By on September 13, 2017

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2017 Volkswagen Golf R

2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (292 horsepower @ 5,400 rpm; 280 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm)

Six-speed manual, all-wheel drive

22 city / 31 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

10.9 city / 7.7 highway / 9.4 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $38,480 (U.S) / $40,695 (Canada)

As Tested: $40,195 (U.S.) / $43,029 (Canada)

Prices include $820 destination charge in the United States and $1,745 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Not long ago, I wrote glowingly about the new Honda Civic Type R. Part of my praise was based on the fact that the Type R is bargain-priced compared to its competition.

Yeah, I liked the Type R. A lot. Even took a little crap in the comments for it (fair enough). But again, a big reason for my praise was the price. If the Type R was stickered the same as its three main competitors – the Ford Focus RS, Subaru WRX STI, and Volkswagen Golf R – would it still be “all that?”

On its own merits, sure. It’s very, very good. Great, even. But a strong argument can be made that all things being equal, the Golf R is even better. And I’m about to make it.

For starters, the Golf R (technically, Golf R DCC with Navigation; DCC stands for Dynamic Chassis Control) is almost the opposite of the Type R and the other two hooligans in the class, despite having the same mission. Yes, it’s a powerful, sporty compact that offers a stick shift. Yes, like two of its rivals, it has all-wheel drive. It has a pleasing exhaust note and a sport-oriented drive mode.

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But unlike the other three cars, it blends. Only VW fanboys will notice it in traffic. Outside of badging, wheels, four exhaust outlets with chrome pipes, rear spoiler and a low ride height – lower than both the base Golf and the mid-performance GTI – there’s not much to obviously differentiate the car from “lesser” Golfs. Yes, there are other visual cues – side skirts, rear diffuser, different bumpers (the front has larger air inlets), different grille, and bi-Xenon headlights, but the average passerby probably won’t notice you’re driving an R.

Perhaps the biggest giveaway is the soundtrack — the exhaust note definitely offers a pleasing performance note. Still, it’s less noticeable, even during hard driving, than the sounds emanating from the RS and STI. It sounds great but probably won’t draw unwanted attention from the local law.

The Golf R doesn’t just sound great. It moves with urgency, thanks to 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. It might take a tad longer to dig into the power than the others, but that’s the kind of difference that’s really only noticeable at the track. In daily driving, the R feels just as responsive when it comes to acceleration.

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The Golf R is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed DSG automatic. The six-speed stick is one of the better ones out there, although the throws are a tick long. Whether in daily driving or when driving hard, it’s pleasant to work with, and the clutch has good takeup and feel without wearing out your legs.

Balance is a key attribute of the Golf R – its ride is sedate enough when commuting while sacrificing nothing in terms of handling. Like most modern cars it offers up a choice of drive modes – normal, comfort, race, and custom – I found normal to be the best for most situations. Race tightened things up nicely when I chose to be more aggressive. Comfort, however, was a bit of a letdown. Sure, one expects looser steering and other less-taut responses when choosing this mode, but the R took it further than one would expect from a car with this kind of sporty intent.

Otherwise, the R’s steering is nicely weighted, amenable to quick adjustments, and accurate. Like the ride, the handling strikes a nice balance – there’s that word again. The R is just predictable and unflappable while turning. Thank its sport suspension, which is a strut-type with lower control arm up front and multi-link in the rear, for that. As for the upgraded brakes, I noticed no issues (though I also had no chance to really fully challenge them).

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Perhaps this car’s biggest strength is also its biggest flaw. It’s such a great sport compact for daily driving precisely because it’s not quite as hopped up as its competition. It doesn’t have the same level of seat bolstering as the RS and Type R, for one thing. Sure, there’s a spoiler and other aerodynamic doo-dads, but it’s unclear from the press materials how much of their presence is meant to assist performance, and how much is meant purely for styling.

All this really means is that the Golf R feels less track-focused than the others, at least out of the box. And for most buyers, that’s fine, even preferable. Besides, it’s not like there isn’t an aftermarket that exists for those who’d love to track their Golf R. But some folks will prefer to start with a car that offers more goodies from go.

The Golf’s sleeper status will polarize, too – while some buyers will prefer to move about the world in stealth, others might like a little more showmanship. To be sure, the Golf R’s interior doesn’t feel particularly different from the GTI, despite all the little “R” touches Volkswagen gives it. Yeah, the pedals and flat-bottomed steering wheel look cool (and to be fair, the GTI also has a similar steering wheel and pedal setup), and so do some of the other trim bits, but again, only enthusiasts are really going to notice most of the changes. Being subtle sometimes goes unappreciated.

Too much subtlety aside, the interior is otherwise pretty nice. The leather surfaces look and feel good and the power driver’s seat makes getting settled easy. I was, however, mystified by the non-opening center console. This leaves interior storage at a premium – you get the glovebox, a sunglasses holder mounted on the ceiling, and a small cubby ahead of the shifter that also houses the USB port.

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Cargo space is unremarkable, and the rear seat was tight but accessible. Headroom is generous up front and fair in back. If you want a sunroof, sorry, you can’t get one.

Like other cars in this class, especially hatchbacks, road noise becomes an issue at highway speeds. The Golf R feels somewhat quieter than the others, subjectively speaking, but it is still pretty noticeable.

