By on February 23, 2018

2017 VW Golf R Interior, Image: VW

Ted writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’m about to get a new Golf R and everyone complains about the boring VW Golf design thingamajiggit. Yes. I find the boring classic outside to be comforting. I’m in it for the longevity of the design and body, and want to keep this until it dies or 10 years; I intend to ceramic coat the Lápiz Blue. It’s a manual, of course, and when the clutch eventually dies I may replace with a tougher version and chip it.

What I don’t like, and a major strike against the R in my mind, is that the interior is so dark as to make the interior basically invisible.

The accents — silver stitching which isn’t prominent and will dull or fade, blue lighting accents which only pop up at night with the doors open — are too limited to make much of an impact. No sunroof in the Canadian R, which is okay by me, and it’s the Audi TFT digital dash, so, lots of lights.

However, how can I add an accent or two to the inside which fits and doesn’t ruin the elegant feel VW were going for? Does the silver really work?

Should VW have gone for this dark-leather look? I’m moving up from a cloth interior Mk VI. I wish there were a non-leather interior option.

How would you do a Golf R Interior Redesign?

Sajeev answers:

How I feel your pain…from a different angle!

My Lincoln Mark VIII LSC was fetching when new, as this cherry example from a long-gone eBay auction shows. But like many German luxo-sleds with soft-touch plastics, time was not kind to the vinyl coating. It peeled and even checked.

1996 Lincoln Mark VIII interior, Image: eBay

My solution?

1995 Lincoln Mark VIII interior piano black accents, Image: Sajeev MehtaLoooong swaths of “Piano Black“: it suits my tastes, never blinded me via reflected sunlight, the passenger airbag seam remains unmolested, and chicks dig it too. (If that matters) 

So here’s my plan: ditch Golf R’s stock Piano Black and integrate the Lápiz Blue exterior.  Either paint inside or try hydro dipping.* The blue painted trim is understated(ish) while hydro dipping gives room for creativity. But don’t go nuts with fake carbon fiber, zebra wood grain, etc. I briefly considered brushed aluminum dip, should you?

Never seeing a Golf R in the flesh, I’m sticking my neck out to consider painting interior panels in Lápiz Blue (with acres of clear coat) kinda like an E39 M5’s sport interior. (Except more understated than that Bimmer.) Paint (and prep for perfect flatness) all this blue:

  • Everything currently Piano Black, including the steering wheel spoke’s perimeter trim
  • The upper door panel trim x 4  (the slab around the door handle)
  • The silver ends of each door panel’s grab handle x4
  • The headlight switch bezel
  • The long strip on the passenger dashboard
  • The overhead console door and bezel
  • The back half of the console (currently flat black)
  • Dye the seats/wheel stitches dark blue (yes, that stuff works)

And if this speaks to you, run harder via removing the soft vinyl (leather?) from each door, remove the center sections of each seat and stitch in something blue plaid instead. I mean, ceramic coating the exterior ain’t cheap to start.

If Singer makes the most desirable retromobiles, if Jack Baruth did a proper Lime Green Audi S5, what’s stopping you from the best GTI-homage interior? 

*There are a ton of vinyl wraps that accomplish the same thing as hydro dipping, adding an element of texture not otherwise possible. Consider it, hopefully they last longer than the factory stuff I spent big $$$ removing.

[Image: Volkswagen, eBay, Sajeev Mehta]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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52 Comments on “Piston Slap: Re-design This Golf R Interior!...”

  • avatar

    But black interiors are SPORTY !! That is what all recent car designers believe. Finding a current sports-oriented vehicle __without__ a coal bin interior’s almost impossible. Not sure where this miserable trend began but the Euro brands seem the most enthusiastic embracers of black.

    To its credit, Subaru does provide brown seats/trim for some of its sports-oriented vehicles like the Forester XT. The STI, on other hand, is all black interior, as are Subie’s 50th Anniversary models.

    • 0 avatar

      Two things are worse than a black interior. One is a black exterior, too. (I have heard of guys painting the exterior flat black. Ugh.) The other is a light gray interior with a dull silver exterior.

