrating right? So why do we keep looking over at the Merc A45 AMG brochure on our desks and having impure (i.e. non-VW) thoughts?
There’s a great deal in common between AMG’s new kid and VW’s more established mega hatch. Both are powered by 2.0-litre engines, the Golf R’s delivering 148bhp per litre compared with the A45’s 178bhp per litre.
The Golf is no more competitive when it comes to peak torque – 280 lb-ft versus 331 lb-ft, nor is it more frugal – 40.9 mpg and 159 g/km for the DSG version compared against 40.9 mpg and 161g/km for the A45.
At the heart of the R is a newly developed version of the EA888 TSI engine used in the latest Golf GTI, but with a modified cylinder head, exhaust valves, valve seats and springs, pistons, injection valves and turbocharger.
Performance looks ‘lively’, but again we’ve been spoiled by the Merc.
Volkswagen claims a zero to 62 mph time of 5.3 seconds (compared with 5.7 seconds for its predecessor), or 4.9 seconds when fitted with the optional six-speed DSG gearbox. That’s some way short of the A45’s 4.6 seconds, which in practice feels even quicker.
Both cars use four-wheel drive to transmit all that torque safely and in the direction of travel – the Golf using the latest fifth-generation Haldex system which decouples the rear-axle when coasting to reduce fuel consumption. The Haldex coupling is actuated by an electro-hydraulic pump, which takes only fractions of a second to re-engage and apply torque to the rear axle when it’s needed.
Almost 100 per cent of the Golf R’s power can be transferred to the rear, which bodes well for a little sideways fun if the stability control systems will allow.
Compared to the GTI, the Golf R rides 5 mm lower (and 20mm lower than a standard Golf) sitting on specially tuned dampers and springs. Customers can opt for Adaptive Chassis Control and like the GTI and GTD the ‘R’ comes with progressive steering, which reduces the number of turns lock-to-lock from 2.75 to just 2.1.
Visually, dare I say it, the Golf R looks a little ‘plain’. There’s a new front bumper design, with large air inlets, modified radiator grille with ‘R’ logo and newly developed daytime running lights that are integrated into the standard bi-xenon headlights. But it’s all very subtle, even down to the black-painted brake calipers with ‘R’ logos.
The brakes themselves use ventilated discs – 30 mm by 340 mm at the front and 22 mm by 310 mm at the rear – fitted behind the standard 18-inch alloy wheels with 225/40 tyres.
To round off the stealth effect, there are smoked LED tail lights, an ‘R’ diffuser and four chrome-tipped exhaust pipes – two at either side.
Inside there are sports seats with a cloth centre section and Alcantara bolsters, with leather being available as an option. While the instrument dials are unique to the R, and include the now familiar blue needles of VW’s top ‘R’ models.
At an estimated price of around £32,000 the new Golf R will certainly be cheaper than Merc’s A45 AMG, but when opting for a mega-hatch will 296bhp be enough to qualify or has Volkswagen played it too safe this time? Take a closer look for yourself on the Volkswagen stand at IAA Frankfurt.