Most of the Golf R’s other flaws are present in other Golf/VW models. The infotainment unit is easy enough to use, but it requires way too much flipping from menu to menu to engage fairly basic functions (example – if you have the factory nav screen up but want to manually tune the radio via the knob, you have to switch to the radio menu first). The Park Pilot driver’s assist system is too intrusive, often beeping and booping (and lowering the radio volume) when it’s not really needed – a curb in the driveway leaving my building caused it constant confusion and consternation.

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Speaking of driver’s aids, in addition to Park Pilot, the Golf R comes with adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, autonomous emergency braking with front assist, lane-departure warning, rearview camera, and high beam control.

Convenience features are pretty standard, too – heated front seats, satellite radio, USB, Bluetooth, navigation, and smartphone integration are the highlights here. You also get six airbags.

I didn’t measure fuel economy, but it’s listed at 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway for the stick and 23/30 with the DSG.

Considering the Golf R on the whole, it’s probably the best of the bunch for all-around duty. It’s more refined and less high strung than the STI and Focus RS, and it looks better than the divisive Type R while providing a similar on-street driving experience. It’s perhaps less track-oriented than the rest, but as noted, most buyers aren’t going to care.

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Price is where it gets sticky. My tester came in at a reasonable-seeming $40,195 with fees. That’s higher than a base Focus RS by about $4K, but adding options to that car makes the price jump quickly – I got one up to $44K on the consumer configurator, and the last one I drove was $42,245, thanks to $5,470 in options, plus fees.

The STI starts at a few hundred bucks more than the Golf R, and fees add on about another $1,000. That car only offers one option package, though – the no-cost wing delete – so pricing is dependent on how you accessorize. Adding just about every accessory you can would put you close to $50K, but few buyers are going to go that hog-wild with the accessories box. Keep it reasonable, and you’re in the low-to-mid $40K range.

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Volkswagen also offers accessories for the Golf R, and if none of them tickle your fancy, you can have your Golf R for the same price as my test unit. A decent price, although VW could stand to offer certain features, such as a sunroof.

Which would be (mostly) a bargain, if not for that pesky Type R being priced at under $35K, including fees. All of this figuring does, of course, ignore dealer markups (which can happen in this segment). Also, the Honda will only sell 5,000 Type Rs per year. Not to mention that the Honda’s looks are, well, controversial.

For the best blend of daily driving, blend-in looks, and performance, the Golf R remains king. The other three might be better on track, and one is significantly cheaper, but for the compact sports car buyer who wants to best all-round vehicle with the fewest tradeoffs, the Golf R is the best choice.

[Images © Tim Healey/The Truth About Cars]

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95 Comments on “2017 Volkswagen Golf R Review – Performance at a Price...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Was this car provided by the manufacturer, Tim?

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Yes, it was a press loan. We aren’t disclosing those the way we do with travel to events since we think most of you in the B and B are aware of how press loans are provided to the staff.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Didn’t see manufacturer plates, so I wasn’t sure that was the case, or whether some brave / foolhardy guy let you hoon around in his own car. Thanks for clarifying.

      • 0 avatar
        srh

        Why not mention it? Even if the B&B know it, others will not.

        I find it to be useful information to know whether the car under test is a press loaner, a personal loaner, a rental, or owned by the author.

        Yes, you can read between the lines, but that shouldn’t be necessary.

  • avatar
    Urlik

    You forgot the cubby to the left of the steering wheel on the bottom of the dash. Remove two bolts and the center console lid will open and close but you’ll want to zip tie the adjuster fingers so you don’t have to slam it to close it.

    One of the reasons I went with the Golf R is you can put a spare tire kit together since the rest of the world gets space saver and jack. I live in a rural area and a compressor and a can of goo doesn’t cut it.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The highly optioned cars lose that bin and the one under the driver’s seat.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Even if they had them those two bins are pretty small, they can’t really hold anything wider than around a CD case. Granted it is a compact car so all the storage spaces are small, although the small cubby ahead of the shifter is surprising deep (the item just has to clear the door and were the USB port juts out).

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          How much crap do you need to haul around with you? Who uses CDs in the car anymore, it has an SD Card slot that will read at least a 256GB card?

          I have nothing in either of them in my car. My phone fits nicely in the center console bin, I can even shut the door. The door pockets are huge, BTW.

          • 0 avatar
            whynot

            I don’t carry around a lot of crap, but some people do for whatever reason. I just have my phone in the cupholder, loose change in center console, and sunglasses (when not wearing them) + work ID in the cubby ahead of shifter (sunglasses rattle around too much in sunglasses holder and drives me crazy).

            Like you I have nothing in those two compartments, I usually forget they are there (especially the underseat one).

          • 0 avatar

            CDs aren’t perfect, but they sound better than MP3 files do. I suppose I could use FLAC or some other lossless compression scheme to put my music on an SD card, but it’s easier to just grab some CDs for a trip. I use long drives to catch up on albums I haven’t listened to in a while.

          • 0 avatar
            newenthusiast

            I use CD’s. Ronnie Schreiber’s response is essentially the same as mine. I started buying young enough to have a pretty significant CD collection (I actually still buy CDs as well), and while I COULD rip them all to FLAC or some other format and then put them on an SD card, that’s a time consuming project that’s currently pretty low on my priority list. CDs sound better than .mp3 or .mp4/AAC, so grabbing several for a long road trip is what I do.

