By on August 29, 2011

Anybody here ever go to Catholic school? I sure as hell did. About six of them over the course of seven years. I learned really quickly how to distinguish the nuns who scolded from the nuns who slapped, paddled, or punched. (Sister Andrea! What’s up?) I also learned that kids rarely attend Catholic school alone. They have brothers. Sometimes they have big brothers. I remember one family — the Szolozsis — who had nine sons. Nine sons. If I’d been Papa Szolozsi, I’d have bought a lottery ticket. Anyway, I went to school with the third-youngest. Anybody who beat that kid up had to face the bigger brothers one a time until he either took a beating or whipped ‘em all. Alternately, he could get his bigger brothers involved. Happened all the time, this escalation of big brothers. High school sophomores would knock each other unconscious over fights that had started a week before in second grade, while the two second-graders, who were now best friends forever once more, would dispassionately observe the proceedings.

Since the WRX arrived in American parking lots, ditches, and tirewalls a decade ago, followed by its bigger brother STi and the brother’s rival Lancer Evolution, fans of Volkswagen’s GTI have been put in the position of a the wimpy grade-school kid hoping his European bigger brother would arrive to set things straight. The original R32 turned out to be the kind of reasonable, cultured sibling who would rather talk things out than fight. “Look, I have this wonderful leather interior. Do we have to settle this on the dragstrip?” The second-generation R32 was kind of like having a big brother from the special-needs classes; all the mean kids pointed and laughed whenever he showed up.

Welcome the newest big brother. No more messing around with six-cylinder refinement and nose-heavy dynamics. The new Golf R packs a spec sheet straight out of Japan: cranked-up two-liter turbo, six-speed manual, all-wheel drive. Tell the STi we’ll meet him next to the incinerator at lunch…

…where we will proceed to receive a vicious ass-kicking of the first degree. Forget any hopes you had of this admittedly very aggressive and impressive Golf beating an STi down a dragstrip, around a racetrack, or through an autocross course. It’s not going to happen. It’s down on power, very likely up on weight, and every control available to the driver feels like it’s been dipped in molasses. Those of you hoping that the Fatherland would use this Golf R to finally assert supremacy over the disposable speed machines from two of America’s shadiest dealer bodies can stop reading now.

What? You’re still here? Okay, we can talk about why the Golf R gets third place in our Intramural League. It’s easy to explain why it beats the Beetle: it’s faster and more capable without being any less fun to drive. Fair enough? At this rate, this review could end so quickly I’ll have time for a completely misguided “styling analysis”. Unfortunately for me, I now have to explain to you why the Golf R falls behind the other two contenders, the GLI and GTI. This will be a little tougher to accomplish.

What is a Golf R? Glad you asked. It’s a Golf with a 256-horsepower variant of the 2.0T which failed to impress in our Beetle Turbo review. Unfortunately, that engine comes bolted-up to Volkswagen’s make-do AWD system. A few years ago, I dinged the Audi TT-S for having too much weight and too much drivetrain for the 2.0T to shine. In the heavier Golf, that problem is compounded even further. While I am certain that somebody, somewhere, will turn a 13.9 quarter-mile in this thing somehow, in my test drive it felt nothing more than sluggish, and barely any quicker than the Beetle.

Our test car was a Euro-spec Golf R, which supposedly has 265 horsepower compared to the US model’s 256. You’re unlikely to notice the difference, if it actually exists. What you do notice from the first minute you drive the car is the absurdly tall gearing. First gear is WAYYY too high (numerically low), making getting under way a dicey proposition. I observed a pair of girljournos stall it five times in a row trying to leave the lunch area at the press event. I never stalled the R, but I sure as hell had time to contemplate the eternal mysteries of the world while trying to do a 5-60 roll.

Second and third gear are marginally better, so that’s good news: if you are prepared to stay above 45mph at all times during your backroad drive, you’ll be fine. Torque steer is nonexistent, for two reasons. Reason one: an improved AWD system keeps the rear wheels driven at all times, thus preventing the torque-steer-then-shift-drive-to-the-back-axles that happens in most transverse-engined FWD systems including, say, the Flex Ecoboost. I mention the Flex Ecoboost because if you own a Golf R you’d better steer clear of that thing. From a dig you’ll get smoked. Reason two, of course, is that the engine isn’t really strong enough to produce torque steer. As often happens with big-boost versions of low-boost engines, the flexibility seen in the regular 2.0 is totally abandoned for the purpose of producing a power number that matches the Mitsubishi Evolution.

The 1994 Mitsubishi Evolution.