    • 0 avatar

      I have no problems with black interior. The bright interior of base Golf was pita to keep clean, trust me, you’d not want to use sunvisors for the risk of staining headliner (and I’d consider my hands dry and don’t work physical labor job). Trying to load a bike – so much for the new car interior. GTI is so much easier to maintain inside. OTOH, I’d not mind to have more fun exterior color options. Not that I’m going to replace it, especially now with the 3 door variant gone.

    • 0 avatar

      Pimp it.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Since taking out the giant console thingy isn’t likely practical or possible, now that everything in modern cars seems to revolve around their continued apparent necessity, and as a Nardi wheel isn’t also practical, I’m at a loss for suggestions.
    Sorry! (Canadian thing)

  • avatar

    My Golf SEL has the same problem. Everything is black. While I applaud VW for making beige an interior colour choice independant of the exterior paint, you’d be hard pressed to find one that isn’t black inside.

    There are third parties that make replacement interior trims. That’s one way. Alternatively, SE model has plastic brushed aluminum looking stuff that would add some contrast to the wall of darkness.

  • avatar

    Custom leather covers are easy to find. I’d do that, then swap out the headliner with fabric that’s also easy to find, in a tasteful dark plaid to complement the seats. Then pop out the door cards and wrap them in matched microfiber or vinyl. The aluminum trim can be painted.

    Overall I’d go with dark plaid headliner, black with green and dark red in it. Then parchment seats with dark red stitching. Matching parchment color door inserts, and a few small dark red trim accents. Parchment floor mats in a deep carpet pile or sisal.

    Also, anything that can be removed can be wrapped in microfiber or other cloth. So have fun there.

    Top it off with a dark red wooden shifter .

  • avatar

    The Mark VIII’s interior degradation is not typical of luxury cars, only of Fords.

    More than once I sat in a Ford meeting listening to managers discussing how much they could cut back on UV protection and other durability additives in the vinyl, leather and ABS.

    My BMW is now older than my ark VIII when sold it, and there is absolutely no trace of interior degradation. Likewise my Eldorado, which is now 48 years old, and came from a sunny state.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re lucky. That’s assessment is impossible on the Gulf Coast. Jettas, Passats, 3ers, 5ers, 7ers, A4-6-8s, C-E-S classes all succumb to the inevitable fate of too much sun, skin lotion, and friction. They all turn into a 1996 Taurus center console after 10 years.

      • 0 avatar

        Here in south Florida, the interior on my 2006 E46 has not held up anywhere near as well as my old E30(s) did. This is a car that has been garaged since new and has 117K miles. My 2008 E90 seems to be holding up well but it only has 34K miles.

      • 0 avatar

        Supposedly lotion is the big issue with the early “soft touch” implementations. Much improved now.

    • 0 avatar

      Bean counters always have the last say. I was involved in construction of a UV additive production system for plastic components when I worked for a large OEM automotive coatings manufacturer several years ago. Great stuff, all the auto makers loved it. Very effective and long lasting protection regardless of color and well-tested at our Florida and Arizona test sites over a number of years. But it was expensive to manufacture and therefore an expensive product. The multi-million dollar investment in building the mill and associated tankage ended up a loss for us because after the initial high 6-8 month production rate sales tapered off to merely a few thousand pounds per year of “special orders” for very high-end vehicles only.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    The Rs all have leather, which would be fine if it came in beautiful color choices. The Europeans used to do that. I’ve had both a Mercedes and even a Cadillac with the most beautiful red leather seats.

    • 0 avatar

      The premium Europeans still do. That choice is part of the premium price you pay for premium cars.

      A Golf is ultimately a cheap car, and one of the things that keeps it cheap is limiting choice.

      • 0 avatar

        The 1981 VW Rabbit was an even cheaper car, and it gave you a choice of *four* fully color-coordinated interior colors. Make mine burgundy seats, doors, carpeting, dash, and headliner.

        What happened in the intervening years that cheap cars, and even many expensive cars, can no longer offer color choices other than greyscale or beige? And the few exceptions usually give you colors only for the seats, door panels, and carpeting, leaving the dash black and the headliner white?

        • 0 avatar

          That was then, this is now. Adjusted for inflation, cars are not much more expensive than they were in the ’80s. But now they are bigger, faster, safer (8 billion airbags!), have infotainment, etc. Choice is one of the things that has fallen by the wayside to achieve this.