            I currently have an in dash 6 CD changer which generally is anywhere from 4-7 hours of music, depending on the content of each selection. Older .mp3 discs I made in the 90’s and early 00’s make that something more like 10-15 h
            rs of music, easily.

          • 0 avatar
            roverv8i

            Kids :) which means my center cubby is full of paper napkins, tissues and a first aid kit. As are most of my coat pockets etc. Like you I don’t carry much of anything for myself.

          • 0 avatar
            Drew8MR

            LOL. There is zero chance you can differentiate a V0 or better MP3 from a cd on a freaking car stereo. You can barely tell on my $20k home system if you aren’t listening carefully. In a moving car? No way.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          My boss found some sort of 3D-printed gadget for his ’16 Golf R that mounts inside of that storage bin and allows him to dock his iPhone there for CarPlay, which he likes to use. And he can still close the storage door. I presume it would have fit my ’15 Golf SportWagen TDI as well, but the ’15 Golfs had a much worse radio that did not do CarPlay, so I figured there was no point.

          • 0 avatar
            focus-ed

            I’ve slapped magnetic mount above emergency light button (over the airbag light). Trust me, once you used it there, there’s no going back. I can have Google maps/Waze on the phone while the dash unit is doing its carplay magic. The magnet will hold securely just about any phone – 6S won’t even budge when hustling through corners. LTE and GPS reception is great as well in this spot. Mine is mounted in plain GTI (left one in Golf for new owner). I would not mind R but for extra expense, set of redundant doors and appetite for premium fuel. Still, if I had to spend R money I’d surely go for VW and not the Honda. Staying below the radar is great thing (and since none is offered in yellow I may as well keep it docile).
            BTW, the center console can be opened/made usable (I do not recall the reason VW decided not to sell it like this Stateside). Just go to mk7 site and you’ll know how.

      • 0 avatar
        KevinC

        None of the R’s have the under-seat tray on the passenger side – the Fender amp is there.

        As for the cubby to the left of the steering wheel, all Golfs get it, regardless of model/trim.

        As for places to stash stuff, there’s plenty of room. I’ve opened up the armrest cubby as many owners do, and in addition to the dash tray, the door pockets are extremely wide and deep, and the glove box is roomy. And there’s a bin at the bottom of the center stack, where you can stash your phone while using CarPlay/Android Auto, or shove other crap in there.

        The review comes off as pretty spot-on based on my year’s experience with mine. It’s a great all-around car, very practical for the most mundane chores, while still being an absolute hoot to wring out. And it’s so anonymous out on the road, and I’m one of those guys who likes it that way. NFW I could drive that Civic R based on the cosmetics.

        • 0 avatar
          IHateCars

          I just shake my head that in a $45K+ car, you have to unbolt, zip tie and otherwise MacGyver solutions to get a few extra cubbie spaces to store stuff. If the armrest has the space, why wouldn’t VW install hinges and a plastic tray from the factory? Can’t cost that much….seems silly.

      • 0 avatar
        MrOblong

        In the US, no Golf R has a bin under the driver’s or passenger seat.
        In the US, even the most highly optioned Golf R has the cubby by the left knee. I’m not even sure what would go there if you had “more options” like they have in Europe. A cubby is a cubby. It’s not a switch blank.
        I installed a proper euro ratcheting armrest in my 2016 (loaded 6MT) R, but the car already was not wanting for storage. Absolutely massive door pockets (can hold a 1L nalgene bottle), knee cubby, shifter cubby, cupholders, glove box.. Compared to my Z3M which has… cupholders.. and… a glovebox.. and.. that’s it.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      I didn’t notice the bin, I have a big knee I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      Do you still have your B5? If you’re the same Urlik, that is…otherwise, disregard!

    • 0 avatar
      KevinC

      @newenthusiast – I’m an old school guy too (60) with a huge CD collection as well as a bunch of vinyl. Nonetheless, I have everything ripped into 256k AAC format and managed via iTunes. I have about 280 albums on a $20 SD card (64gb) in my R, and it’s a perfect solution – you can’t tell the audio quality from a CD in the car environment with the middling quality of the Fender system components, so screwing around with FLAC is a non-issue IMHO, and the convenience of having every single track you own, always at your disposal and easily accessible, is fantastic. MIB2 (2016 and up) even has a “coverflow” type of navigation through your albums. Very slick.

      • 0 avatar
        newenthusiast

        @KevinC – Well, its good to know that I don’t have to worry about maxing out sound quality when I get around to this (which makes sense the way you explained it), but the fact remains that I would still actually HAVE to do this. As of right now, I have very little of my collection on my laptop. I rip and sync for my wife and one of my kids as they ask me for use on their phones, but that’s music they like.

        It’s still something I have to sit down and do little by little…so until then, CDs in the car. I’d need whatever the largest capacity card or thumb drive is I guess. 1000+ albums, about 800-ish on CD? Like I said, big project, low priority. Probably need to acquire software or hardware to convert the vinyl and cassettes (or at least the small number that are out of print/no longer avail.

        Sounds very cool.