Want some good news? The interior is an exceptionally pleasant place in which to spend those long drives down the dragstrip. The seats are great, the stereo should be outstanding, and everything you can touch feels relatively expensive. Even the steering feels expensive, and deliberately so. This is accomplished, as far as I can tell, by modulating the power assistance in such a way as to create a very odd feel. It’s still obviously assisted, it just isn’t assisted much, and the effort is evened-out no matter what you’re doing with the car. I race a small car without power steering. It’s much lighter around dead center than this Golf’s steering is. Quite odd. Perhaps it has something to do with damping out the steering oscillations induced by an active AWD system.

Down the backroad portion of my test loop, I struggled to make any serious time. Not because the car couldn’t handle it, but it simply didn’t feel interested in going quickly. It wasn’t always obvious what was going on with the front end, and the gearing simply couldn’t work with the engine to provide reliable thrust. Luckily the brakes, which look to have been borrowed from an A6 or Phaeton, were uber-reliable despite having Sliding Caliper Disease. That’s how you drive a Golf R. Late brake, middling corner speed, stand on the gas almost immediately and wait for the boost to climb the gearing hill. The whole experience ended up being very point-and-shoot. This is fine for the average “I experienced understeer at 38mph” journosaur, but your humble author was frustrated beyond all reason. The current Evo and STi aren’t as great as their 2008-era predecessors, but either one handily outclasses this Volkswagen.

The alert VW fanboy has already stopped reading this review to run to his forum and write

lolz baruth failz again… he is 2 stupid 2 realeyes that the golfr is a EUROPAEN DRIVING MACHINE AND LUXURY compeating with the DRYER THREE SEREIS and the MB C63 AMG… i hate this guy and his pheatons… i will totally buy a golf r in eight years when they are cheap used and i finally get that job at best buy

Yes, Mr. LAMBODRIVER69, I understand that the Golf R was never intended to compete heads-up with the STi and Evolution. The problem is that here in the United States, that’s all it gets to compete against. A Mustang GT will rip its windshield off and dump oil on its seats. A BMW 328i goes just as fast, maybe faster, and is likely to cost less. Perhaps the people who choose a Golf R will never consider the Japanese cars. That’s a shame, because the Japanese cars are worth considering, to say nothing of the aforementioned Mustang.

The bottom line: This big brother won’t fight when you need him to, so don’t bother. As we will find out in the second half of this comparison test, however, the kids are alright on their own.

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73 Comments on “Volkswagen 2.0T Intramural League, Third Place: 2012 Golf R (Euro-Spec)...”


  • avatar
    Toad

    “…the stereo should sound outstanding.” Should? No audio system in the test car? Odd.

    Loved the LAMBODRIVER69 faux comment. Even better than the perennial and perpetual “this car needs a diesel wagon stick shift and I would totally buy one tomorrow.”

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      It didn’t come with the same stereo as the other GTI/GLIs I drove and I didn’t have enough time to listen to it anyway because, although we were given plenty of time to drive the GLI and GTI, access to the R was limited. I had half an hour with the car and wanted to spend as much of that time as possible hauling ass.

    • 0 avatar

      I went and checked the user registry at the ‘tex to see if was an actual user. It sounds like SO MANY of them

  • avatar

    Volkswagon lost its way some time ago.
    Give me the old Rabbit with a manual transmission. Now that was a car that was a blast to drive and reliable.

    And yes, I attended several private schools that made me wish I had an older/bigger brother. Thanks for a great read. The Sister’s would be proud.

  • avatar
    goacom

    LOL, this car sounds like me. I was the bigger brother in a catholic boarding school. Unfortunately, I had to rely on my younger brother (who was bigger than me) and rescue me! Your review was a very entertaining read :)

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    Funny that VW couln’t get the gearing right. Maybe a proper ecu flash would help – raise the boost and correct the map a bit to better suit the gearing. Sensless car anyway. Euro-car fanboy who loves a spicier ride will buy a 1 year old 335i(x) for this kind of money. End of story.

  • avatar

    As a Mk6 GTI owner and lover this seems to confirm some suspicions that I and others have had. Mainly, that the R simply wont compete in performance or price against a lightly (stage 1 or stage 2) modified GTI. Its too bad, its a pretty car and could be interesting with more power and better gearing.

  • avatar
    boxelder

    Hi-friggin’-larious! Thanks for the laughs!

    (Oh, and I went to Missouri Synod Lutheran grade school, which is almost as bad as Catholic school, or so I’ve heard.)

  • avatar
    brettc

    At least they haven’t noticeably de-contented it. Seems like the Golf and Jetta wagon are safe from the de-contenting monster…for now.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    Baruth -

    That was a great read. So true on Catholic school as well. Beware picking on a Catholic school kid in an Irish, Italian or Polish family: you’re guaranteed to get your arse whooped by legions of that kids’ relatives.

