The Volkswagen Golf R is a special car, and the 2023 20th Anniversary model is even better. I bought a Lapiz Blue 2023 VW Golf R 20th Anniversary a few months ago and drove it happily for a while before the problems started, and it has been a headache since. Since I review cars every week, both here and on my radio show, I initially thought my standards were too high and that I was observing things that others might ignore, but as the issues continued, I decided it was time to act.
While many reviewers blasted the eighth-generation Golf GTI and Golf R for their finicky touch-based controls, they weren’t my problem. My issues with the Golf R involve the rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, and now the touchscreen. Rear cross-traffic alerts will occasionally sound a warning and may or may not display a red caution marker when a vehicle passes by, and blind spot monitoring fails around 25 percent of the time. The rearview camera blinked incessantly.
A few weeks ago, I took the Golf R to the dealer to fix those issues and replace the taillight because it had filled with water – not great for a car with less than 1,000 miles. After two weeks in the shop, technicians had identified a problem with the camera and replaced it, replaced the taillight, and failed to replicate the rear cross-traffic and blind spot monitoring issues.
While I don’t blame them for missing issues with tech that can be exceptionally difficult to replicate, they had trouble calibrating the new rearview camera. They ended up breaking the plastic trim on the inside of the rear hatch. Usually, I would just take the car back and have them replace the trim, but this, plus the car’s other issues, warrants action.
I contacted VW’s customer support email and got a quick response. To the company’s credit, its representatives are responsive and helpful and can answer almost any question thrown at them. After explaining my situation and sending a few photos and videos, they sent the Volkswagen buyback paperwork to start the process. It requires the registration, a driver’s license, and several documents related to the vehicle’s sale to initiate. In some cases, the process can take up to 45 days, so I’ll be waiting for a resolution for at least a few weeks.
I’ve owned six VWs, and while some had issues, none have reached this extent. The Golf R and Toyota GR Corolla were my top “reasonable dream cars,” and I’d been dreaming of them for a long time. While this is just a car, it’s one that I invested a ton of time, money, and emotion into, leaving me with not-so-warm feelings toward VW and the dealer.
I should point out that the issues I’m having with the 2023 Golf R 20th Anniversary appear to be quite rare. Many, many owners report stellar driving and ownership experiences, though a few have reached out to express frustration after hearing of my problems. Plus, the car is fantastic to drive, and there are absolutely no complaints with its power or handling, though I do wish there was a middle ground on performance between Eco mode and all hell breaking loose.
I will update this post as more information becomes available. It’s important to note that I have not pursued my state’s lemon law process yet, as I want to give VW the opportunity to make things right before going to the nuclear option. I don’t know how the process will work if the company approves my buyback, but I will detail it once it’s complete.
Frequently asked questions
Why did you choose the Golf R over the Toyota GR Corolla?
I would have purchased the Toyota but could not come to an agreement with a dealer that didn’t involve a five-digit markup. Additionally, the VW Golf is more spacious inside and offers better rear legroom and cargo space, which I need for my two kids and a large dog.
Is the VW Golf R fast?
It’s a quick car, and I’ve known people to easily hit sub-three-second 0-60 mph times once the break-in period is complete.
How comfortable is the Golf R?
I’ve found the Golf very comfortable, with supportive and well-padded front seats. The rear bench is also comfy, and the Golf R has heated rear outboard seats.
Would you purchase another VW?
I’m on the fence. There’s nothing else in VW’s lineup that is particularly interesting to me at the moment, and I’m not buying another Golf R, so it’s hard to say. I will note that this experience has been eye-opening from a service and customer relations standpoint.
What’s your next move?
If VW approves the buyback, I won’t buy another car until next year, at which point I will explore a GR Corolla or older project car to highlight here on Your Test Driver.