        • 0 avatar
          Drew8MR

          Eh, pretty much everything is available digitally if you know where to look. But,yeah, ripping even 800 CDs is a shitty,shitty chore. But 1000 albums worth of music in V0 or 320 is probably only 128 gigs or so. I have maybe 3500 albums on my work computer which only has a 500 gig drive and a bunch are still in FLAC.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    This isn’t the class of vehicle I’d be interested in, but I DO like the idea of having a performance trim vehicle that looks and rides pretty much the same as a more base model. Wings and spoilers and chrome and bigger tires and lower ride height all seem too much like they are trying too hard. Invisibility + performance = awesome.

    Much like the Chevy SS for sedans, or any of the German sport wagons that aren’t sold here, if I wanted a hot hatch or compact, this would be the one.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Civic Type-R without added dealer greed? ROFLMAO – yeah, right. In the real world this car is probably the best part of $10K cheaper than a Type-R right now.

    But for me, the big reason to not get this is the GTI Sport. It’s not much slower, has the same big brakes, a trick LSD, and even better seats since they aren’t leather, for $10K less. You even get more storage with a bin under the headlight switch area and another under the driver’s seat. You lose the former due to some extra controls using that space and the latter to the full power seats. The Sport only has electric recline.

    If you are driving so hard you need AWD on the street please stop, you are being an idiot. If you are buying something like this to use as a trackday toy Jack would say you are an even bigger idiot. And I agree with him.

    • 0 avatar
      Urlik

      The North American R has the bin by the headlight switch and the same passenger seat as the Sport but different stitching color.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The R’s performance is largely dictated by the transmission you choose. I’ve seen instrumented tests of the R with the DSG – it’ll turn in a 0-60 time in the mid-fours. Manuals are apparently a second or so slower.

      That’s damn fast in its’ own right, and it’s significantly faster than any GTI.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      What about AWD for snow? That’s something to consider with these smaller cars, even if many of us probably would be fine with FWD and the right tires.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I get there is a price difference, but it seems to me that there is a pretty significant difference in the numbers on these two. GTI is around 5.9 0-60 (factory number) with 258 torque. The 2016 Golf R is around 4.6 in most road tests. The 2017 comes in at slightly more HP and 280 torque. It may not be worth the premium to some, but those are noticeable differences.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        With simple, cheap mods (ECU flash, downpipe, tires) the R is a rocketship. My brother has one that sees plenty of track time. This car punches way above its weight class. The fact that it looks, drives and feels just like a normal Golf makes it fine for daily driver as well as track duty. My brother can carry a full set of track wheels plus various track tools with the rear seats folded down. The R is pretty much the definition of a sleeper as only VWvortex members can tell the difference. To everyone other then a VeeDub fan boy this is just a Golf. Until it passes you on the track.

      • 0 avatar
        johnny_5.0

        As FreedMike mentioned, it is largely dependent on the transmission. Those times are courtesy of a boosted launch with the DSG. Manual Rs aren’t very fast for what they cost (stock). Over 5 seconds to 60 and a bit over 100mph in the quarter. Not much faster than a GTI for significantly more money. You’ll be getting smoked by a host of cheaper cars while being an idiot on the road. With a tune and some small mods, the DSGs can get under 4 seconds to 60 while playing stoplight hero. That number was very impressive for $40k up until very recently. Now you have SS Camaros dipping under 4s with the automatic and the Mustang about to join it. Much harder to hit that on a street obviously vs consistency with the R, but the general point remains true, the performance for $40k, whether stock or tuned, isn’t the reason to buy these. It’s the overall balance, practicality, interior quality, etc. The GTI does all of those things just as well for a lot less money though.

    • 0 avatar
      Delta9A1

      It depends on where you live. Having owned a ’12 GTI and now a ’16 R, there are many instances in the rain and snow where the GTI had wheel spin under normal stop-light acceleration. The R does not have wheel spin – ever. I used the same snow tires on both, so there was no difference there.

      • 0 avatar
        MrOblong

        Yeah, I just won’t buy an FWD vehicle ever again. I test drove a 6MT GTI (sans PP/LSD) and half throttle out of a gentle corner and I was already lighting up the inside front tire. I’m sure the LSD helps a ton, but ultimately, FWD cars are just so grip-limited. In the R I just step on it and it GOES. You never feel power shuffling around or torque steer or hesitation for haldex to think about what it wants to do.

        That said, it is a LOT more money than the GTIs which are fairly heavily discounted.

    • 0 avatar
      Chris FOM

      The GTI Sport is a great deal and makes the R look stupidly expensive, but unless you’re the type that keeps cars forever and runs them into the ground you’ll get most of that back on the resale. The GTI depreciates like a German car while the R holds its value ridiculously well.

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      krhodes1 writes: “If you are driving so hard you need AWD on the street please stop, you are being an idiot.”

      That could not be more incorrect.

      The GTI, a car I like a lot and had originally planned to buy instead of the R, has a serious fwd traction deficit in the wet that simply doesn’t exist in the AWD R. Of course that isn’t unique to the GTI; all higher powered FWD cars suffer similarly. And if a 200-ish hp GTI has that problem, a 300-ish hp R with only FWD would be that much worse. As it is, the AWD R has uncanny traction off the line in the wet.