    On to the Golf R: I owned the MK IV R32 because one literally landed in my lap for a price I couldn’t turn down with a whopping 1200 miles on the odometer. I loved that car – it was bulletproof, sounded brutal and zigzagged like a bat out of hell. Unfortunately, the two door quickly wore on me, along with the atrocious fuel economy of the VR6. It was a wonderful car, and I truly miss it. My replacement, an ’06 A3, has been very good as well – just, well, nowhere near as fun. I definitely don’t have the same bond with the A3 as I had with the R.

    I recently drove in a Mk V R32 and the magic was definitely gone. Kaput. The Mk IV was a really special package that I doubt VW will recapture anytime soon. The Mk V most definitely was not it.

    On to the current Golf R: I think Baruth’s review is the reason why VoA has taken so damned long in brining it over here stateside. I think that at heart, they know that listening to the chorus of fanbois will lead Volkswagen to an oversupply of overpriced Golfs that are still sitting on dealership lots 18 months later with massive incentives that take the $36 sticker down to a more reasonable $30k…only to then crimp sales of the GTI Autobahn, itself now stickering over $31k.

    Rumor is that the ’12 (’13?) Golf R will be here at the end of the year or early next year. No doubt insane dealer markups will ensue for a few months until they realize that boy racers don’t have that much coin to drop and the number of 30-40somethings willing to drop $36k on an all wheel drive Golf is actually pretty small.

    If you want a laugh at the gnashing of teeth over the Golf R rollout, head over to vwvortex and read the wailing and crying over the delays, price points, limited options, etc. from the kids who ultimately won’t buy the car. A lot of people really, really want to like the upcoming R but just cannot justify it.

    For those of you who haven’t – go drive a GTI. The car is a real blast. I drove one a few weeks back and it really took me back to the fun that the Mk IV R32 provided. The GTI I looked at was around $27k and that’s a few hundred more than I paid for my very lightly used R32 back in 2004. The GTI is worth every penny. The new R…not so much.

    • 0 avatar

      You have nailed it here. Especially for those of us that can afford to make the choice between the R and the GTI, there is no compelling reason to spend the additional cash no the R.

      Frankly, I was convinced they wouldn’t bring it over (lost a case of beer on a bet in the process). It doesn’t make sense to me as a business decision.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Yeah, frankly I was shocked to hear that VoA was bringing the car over. The original R32 stickered at around $30k with markups taking it up to between $33-$35. The car languished a bit, but once dealers started negotiating on them and VW put some cash behind them the remaining inventory cleared out pretty quick.

        I picked mine up for around $25.5 with 1200 on the odometer. The service manager at a dealership where I know the staff had purchased it (blue with black leather – awesomeness), his wife got pregnant a week later and she told him to get rid of it. I had my car in for service and as it had around 90k on the clock at the time I was toying with trading it anyway. As a joke I said to the sales manager, “I’ll give you $25 for that R out there”. He replied, “well, I’ve got $25.5 in that car so you can have it for that if you take it off my hands.”

        Done deal at that price point.

        But the new R, at around $35? No freaking way. I could get a lightly used 2nd gen TT for that price, or for a few bucks more, a new TT.

        ….or, save myself $8,000 and get a GTI (which, with plaid seats, is far cooler anyway).

    • 0 avatar
      German Engineered

      Let me preface this with the following: I’m not a VW fanboy, nor have I owned a VW (yet). My current car is an 08 Infiniti G35x, and my previous car was an 07 328xi that I had for 3 1/2 years.

      When picking a car last year, I test drove a MKV R32 and loved it… minus the exterior styling (it’s seriously ugly to the point where a girl I was dating mocked it endlessly), and lack of modern technology (no bluetooth? seriously?). The engine, AWD, DSG, and chassis provided a fantastic driving experience – and had the car been even mildly attractive or looked as good as the current GTI, I would have been sold. Instead, I ended up with a same year G35x for about the same price, only with far more power, space, beauty, and technology.

      I’ve had a love/hate affair with FWD cars – living in the snow belt (Wisconsin), RWD is all but ruled out to start with, leaving FWD and AWD as reasonable options. When the new Golf R was announced with a manual – after previews of the Euro car waxed poetic about the DSG, I was massively disappointed. (Driving to Chicago/Milwaukee frequently means a manual is a pain to deal with in traffic, I simply don’t have the patience for it.) I was hoping VW had finally gotten it right – solid performance, AWD, at a price point thousands less than the equivalent Audi, BMW, and Infiniti… because let’s face it, the refinement of a VW is fairly level with those cars (minus the new Jetta, of course). But they did it wrong – no DSG option, we get the inferior car. And this is coming from someone who does have the means to buy the car new.