          Relevant example – my 1984 Jetta GLI cost $10K in 1984 with a sunroof and A/C. That is just shy of $25K today which is the price of a base GTI. That ’84 had 90hp, 30mpg, no power steering, crank windows, lock them yourself doors, and the stereo was a dealer installed extra. And roughly the crash safety of a cardboard box. The same-year GTI was a couple grand cheaper, but in exchange you got fab-u-less Westmorland build quality in exchange for those interior color choices. You could have any interior color you wanted on the GLI as long as it was black. Today you get 220hp, 36mpg, power everything, a nice stereo, and a level of crash safety not even dreamed of in 1984 for the same adjusted price. I’m OK with a black interior in exchange for all that.

          If you want color choices, pay $50K++ for a BMW M240i which is kind of competition to a Golf R.

  • avatar

    Here is my plan:
    Take medicine, stop hallucinating – Golf R has great interior. Black is classic.
    “and when the clutch eventually dies” – never once clutch died on me, even after 17 years. This is all up to how you drive

    • 0 avatar

      Golf clap.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t confuse your 17 years of driving other cars and/or previous low torqu vw’s with what this person is going going to experience with their mbq golf. Vw put in underspec’d clutches/pressure plates and pressure delay valves that cause premature wear to the clutchface. It’s not a driving style issue simply a vw miscalculation.

      Technically you could drive the R without ever getting over 10 psi of boost and probably never have a problem with the clutch but who wants that?!?!

    • 0 avatar

      Ordinarily I’d agree with you. But the clutch in the manual Golf R is marginal. Mine will occasionally slip if full throttle is applied in high gears around 2k – 2.5k rpm, right around when the boost comes on. Has done from around 5500 miles and I gather its not completely uncommon. Not tuned, not thrashed and I’ve almost exclusively owned manual cars since the early 90s, only had to replace 1 clutch at 90K miles in a WRX that was modified (and lightly thrashed).

      It’s also maddeningly difficult to reproduce at the dealer.

  • avatar

    I love black interiors so I can’t be much help.

    If it is a non-premium vehicle, I want it all black inside. Like f*cking Spinal Tap black. If it is a premium vehicle I also want it overwhelmingly black inside but with ample real wood trim.

    Fetching color on the outside, coal cave on the inside is my preference.

  • avatar

    My brother tracks his R, so I will tell you first up get the tune (APR Stage II)… after that you’ll be smiling so much you’ll forget about the black hole interior. I think he has replaced the clutch once in 80K but keep in mind this thing was tracked HARD on sticky tires.

    I’m sure the VWvortex has suggestions on interior upgrades. I wouldn’t dye the seats or cover them (never looks factory), but some of the other mods suggested would work fine. Painting, dipping or vinyl wrapping various interior parts with a brushed aluminum look or blue to match the exterior will do wonders. Done properly this will look great and appear factory. The nice thing about dip or vinyl is it can be undone later if you (or the next buyer) hates it. Painting is more permanent, yet ironically not as durable as it will chip and crack, making it look horrible down the road.

    I had a VW Passat that had a light beige interior (lovely deep blue exterior) and actually ADDED black accents to better tie in the black dash upper cover and break up the monotone tan look. Another reason I painted various parts was my car suffered from that terrible peeling “soft touch” interior junk VeeDub used in the early ’00s. It was literally the worse wearing interior I have ever experienced. I owned the car since new, took excellent care of it but after only 4 years it looked like a 20 year POS. Bits broke, peeled, discolored, etc. The glove box handle snapped off – how does that even happen? I opened it like twice a year to change out my insurance paper work! In fact the day I traded it in for my 350Z the sunroof dial switch popped out.

    Good luck… the R is an incredible car and I applaud your choice of blue vs boring white, black or silver.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged Miata Man

    My ’15 GLI came with cheap glossy plastic accent pieces on the dash and doors – piano black with a lower red accent stripe to match the piping on the pleather seats. A few months after I purchased it, I found a vendor through VWVortex that would wrap those pieces in red-accented carbon fiber.

    The vendor bought cheap Chinese knockoff pieces to wrap, so the factory items were preserved until the time came to swap them out. Magnificent work, although it took about three times longer than the six-week timeframe he originally quoted before I had them in hand. It was a very subtle change but made the interior look far more refined to my eye.