      This is something I first experienced instructing a student in an R32 at Grattan Raceway quite a few years ago. In the wet my student, who despite her inexperience had pretty good driving instincts, just spanked the other cars in her group.

      And then the’s the matter of winter driving, for those of us so afflicted.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I know anecdotes don’t matter that much, but I see the R pretty frequently — there are at least 5 “regulars” I see around town. OTOH, I still haven’t seen a single Focus RS yet, and the STi are pretty few and far between (unless you visit the parking lot of a nearby motorsport even, when they all seem to come out of the woodwork).

    I think the fact that it does the most things for the most people is its endearing quality. I’m pushing 40 with a couple kids and I don’t think I’d be caught dead (by my wife, in the school carpool line, by my boss, etc) in any of the other 3 competitors, at least not without a lot of judgmental glances and/or comments about my manbits.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Agree. Part of the beauty of the Golf in general, and the GTI and R in particular, is that they *don’t* stand out – they look perfectly acceptable at a car show or at the country club. About the flashiest thing you can do with a North American factory spec R is to get the Lapiz Blue paint (personal favorite).

    • 0 avatar
      MrOblong

      You must be on the east coast. Here in the SF Bay Area I see an R (other than my own) only once every week or so. You can’t blink without seeing another STI (shame they ditched the hatch, the sedan is just so silly IMO, the hatches vastly outnumbered sedans here on the west coast when they offered both, despite what Subaru says about a 50/50 mix).

      The RS is definitely less common but it’s only been out, what, a year, and the R has been out for 1.5?

      I was in New England for a week this summer and saw Rs *everywhere*. I assume the AWD is the appeal– GTIs are far more common here in more temperate climes.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    Had the original Mk IV R32 and currently have a ’16 GTI Autobahn with Performance and DCC. I also have a good amount of time in the current Mk 7 R.

    The R really is greater than the sum of its parts. The problem comes in with pricing: GTI Autobahns are routinely selling for around $30-$32k whereas Golf Rs are commanding very close to sticker.

    Is the R worth $8,000-$10,000 more than the GTI Performance is probably the better question.

    Compare it back to back with the GTI Performance and the R does feel like it has an edge up on it, I just don’t know if I’d be willing to drop that much change on a Golf when I could pickup a new A4 Sport for around $44 or an S3 for about the same cash. Yes, I know the S3 is DSG only and I know the A4 is in a different class entirely, but if I can afford $40, then I’d probably stretch a few more bucks for more comfort, reliability (don’t laugh) and a longer warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny_5.0

      You can lease a S3 cheaper than you can lease one of these. Shame about losing the hatch though. Pricing is indeed the killer on these. I was shopping for a Golf R when I ended up in a GTI. The R leaves the lot for MSRP. I got $5k off a SE/DSG GTI, making it almost $15k less than the R I was looking at. $40k just feels like a lot to pay for a Golf, even as nice and well balanced as they are.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “…when I could pickup a new A4 Sport for around $44 or an S3 for about the same cash.”

      I’d guess that a good number of Golf R buyers at least look at the S3 and A4. From what I’ve gathered neither has the “feel” of the R. The A4 being the more subdued of the two.

      What I wonder is how many A4 shoppers wonder over to V.W. to take a look at the R? I’d guess not many.

      If I were going to forgo the R for something a little bit more expensive, it’d be a Guilia ti. Not quite as quick as the R but feels really good to drive and looks great.

      • 0 avatar
        TDIandThen....

        I think you’re right, the VW interior felt to me like an Audi with a badge switch when I test drove them. Same for my current Golf: the top end $31k trim Golf got me feeling that I’d got a base Audi for ten thousand dollars less. The difference as far as I could tell was that the Audi has automatic climate control, and maybe better stock tires. I don’t get why more folks don’t see that, but Volks now has a brown patina on everything they do, for many.

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          I cross shopped the new A3 2.0T Sport and GTI Autobahn back in 2015. Lack of manual transmission being ignored, the A3 just left me cold: too sterile. Very nice, but I didn’t finish the test drive thinking “I need this.”

          On the contrary, after exiting the GTI I immediately started the negotiation process.

          I can take or leave the hatchback, but the car was just fun, quiet, good infotainment, great interior. In short, it really did check all the boxes for me…plus, a manual transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      My dad still DDs a 2004 and it’s fantastic. Those seats, that sound…there are just so many intangibles about the old VR6 models that make it greater than the sum of its parts, totally agree. And it feels faster and nimbler than the numbers would have you believe.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I’m probably in the market soon for a daily driver/fun car and this is pretty high on my list for most of the reasons you describe. It’s not obnoxious, it performs great all around, fun, and you can really got on it if you want. The civic just hurts my eyes to look at and it looks like it should be driven by a senior in high school.

  • avatar
    TDIandThen....

    The comparison should be with the GTI with DCC, shouldn’t it? That’s the model that costs close to and cannibalizes sales of the R in the US.

    Here in Montreal the AWD and love of leasing helps make this a (surprisingly) common choice.

    Weirdly the MX-5 hardtop is almost identical in price to the R in Canada, which maybe says something about the value prop and costs to deliver each product.

    • 0 avatar
      Urlik

      The R is a screaming bargain in Canada though compared to the US.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      The MX-5 hardtop is a delightful car. Fun at just about any speed, and the hardtop mostly solves my major complaint of the car being too loud with the top up.