      So I test drove a 2012 GTI Autobahn this past weekend to see if that would be an acceptable replacement (note: It has to be an Autobahn GTI, since the cloth seats in the GTI are hideous in my opinion). Nice car, pretty quick, nice interior, but not without faults: The ride was stiffer than the R32 and both my Infiniti and BMW, it simply did not absorb the bumps as much as I would have liked. (This is likely due to not enough sprung weight to allow it to be damped properly – a heavier car can more easily optimize minimal body roll while absorbing bad roads.) And the front wheels break loose all the time, something I’m not used to given what I’ve driven the last 4 years. When it snows, I just don’t feel as though it’ll give me the confidence that AWD does.

      If I was asked what’s the nicest new car that’s fun to drive at around $30k or under though – it would most definitely be the GTI (with the upcoming Focus ST being a possibility as well, I’m sure). But for me – I’ll probably end up waiting for the 2013 Audi A3 to release next year, hoping Audi/VW brings it over with quattro, DSG, and 2.0T intact (preferably the 211 hp version in the current A4/TT). That will be where my $35k+ goes.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        As the owner of a 2008 GTI, I am glad you liked it, but I agree with your assessment of its faults. The front wheels do break loose way too easily, I dont even like to drive it in heavy rain, I cant imagine dealing with it in the snow. Maybe snow tires would help, buts its still very unsettling in slippery conditions. And the suspension is very firm, I hadnt really noticed just how firm until recently I was test driving a used Mazda3 and drove it home… over the same roads I drive on every day it was like a luxury car, no crashing, no banging into potholes, even the drain curbing in front of my driveway was smoothed out!

        I also have to say, the Autobahn package isnt worth it… it takes the already slightly overpriced base GTI up to over $30k, just for some luxury touches. To me, thats just too much money for this car. If you hate the plaid seats that much, get them recovered or swap them out… there are tons of VW fans who love the plaid seats and will trade you for the leather. I love the plaid so I was happy, but I am also old enough to remember the 1st gen GTI with its plaid seats so I like the retro touch.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        At the risk of sounding like an old fart, consider that most folks in your state managed to drive without AWD well into the 1980s and lived to tell the story. With today’s traction control systems and a set of true snows (far, far more effective than the “snow tires” of the bygone, bias-ply era) you should do fine, outside of the backwoods. (And if you want to do the backwoods, you need the ground clearance of a Jeep, not just an AWD car.) If AWD “gives you confidence” in the snow; perhaps all that it is really doing is encouraging you to drive faster than you should for the conditions (given that AWD does nothing for braking and very little for steering).

        My point is, don’t let living in the snowbelt scare you away from RWD in search of performance (if that’s your thing). Indeed, there are a number of AWD systems that don’t do much more than make a car understeer no matter what the driver does with the brakes or the throttle, and regardless of the slipperyness of the pavement.

        AWD adds cost, weight and complexity to a car and, IMHO, has been greatly oversold for street (as opposed to off-road) vehicles. Remember that the granddaddy of todays automotive AWD system’s (Audi’s “Quattro”) was developed in the early 1980s because of the problems Audi experienced when adding increasing amounts of power to Audi’s up to that point FWD cars. Other German RWD manufacturers (Benz, BMW) responded to Audi for competitive reasons, event though, unlike Audi, they had always sold RWD cars, as did Volvo when it abandoned RWD for FWD platforms in the 1990s.

      • 0 avatar
        donatolla

        Another former 2008 GTI owner – one that was mildly chipped – I can say the car works just fine in winter. Canadian Winter driving that is. If you stay out of boost, and get good winter tires, the GTI is one of the best winter cars going.

        IMO, the interior of the GTI was far superior to the A3 – somehow, things that were cheap plastic in the A3 were actually chromed metal in the GTI. Never quite figured that out.

        I kind of miss the GTI – torque was nice. I just don’t miss being on first name basis with the entire service department.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I live in Florida so i have never driven on snow tires… apparently they make a big difference! I do jnow that if conditions are just right… light mist of rain, slight uphill intersection, oily road surface… sometimes my GTI will just sit there and spin, I have to coax it to a roll. Admittedly, new tires helped that a lot and they are worn again.

        And I agree, VW service depts suck. Everytime I have gone there they have broken something else requiring a repeat visit. But nothing major has broken in 2+ yrs… it’s just been a few stupid little things. Hopefully I didn’t just jinx it! LOL

    • 0 avatar
      mjal

      hreardon: Why would ethnicity enter into the size of the catholic school kid’s family size?

  • avatar
    calhounje

    This is such a terrific piece! It’s every bit as good as the best writing from “CAR” magazine when it used to be really really good…

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’m adopted, so I’m forever grateful I went to public school! All my Catholic friends (I’m not, never was) were far worse kids than I was as far as mischief goes, I understand the reasons why, too.

