Goldilocks might say the updated 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is “just right”. We agree and say it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing! While the looks of this all-wheel-drive are somewhat understated, the performance isn’t. The quasi-supercar wears the performance halo in VW’s Golf stable; it has come from Wolfsburg slotting within the eighth-generation GTI lineup and benefits from a new engine, new vehicle dynamics settings and new driving modes. Borrowing DNA from VW’s heralded Mk8 Golf GTI, the R is available in one well-appointed trim only but can be ordered with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG transmission.
All-wheel drive is standard.Volkswagen
Hot hatches are back in vogue, despite the popularity of trucks and SUVs. The new Golf R has been on hiatus since 2019; it will compete with the Honda Civic Type R and the Hyundai Veloster N, among others. It is priced at $43,645 for the manual and $44,445 for the automatic (plus $995 destination) and comes painted in Deep Black Pearl, Lapiz Blue Metallic or Pure White. It’s on sale now and can be ordered with an optional Performance Package.
Although the R shares its upgraded interior and technology with the new GTI, this slick runabout extracts more power from the 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder turbocharged engine and boasts some exclusive items onboard. The R’s manual and automatic versions both get 315 horsepower while the manual cruises with 280 lb.-ft. of torque and the dual-clutch auto gets 295.
VW made significant tech improvements to all vehicles for 2022. Volkswagen
Outside, a new grille and lighting elements accentuate the front end of the four-door hatchback that has been freshened with a more muscular look, race-inspired styling cues and side air intakes that assist as channels to add cool air. A blue strip highlights the upper grille, that is crafted atop an illuminated LED strip; these strips stretch outward from the VW logo into the fender via the Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) giving an attractive and appealing persona along with the LED light strip and standard LED headlights that help to provide good lighting. A R badge punctuates the right side.
The Golf R gets standard 19-inch black machined aluminum-alloy wheels, with blue brake calipers and the R logo on top. R-exclusive body-color sill extensions add flair while other exterior trim elements include matte aluminum-treated exterior mirror caps; mirror housings also provide LED projected R logos onto the ground when opening and closing the front doors. In back, R-specific design cues include the new bumper with a splitter, the high-gloss black diffuser, a quad-tipped exhaust system, and standard LED taillight clusters.
The R’s cabin is tech-filled and upscale.Volkswagen
Inside the premium cabin is blue detailing throughout and a unique new multifunction perforated leather sport steering wheel, with R-specific paddle-shifters for DSG-equipped models, with blue stitching and an “R” wheel clip. The front sport seats have integrated head restraints and blue R logos and the center panels are covered with perforated Titan Black Nappa leather. The dash and doors sport carbon-look elements.
The controls have been updated with touch buttons, sliders and screens. The standard 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit Pro offers exclusive features such as a new, horizontal engine speed display at the upper edge, as well as a lap timer. A head-up display digitally projects onto the windshield and the MIB3 Discover Pro infotainment system can display a full-screen map in the digital cluster and simultaneously on the 10-inch center display. Thirty-color ambient lighting comes standard on the Golf R. Other features include stainless-steel pedals and more carbon-look trim on the dashboard, charging ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Wi-fi hotspot. Of note is more cargo space than expected and a comfortable back seat.
We drove the new Golf R in the Ashville, North Carolina environs along a series of backcountry roads that serpentine through the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains. Notable was the on-tap torque available with both transmissions; our favorite was the long-throw six-speed that has a well-notched gear box, however we also loved the dual clutch tranny that takes care of the business of up- and down-shifts and even “blips” the throttle for seamless shifts. Our motoring was on dry, paved roads, so there was little-to-no opportunity to assess the intelligent AWD that can send 50 percent of the power to the back, with its rear, cross-axel torque-vectoring differential, but we can report that the R has a well-balanced adaptive chassis, responsive suspension and holds tight corners at high speeds with nary a wiggle.
The Golf R will go on sale soon.Volkswagen
Selectable drive modes (Comfort, Sport, Race, Special, Drift, and Individual) can be activated by pressing an “R” button and hold appeal for many buyers in this class, who will also enjoy the standard sport exhaust, variable-ratio steering, bigger front disc brakes, and summer tires. Standard IQ.DRIVE driver assistance technology brings Adaptive Cruise Control with semiautonomous driving mode, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Assist, Travel Assist and Emergency Assist (on the DSG version only).
The EPA has estimated 23 mpg city/30 mpg fuel economy highway for the automatic and 20/28 with the manual.