      Are you seeing many on the streets in Canada?

      • 0 avatar
        TDIandThen....

        Hubcap: I agree, I want the MX-5 RF as my next, and I’ve seen a grand total of one on the streets in Mtl, Ottawa, or Toronto this year. The $40K+ price tag is surely part of the reason it’s so rare.

        Urlik, the R totals around $45K in Canuckian pesos and that’s a pretty firm price in my experience. At nearly the same price with tax in, more than the R being some kind of bargain, the MX-5 RF is incredibly expensive here whether compared to the US or not. I’m hoping that the rising Canadian dollar will help lower the Canadian retail price.

      • 0 avatar
        scott25

        I’ve never seen an MX5 RF without dealer plates.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      GTI Autobahn with DCC is routinely leaving dealership lots for around $32-$33k. The R is still going for close to sticker, so you’re probably still looking at around an $8k delta, minimum, when it’s all said and done.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    My boss has a ’16 Golf R. Five of us went to lunch a month or so ago and fit quite comfortably. I even took a picture of us.

    One thing to note…the Golf R is one of two Golf variants still made in Germany (the other is the e-Golf), so you do get some additional niceties, like the Euro-market center console, with a sliding cover for the cupholders and a powered parking brake in place of the handbrake seen on other models…genuine leather, which I don’t think is offered elsewhere, a frameless rearview mirror and better insulation.

    Also, on the Golf R and e-Golf, all four of the “accents” on the headlamps light up, versus just the outboard ones for other Golf models equipped with bi-xenon HID lights. And the Golf R / e-Golf ones have LED turn indicators, too; the others have halogen bulbs.

    • 0 avatar
      focus-ed

      I’d say that having real hand-brake (Golf and GTI) is big plus for the cheaper trims. The fact that Honda R comes with buttons just makes it look like an impostor. Also, the park brake in Golf/GTI engages primary brake pads – so it can actually be used to stop the car (or play) without the need to replace them right after that.
      Regarding the cupholders – I’d rather have them in front of the shifter. Can’t really place my bottle in the there as I’d be rubbing over it all the time. Good thing all VW come with cavernous door pockets.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I’m going with Jack B’s argument that the Golf is to VW as the Accord (or Civic) is to Honda. They might lose their way here or there, but it’s a fairly solid core product and on a worldwide scale.

    I wanted a GTI, so I went and drove a few in SE form and Autobahn with the DCC. I wanted a GTI SE because I like the stuff in that package (HID’s, Fender audio, leather. I like the Clark plaid on a heritage note, but I prefer leather.) I didn’t want a “lesser” GTI, as good as they are, for that reason.

    Or leatherette as it turns out. I will personally be taking delivery of a Night Blue Golf Wolfsburg this week. With a manual! As much as I wanted a GTI ( or Fiat Abarth 500c, Mustang, or an Alfa on lease) the reality wasn’t for any of those.

    I drove a Fiesta ST and it’s not a car I could live with. I didn’t want a Focus ST. A Subaru would require me to buy a flat brim hat and begin vaping. My sons are growing quickly, they don’t really fit in the back of the Fiat or Mustang well. Well, not enough for the wife to sign off on them.

    I drove an Alfa Giulia and it was fantastic, but the lease terms were not. Not compared to the website and what’s really out there right now. And after I drove the Giulia, I wasn’t going to look at a 320xi on lease. I looked at a Kia Forte SX. I didn’t care for it. Too flashy and the quality feel wasn’t there.

    The Golf is fine in it’s own right. It seems solid, the 1.8 has plenty of power and it drives in a way I expect from a German car (made in Mexico). It reminded me of my 04 Jetta wagon 1.8T as soon as a got inside and once I began driving it. In short, it’s just a well done little car and it enjoys a bit of whipping, unlike my Chevy Cruze Limited (or even the new Cruze).

    Is a GTI worth it over a Golf? Yes, in my opinion it is. The Autobahn is a bit much, for me the SE would be it. But maybe next time, after getting some stuff done to the house and putting some more in the retirement fund/kids funds. But the Golf won me over with its overall competency. Here’s hoping it goes well. And there’s always the tuners if I decide to spice it up a bit.

  • avatar
    civicjohn

    – no wing, check
    – 292HP, check
    – all-wheel drive, check (not a huge deal in the Southern part of the US)
    – 25MPG, check (I suppose on regular? can’t find on the website)
    – sunglasses holder, check (?)
    – Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, check (Car Net as well, can’t find the monthly $$ on the site)
    – prepaid service options, check
    – no CD changer, check (Ronnie and newenthusiast, welcome to 2007)
    – looks like every Golf on the road, check, check, and check.

    Yup, a pretty darn fast Golf with a good feature list. I wouldn’t buy one because it looks like the $22k Golf my neighbor has down the street. If I were ready to drop $40k on a car that I could rarely put to use the high HP, I might go rouge and pick up one of those Mustangs with 435HP. At least I could smoke the tires after I cut the grass on Saturdays.

    I’m one of those crazy people that holds a long grudge when the company has been through a pretty major scandal. I know that makes for a better deal, but still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny_5.0

      My ’16 GTI had a CD (changer?) in the glove box. I assume the R does as well. I didn’t even know the GTI had one until a few days after I bought the car when I put my proof of insurance in the glove box. Exactly zero CDs were ever inserted in the 15 months I owned the car.