    The car? I truly want to like VW, but can’t get past all I read and wonder how much of it is true concerning reliability. It would do me no good to drive a performance car – I drove my MX5 for the first time on my new, 100-mile-a-day commute, and it was quite, um, interesting. How much my aging body can take is yet to be seen. I need a Corvette! For now, I’ll stay with my old, reliable (for now) Impala.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Zackman: How was the commute in the Miata? I barely(!) fit in one, I can’t imagine doing 100 mi RT in traffic no less…

      I have a set of 17″s on my Cockroach of the Road (TM) which is a Plus 2 in tire/wheel sizes. Every little bump in the road gets transmitted directly to my cerebral cortex.

      If I were doing that kind of a commute, I’d definitely stick to the Impy!

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        @geozinger:

        My commute mainly consists of taking the loop around the west side of Cincinnati – I live in the northern suburbs, which means it’s against traffic! Very little traffic once I get to the highway. I give myself an hour and ten minutes to get there at 8:00 am. Takes me around 45 – 50 minutes, about an hour coming home, but I’ll get a clearer picture after doing this for awhile.

        Cruising in the Impala is a breeze. The MX5? Well, I don’t have to shift that often, and keep my speed regardless of what I drive around 62-65 mph. Thing is, the length (or lack of) of the wheelbase seems to harmonize with the cracks, seams and bumps in the concrete, and results in a choppy ride. I’m sure it will beat me up if I take it too often!

    • 0 avatar

      Reliability? The MkV and MkVI GTIs tend to be average or better, at least so far (the early MkV Jettas, which arrived a year ahead of the MkV GTI, look a bit troublesome in the latest update). Horror stories likely still happen, but much less often than with the MkIVs. And even those seem to require less attention now that they’re fitted with the latest and greatest ignition coils.

      http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php?stage=pt&bd=Volkswagen&mc=279

      I’ve heard that dealer service (or lack thereof) can be part of the problem. I have no stats in this area, though.

      • 0 avatar
        ExplodingBrain

        Last December I had a strange grinding sound from my MkVI GTI. It varied by road speed — loud when driving slowly, almost no noise at highway speed, and no noise in reverse. I had no idea what this could be so I took it into the dealer.

        It turns out it was a small rock caught in the brake assembly, grinding against the rotor. The dealer found the problem and fixed it, and charged me $0.

        Here’s a question for Michael — should I have reported this to TrueDelta, or not?

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve had similar experiences reported for a wide range of cars. My sense is that this can happen to any car if the right-sized pebble gets kicked to just the right place, and isn’t really within the control of the manufacturer, so I haven’t been including such repairs in the stats.

        If someone else has knowledge to the contrary, though, please chime in.

      • 0 avatar
        geggamoya

        Pretty common for a pebble to get stuck between the pads and the disc. Can happen on pretty much any car. Though it’s usually more of a metallic howling noise than grinding. It usually pops out of there just by reversing and pressing the brakes a few times.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        My sense is that this can happen to any car if the right-sized pebble gets kicked to just the right place, and isn’t really within the control of the manufacturer, so I haven’t been including such repairs in the stats.

        There are debris shields—trucks are sometimes fitted with them—and rear drums are pretty much immune (front discs usually are, too.

      • 0 avatar
        donatolla

        Horror Story: Over 3 years, my MKV GTI never went more than 3 months without a visit to the service department. Like you say though – I blame the service department, not the car.

      • 0 avatar
        sjb

        Ok, dumb question: What does MkV and MkVI stand for?

        PS – After this review, I just threw out the Golf R brochure.

        PSS – Not sure I understand all the hate on the autobahn package for the GTI. You get premium sound (assuming the Dynaudio is superior to the systems in the other trims), sunroof/nav, leather, keyless and, imho, nicer looking wheels (Serron vs. Detroit.) I’m finding the trims for the Audi A3 and Volvo C30 much more maddening and complicated.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        Mark 1 through 6… in other words, the generation. For some reason, the VW community abandons the Roman number for Mark 2.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        @sjb — assuming you care about all that stuff, then maybe its not a bad deal for you. But its $5000 added to an already slightly over-priced car. The sound system isnt that great, the standard system is pretty good already, and if you are an audiophile I dont think you will be inpressed with the premium sound. Some people INSIST on Nav systems, but like all other manufacturers, the VW nav is overpriced. The wheels are the same size as stock (for this generation, not for the Mk5) so they shouldnt really cost any more, just a straight swap, the sunroof can be ordered separately, but nothing else can, especially the leather. I personally dont want leather, but I can understand that people prefer it. So they cant get leather unless they get all that other crap and pay $5k for it.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        No prob… I am not an audiophile so I didnt care so much about the stereo… maybe the premium sound is awesome, but I doubt it. I found an in-dash touchscreen system with built in nav, bluetooth, steering wheel controls, etc, for $450 or so on eBay, just dont know if I wanted to risk buying one and finding out it was junk… I have read mixed reviews. I dont care for leather seats, and I loved the plaid anyway, so I was happy with it. My GTI came with a sunroof but I didnt want one, I wouldnt pay $1000 for it, it doesnt even work that well… it often makes a horrible droning noise when its open without the windows being cracked. Dont waste your time with VW accessory wheels, they are overpriced and heavy. I bought a set of aftermarket 18″ rims and tires that weigh 5 lbs less than the factory rims for around $1000, and I kept my factory 17″ rims for when I resell (or maybe for track tires?!)