      And the TDI scandal did nothing for wiggle room on R pricing. They still wanted and got sticker.

      • 0 avatar
        KevinC

        Wrong, your ’16 GTI did NOT have a changer in the glove box – that’s a single-disc transport, built into the “brains” of the entire system. The display on the dash is just that – the display hardware only, while everything else is in that unit inside the top area of the glove box. Supports a single CD only. Surprised they’re still putting one in there at this point, with excellent SD card & USB support also on hand.

    • 0 avatar
      TDIandThen....

      Me too one of those people. The R is an awesome package imho, and I probably won’t buy it. Partly though I’m just bored of Golf after five years and want to change, and partly because I have The Dreaded Lust in My Heart, for the MX-5.

  • avatar
    bortlicenseplate

    That the Golf R exists here at all and is selling well is awesome — it’s obviously an amazing package. That said, for my $40k, given the rigidity of the R’s price, I don’t think I’d ever buy one. I’d sooner look at a bare-bones ’17 A4 with sport package (CPO if necessary).

    The Audi is only 300 lbs. heavier and, if only on paper, it seems to give up very little in performance to the R, while offering some nice stuff in return: a sunroof (a must if it’s my only car), slightly longer wheelbase (very welcomed for us taller folk), more/longer trunk space (though I would miss the hatchback), better/newer DSG, and arguably even more of a “sleeper” look, if that’s your thing.

    Granted, the two cars may indeed drive very differently, but would they really? Anybody here have seat time in both an R and a sport-suspended A4?

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      *raises hand*

      The new A4’s driving dynamics are *very good* and the car (especially in Prestige trim with the acoustic glass) is virtually silent.

      The cars do feel very different, for very obvious reasons, but the A4 with sport package is very good indeed – almost “grown up GTI” – but less playful.

      • 0 avatar
        bortlicenseplate

        Thanks for weighing in. I didn’t realize there was acoustic glass in Prestige trim – very cool. My ideal A4 would probably be pretty bare-bones, with only the Sport package – no virtual cockpit, no acoustic glass, no other luxuries. Looking fwd to test-driving one soon.

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          Now, good luck finding a dealership stocking a FWD model on its lot, or a manual transmission for that matter.

          From talking with dealership principal friends, the people that want them are ordering them; Dealers aren’t stocking very many at all (shock).

          • 0 avatar
            bortlicenseplate

            “Now, good luck finding a dealership stocking a FWD model on its lot, or a manual transmission for that matter.

            From talking with dealership principal friends, the people that want them are ordering them; Dealers aren’t stocking very many at all (shock).”

            Yeah I would not be interested in FWD — quattro only, and though I love manuals, I think I’d be happy with the DSG, from all I’ve read. I guess when I say “base model” I mean the base-est model one can find on the lot.

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          Also, we have acoustic glass on our JGC Overland. Our previous JGC was really good about road noise, especially at highway speeds, but the new one takes it to a different level. The Overland only has acoustic glass on the windshield, I believe, but the Summit has it on all of the windows. I’ve driven that as well and holy cow, it’s silent.

          Big fan of acoustic glass.

    • 0 avatar
      focus-ed

      “slightly longer wheelbase (very welcomed for us taller folk)” ??? Do you wear stilts for driving? When I went for test drive in Golf, the dealership employee that dropped off the car was like 7 feet tall (I’m only 6’4″). I could not reach pedals with the seat adjusted to his preference. I’ve never ridden in the 2nd row but Golf is certainly not lacking space in the front row.
      And 300lb is a lot – at this point AWD A4 is likely 600lb heavier than GTI. Or 20% more.

      • 0 avatar
        bortlicenseplate

        Everyone has a different driving position. I’m shorter than you at a long-legged 6’2, but i’ve sat in various current Golf’s and while the space is good, I found the A4’s front seat area slightly roomier, and more to my liking.

        And it’s not just about legroom, but where, for instance, the B-pillar is situated in relation to your shoulder. Shorter-wheelbase cars tend to have it fore of the shoulder, which is generally less desirable for visibility.

        Wheelbase also suggests overall interior room, and that’s a big win for me for cargo (I frequently haul skis inside the car and a good-sized trunk (lengthwise) plus decent wheelbase is good for that).

        As for weight, I don’t know how to quantify “a lot”, but sure, 300 lbs. is a lot. A4 quattro w/DSG is ~3650 lbs., VW Golf R 6-speed manual is ~3350 lbs. My question was how this weight difference (and indeed, if) was felt, and by hreardon’s response, it appears it is indeed noticeable.

  • avatar
    wintermutt

    Golf R or Subie win cause they are AWD which means CHP/Caltrans will not require chains when snowy on 80 or 50. If not for that, I would be all over the Honda. I like the styling.

  • avatar
    seanx37

    $40k for a Rabbit. A nice Rabbit, but still a Rabbit.

    And the local Ford dealer is offering $10-15k off 2017 Mustang GT’s . The Chevy dealer is offering roughly the same off Camaro’s.

    If I could get a Mustang GT convertible for less than this fancy Rabbit, I know what I would take.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    I have owned an R for 2 years. I got one of the earliest ones in Canada 2016 model year in August of 2015. Great car, but being a cad geek I started looking for another car recently. I test-drove just about everything there is in the entry-level luxury performance. The last one was 2 days ago, Volvo v60 Polestar, not the R Polestar, the “real” “Polestar”.

    I will not talk about size and interior etc, both are very similar, only about how they drive.

    The main difference in terms of performance between the 2 “balance”. The Volvo seems edgier but not necessarily in a good way. At acceleration you can feel the front-wheel tuck in the steering wheel, this doesn’t exist in R at any speed (the main difference compared to GTI). The Volvo automatic shifts loudly and abruptly (with the new 8-speed). One can probably get used to it quickly but coming from R where the shifts are almost imperceptible when the gas pedal is floored, it’s very noticeable. R accelerates eagerly, Volvo lazily. In sport mode R holds gear to the red line even if the gas pedal is not all the way down, Volvo doesn’t. It’s difficult to hit red-line in Volvo, it’s difficult not to hit the red-line in R. Volvo feels heavier though lighter than it’s 4000 lbs would suggest, still heavier than R (and it is by 500lbs). R seems light and nimble but at the same time as solid as Volvo.

    Overall I liked the Volvo but I felt my R was just a little better car in terms of driving than the Polestar. Yet it terms of cost I could buy another Golf (base model) for the price of Polestar.

    Real world price: R $46K no discount, Polestar $63K with 8K discount all prices in CAD.

  • avatar
    V16

    Comparison between the appearance of the VW Golf R and Honda Civic Type R:
    VW Golf R–Tailored, cashmere/wool blend expensive suit.
    Honda Civic Type R-A lime green polyester leisure suit.

  • avatar
    06M3S54B32

    No way I’d spend that on a Golf. Plus, if you’re over 30 and drive a hatchback, IMO you look like/are a dork. I’d look at a MK II Audi TTS for my car after my M3 . In dynamic mode, the TT/TTS sends power 40/60 which is really cool.

    • 0 avatar
      MrOblong

      I’m definitely a dork, I drove a Clownshoe and a Golf R. And I’m well over 30, imagine that.
      To me, the Golf stereotype is the kinda granola family, the 50something professor in a tweed coat, that kind of thing.
      PS: The TTS is a hatchback too, just a much less useful one. After owning a grip of 2-seaters, the Golf is my first-ever 4 door car. I’m so “over” the idea of a 4 seat car with a useless back seat and no rear doors, just buy a proper sports car already. I also don’t get buying AWD if you want a fun car. I’m sure the TTS is a hoot in the same way the R is, but when I want outright fun, I want RWD. I’d think the TTS would be a huge disappointment coming from an E46 M3. But then, I’m a BMW guy at heart.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      99% percent of non-car loving humans will consider a TT a hatchback, for the record.

  • avatar
    MrOblong

    The gripe about road noise in the article is pretty surprising. Has anyone else found this issue in their R? I threw out the stupid blingy 19″ boat anchor wheels that came on my 2016 (they didn’t offer the beautiful wheels pictured back then.. and okay I sold them on eBay, didn’t throw them out) and replaced them with lightweight 18s and Michelin PSS the day I got the car, but one of my FAVORITE things about the car is how damn quiet it is. I took it on a 4000mi roadtrip shortly after I got it, and it’s just such an effortless, comfortable, quiet, competent car. I didn’t notice the stock tires being any louder than my PSS in the few hours I had them on the car, though.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      MrOblong –

      I came from an ’06 A3 which, even with new 17″ tires and new bearings was a loud MF’er on the highway. My ’16 GTI is an S-Class in comparison.

      I did some decibel comparisons and the GTI scored almost the same as a ’15 A4 Quattro Sport. So, pretty good. I have noticed that at 16,000 miles the stock Bridgestones are getting very noisy; I’m planning on a new set of winters and then assuming that they release properly sized 18″s next year, the new Michelin Pilot Sport 4S.

      But overall, I’d say the MK7 is very good for noise – the Golf R probably a bit better, even, since it doesn’t have a sunroof.

  • avatar
    06M3S54B32

    Crap. I meant an MK III TTS, which is a bit quicker than my E46 M3 coupe.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    There is some road noise. It seems to come from the tires mostly and becomes more noticeable as the tires wear out. However for a performance car this is very, very minor. It’s more noticeable in city-driving and almost non-existent on the highway. This is a refined sports car, very refined.

  • avatar
    scott25

    The fact the sticker price of the Golf R is 10k cheaper than the sticker price on the Focus RS explains why you never see Focus RSes in Canada. Both RSes we had at our dealer had stickers for 51k.

    Also can someone care to explain why 100% of Golf Rs in existence have non-functional ski racks on the roof which always look completely idiotic?

  • avatar
    rreichar

    I really like the Golf R. Intended to buy one last Spring. Ended up with a GTI SE manual for a hair under 27K. Same leather and brakes.Also the electronic diff with 300lbs less weight. Same Fender stereo with CarPlay and Android Auto. For 15K less. For most driving they feel pretty similar. I may still buy an R next year with the larger screen and the virtual cockpit to help differentiate it from the GTI. Until then I feel like I got a pretty good car for a good price.


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