        I would rather buy a base model, save the $5k, and upgrade the suspension, maybe chip it, put some good tires on it, etc.

  • avatar

    Great review, Jack.

    My observation, with which you may or may not agree: VWAG’s electric power steering systems are better than most, but are less communicative and can feel artificially heavy compared to their conventional hydraulic systems. I personally wish the steering in the GTI (and it seems the R as well) felt more like that in the low-end Jettas and Passats.

    • 0 avatar
      sjb

      What generation would my ’02 GTI be?

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        2002 is the “bad” generation, the MkIV, or Mk4… thats the generation that supposedly had the most problems, and really sealed VWs reputation as unreliable. But I hope yours has been good to you! :)

    • 0 avatar
      sjb

      @ mnm4ever,

      Thanks for the info on the sound. I’d actually prefer the cloth seats and like the plaid, just thought the leather would be easier to clean. Now I understand the gripe about overpricing. Shucks. I don’t like those Detroit wheels, though. They remind me of our 5-disc CD player hooked up to the old stereo dowstairs or some sort of weird gourmet pan we have in the kitchen cabinet buried under all the useful stuff. Wonder how much to get the other wheels listed in the brochure under “Accessories” with just the basic or Sunroof trim. Hmmm. Back to the drawing board and a re-look at the A3 (if I decide to go 4-door) and the C30.

      As to my ’02, alas, there’s a permanent imprint of my buttocks in just about every chair at the VW service area…but I still love to drive it. Heck, there just isn’t much out there in my niche, especially as a dyed-in-wool stick shift driver.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Mmmmmmm. Catholic school. High school girls in plaid short skirts who were impressed by Mustangs and Camaros…..

    Was Miss Vodka M. a catholic girl?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Better! Mormon!

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      Only the good die young?

    • 0 avatar
      mattfarah

      I dated a catholic schoolgirl when I was 17. Her school, Holy Child in Rye, NY, had no air conditioning, so all the windows would always be open. I got out of school 20 minutes before she did, so I would drive my heavily modified 1994 Mustang GT (347 stroker motor, Cigarette Boat cams, no cats, etc.) over to the school and wait for her in the driveway. With the engine running. One by one, you’d start to see windows closing in the school, and by the time the bell rang, nearly all of them were closed. It wasn’t a matter of weeks before they banned significant others on campus entirely, a rule that I hear still stands there today.

    • 0 avatar
      mattfarah

      I dated a catholic schoolgirl when I was 17. Her school, Holy Child in Rye, NY, had no air conditioning, so all the windows would always be open. I got out of school 20 minutes before she did, so I would drive my heavily modified 1994 Mustang GT (347 stroker motor, Cigarette Boat cams, no cats, etc.) over to the school and wait for her in the driveway. With the engine running. One by one, you’d start to see windows closing in the school, and by the time the bell rang, nearly all of them were closed. It wasn’t a matter of weeks before they banned significant others on campus entirely, a rule that I hear still stands there today.

      And the catholic schoolgirl in question? Pretty sure she only dated me because of that car, and she’s now 27 years old and on her third marriage.

  • avatar

    Some writers transcend the subject matter, Tom Wolfe, Hemmingway, Ring Lardner and LJK Setright come to mind. The subject matter is covered so well it could be a historical reference but the writing is great literature along with insightful comment. This is really good writing.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I always thought of the R-model Golfs as a “tuner package”… not really worth it from the factory, but with the AWD you then have the basis really tune the hell out them without the loss of traction. HPA does amazing things with the R32 that wouldnt work nearly as well as using a FWD GTI.

    Of course, then you get to the point where you have now spent $50k+ on a Golf, regardless of how fast it, is it really worth it??

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Fantastic article, Jack.

    This article elicited a lot of laughs from me.

    I went to a catholic grade school and high school, along with an older brother. The Jesuit Brothers there were not pushovers.

    Also, I doubt I’ll give Volkswagen my business ever again after the horrendous experiences my family and friends have almost universally had with both their products and dealers (“Why yes, that 2006 Passat 2.0T is supposed to burn a quart of oil every 800 to 1,000 miles by design” – actual quote from dealership service manager after lengthy process of trying to get the problem resolved under warranty, on a car with less than 30k miles, no less).

    I know that some have fine experiences with VW, but the gap between my experiences with VW in terms of reliability, and that of the other makes I’ve owned over the last decade is a chasm so large that I’ve crossed VW off my list of “too look at” cars whenever the necessity of a purchase arises.

    • 0 avatar
      hurls

      I’ve had better luck with my Audi dealer, since the wife’s A4 Avant with 30k is in the shop for a rebuild for said “burn a quart of oil every 800 to 1,000 miles” issue :)

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Thanks for what is shaping up to be a great series of reviews. Could it be that the series of disappointments in the hopped-up Golf (the R32, this car) is yet another example of what I would call the “limitations of the platform” problem? That is, when you try and goose up a particular platform beyond a certain level, you hit the steep part of the diminishing returns curve. There seems to be general agreement that the Rabbit/Golf GTI is a worthwhile and cost-effective step up from the base car. But when you try to up the ante further — especially working around the basic limitations of FWD as a performance drivetrain — you find yourself on the steep part of the diminishing returns curve (i.e. for the same or just a little more dollars, you can buy better performance at the base level of some more expensive car).

    The other example of this might be the BMW Z3/Z4 (not the re-done Z4, which now competes in a different market). Stepping up from the 4 cylinder in the original car to one of the “milder” sixes (either the 2.8 or the 3.0) was a cost-effective choice for what was never conceived as the “ultimate sports car.” Going to the 300 hp M motor with the intent of doing a little Porsche chasing, with accompanying suspension and brake modifications, simply exposed the limits of the basic chassis design and added more performance while punishing the occupants. And, for about the same dollars, you could buy the real thing from another manufacturer.

    For now, VW’s reliability issues scare me away, especially the DSG. I’m a manual tranny guy but I’m facing increasing pressure to own a car that others in my family are able to drive; and the VW DSG sounds like fun, when it works. I drove the DCT in the new Focus and was not particularly fond of it.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I think you’ve made a fair point.

      NASA Time Trial and Performance Touring guys face this a lot… the points system will let you build a 500+HP Audi Coupe that then races against Porsche GT3s and doesn’t do well.

  • avatar
    JJ

    I read a review of one here in Europe from a decidedly pro-veedub source. The journalist thought there was something wrong with the testcar cause it felt so sluggish…

  • avatar
    56BelAire

    Ah, good old Catholic school. Never went to a school in my life other than a Catholic school, kindergarten right thru college. So many memories and stories:

    1. Went to a Christian Brothers HS, and the Brothers wore about an 18″ triple layer, riveted together belt hanging from a belt loop under their habit. If you got really out of line the belt came out….you had a choice of hands or butt. One day a big Polish kid gets the belt. Next day the bigger Polish dad comes to school and went to town on the Brother. As I recall, the belts were rarely seen after that incident.

    2. The big brother Irish kid enforcer in my grade school was Jack Hallahan, about 16 years old in the 8th grade. Still remember him nearly 55 years later.

    Great story Jack, great writing. Keep up the great work. Thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Please don’t get offended, but in St. Louis, a schoolmate was going to attend a Catholic brothers school, CBC – Catholic Brothers College.

      He referred to “CBC” when I asked him what the letters stood for and he said “cigarette butt collectors”!

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      I remember graduating with my B.Ed degree in 1995 in the middle of a recession, and half the teaching positions in the province of Alberta weren’t available to me because the Catholic school boards specifically wanted Catholics, and says so specifically in their application forms (in the form of “please enclose a reference from your parish priest”).

      That sort of discrimination made me even more upset because the School Act preceeded the British North American Act, so hiring based on religion is legally protected.

      Needless to say, my property taxes go to the public/protestant school board instead. At least the schools are decent here:
      http://www.economist.com/node/7945805

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Well…crud. I was so looking forward to the Golf R as a grown-up enthusiast’s alternative to an Evo or STI and it looks like the R doesn’t come close to delivering.

    So, is used TT with AWD a better alternative? More engaging to drive?

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Black STi, spoiler delete. Older guy at my work drives one, looks, well, not “classy” but classier than one in blue with gold wheels and a park bench on the trunklid.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        The bright blue interior makes “classy” a hard sell on the STI regardless of what you do about the wing and gold wheels. They did off a Limited model that made a “classier” looking Impreza STI. Myself, I’d go all in with a white exterior, leave the pink badges, gold wheels, and wing.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        Nah, I drove an Evo VIII for five years, so I’m familiar with the STi and its ilk. Those cars are tremendous fun, but refinement is not their strong suit, even when they gussy them up with leather and nav systems. They are race cars for the street and do eventually wear on you. I was hoping that the Golf R would give a nice balance between sport and practicality.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Audi RS4 might do the trick… :)

    • 0 avatar
      Baumer

      Why not a used 335xi? Or perhaps 2007-08 Legacy Spec.B?

  • avatar
    klossfam

    I’m glad to know that the GLI and GTI finished so highly…Assuming 1st place GTI and 2nd GLI. The whole point of the high performance V-dubs was inexpensive fun…The GTI and based on early reviews, the new GLI more or less do that…Although inexpensive now means $27,000.

    Saw the new GLI yesterday at the dealer…Looks awesome with a perfect list of standard features, esp in the Autobahn pkg…

  • avatar

    Lulz @ “lolz Baruth failz again…”
    hahahaha.

  • avatar
    PG

    This was an amazing review, Baruth. Reminds me of the way Jeremy Clarkson writes for the Times of London.

    That said, it confirms what I suspected about the Golf R: It’s just not hardcore enough to justify its price tag. I’d like to see how it performs next to a chipped GTI with more torque.

  • avatar
    frostback

    I’ve been a dyed in the wool VW guy since I was in Catholic school. The nuns thought even less of my VW Trends magazines than they did of me. My arch nemesis Principal Sister Petronilla’s weapon of choice was a street hockey stick. She was Maltese and mean!

    Loved the article Jack, Thanks!

  • avatar
    Deaks2

    Nice review Jack.

    Unfortunately this is a case of one of these things is not like the other. The previously reviewed Beetle and soon to be reviewed GTI and GLI do indeed have the Audi-developed 2.0 TSI engine (EA888). The Golf R and TT-S have the older VW-developed FSI engine (EA113) with TSI badging.

    The new TSI engine has been dynoed at 200 whp and 200 wtq, so VW is being conservative (very much so), meanwhile the FSI’s power rating is closer to the truth. Hence my fellow commentators note that modded GTI’s are putting down better numbers than the soon to arrive US market Golf R.

  • avatar
    DearS

    You don’t compare the other 2.0T the Diesel. Its the only once I drove and I loved it, I wonder how it fares in this comparo, even with its power.

  • avatar
    CRConrad

    Oh you poor Yanks, whining about how expensive the Golf R is, at 30 or 35,000 USD or whatever…

    Here in .fi it lists for 54,135 € , or about 78,000 US$ — and I saw a (very slightly, I admit) /used/ one with a 60,000 € sticker in the windshield a few months ago.

    Cry me a river, whydoncha. :-(

  • avatar
    LAMBODRIVER69

    Mr Baruth is right, F**K the R, it’s over rated over priced.

    VW parted the Red sea for the fanbois, they shouldn’t piss on the sand.

    I’ll call you later about that tug*

  • avatar
    sidneyz13

    Interesting review couldnt help noticing it lacked any real numbers so ill give a few vw r 0-60 5.6 seconds so no a flex ecoboost wouldnt beat it and as a current tuned mk5 gti owner all of you saying a regular gti tuned is better a $499 neuspeed p chip in one of these gives it over 300hp and with launch control 0-60 in under 5 seconds plenty of videos on youtube to prove that.

  • avatar
    tuestmenteurbarooth

    Who cares if the Golf R isn’t faster than most of the car sold in the world. You are doing a review about a car and it sounds so personal – so much hate, like you Baruth, are going to shove it to those ones who just like the Golf R, no matter what is being said about it. Your motif, disappointment perhaps – whatever, chose not to review this Golf if you don’t have anything pleasant to say about it. Would I buy a Nissan Skyline GTR or a Lotus Elise to race them sometimes at the track? Believe it or not it won’t change the fact that I am speaking the truth, but no, taking a car with speed and/or track performance pretenses to the race track on Sundays is the last thing in my mind. Maybe I am the only one who would do such a thing, and I absolutely don’t know anything about cars but still it doesn’t change the fact that what pushes me to buy a car is a combination of many things: look, rarity, performance,amenities, etc. The tone in your review is such that it sounds like what you are saying is the absolute truth, there is only one truth and you know it. Do you really think that Volkswagen is trying to make a Golf faster than Subaru and Mitsubishi by making a car which will not be able to outperform them? Or perhaps they have never driven a Subaru or Mitsubishi before and therefore have no clue of what those cars are capable of – or maybe only you, Baruth are so smart to know the truth about cars and all people around the world who have bought or will still buy a Golf R after reading your review are too stupid to realize that it is all about fighting Subaru and Mitsubishi, fighting some kind of fight like the Szolozsis when you were growing up?


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