    Before the VW, I had an Acura that had the usual silver plastic trim on the dash. I had those pieces hydrodipped in a dark maple wood pattern, and it REALLY set it off.

  • avatar

    How about a steering wheel with spokes at 4PM and 8PM?

    I won’t buy a car that requires me to play with myself.

    And 10 and 2 doesn’t work. They aggravate carpal tunnel.

    • 0 avatar

      That was my first thought! If I’m not turning the steering wheel I usually have my left hand at the 6 o’clock position and my right hand is free to operate the radio.

  • avatar

    I have a ’16 R and agree that the interior, while composed of generally high quality materials and excellent ergonomics, is too damn black. In particular I loathe the “piano black” trim on the dash – who is the genius bean counter that came up with this silly term for “shiny black plastic”? It attracts and shows dust far too easily and quickly looks crappy. Also, the R’s leather seats are of the “Vienna leather” variety here in the states. In Europe there’s optional Nappa leather, which is of much better quality – I’d rather have VW’s excellent Vtex pleather than this crap. Or even better, 2-tone Alcantara with leather bolsters, also available in Europe. But I digress.

    The problem with getting all creative and trying to improve on the stock appearance is that these projects never seem to turn out well, often looking overbearing and not of OEM quality. And it almost certainly will negatively impact resale value unless it looks universally better to anyone’s eye, which seems unlikely.

    Overall the interior is great, so I “suffer” with these little inadequacies, and at the end of the day, I’m quite happy with it overall.

    • 0 avatar

      I much prefer the subtle faux carbon fiber weave plastic bits in my GTI Sport to Piano black. The plaid cloth seats really lift the interior ambiance, adds just the right touch of color – I really hate leather in cars and would take vinyl over it as well. But I do wish for a return to the original MKI GTI with a choice of blue or red too! Though not necessarily in velour…

      I wish I could get rid of all the aluminum trim rings and such – I miss good old German Flat Black on the instrument panel and center stack.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Hmm. I prefer two-tone interiors, with black carpets and upper dash offset by a light tan lower dash and seating surfaces. But if I can’t have that, I would much rather go with all black like that Golf R. There’s just enough chrome and piano black flourish to make it look like a very classy cave. What I cannot stand is light grey or fake silver panels.

    Frankly, if this were my car I would be too busy enjoying the driving experience and excellent seats to care much about a monotone interior. I’d be very careful about any mods, they look easy to overdue and the prospective next owners may be turned off by them.

    I’m digging that long, low, linear Lincoln dashboard Sajeev.

  • avatar

    Yes, black is boring. Maybe, you can find an auto upholstery shop who could add some accents. Just be careful not to turn the interior into a cartoon.

  • avatar

    I have used vinyl wrap woodgrain in small discreet amounts on my lowly Focus. Matte finish, don’t like shiny. Interior is Fords “medium light stone” and I went with a dark walnut. I did it myself and it turned out great but it takes practice and patience.

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged Miata Man

      I tried to use 3M woodgrain wrap on the Acura trim pieces I mentioned in my above post, but couldn’t get it to adhere properly around complex curves. How did you manage it?

      • 0 avatar

        “I tried to use 3M woodgrain wrap on the Acura trim pieces I mentioned in my above post, but couldn’t get it to adhere properly around complex curves. ”
        Try using a heat gun set to low…it helps a lot

    • 0 avatar

      I used the adhesion promoter on the ends, and yes a heat gun is a must. It helped that my curves weren’t that complex.

  • avatar

    Skip the R, save $10K+ and get a GTI with plaid cloth seats. Problem solved.

    That said, I do love the color choices available in BMWs, I had off-white in my M235i and have red-brown in my 328i. But it is one of the things you PAY the premium for. Lots cheaper to just make one or two interior colors. Black is boring but easy to live with. Beige is a horror to live with (shows every possible stain) but I don’t like beige to start with.

  • avatar

    Some white shag carpet for the dash, leopard print seat covers, and a cue ball shift knob.

  • avatar

    Find some way to replace the glossy black trim with burled walnut or something that looks like it.

  • avatar

    A fast VW Golf should have tartan seats and that’s the end of it.

    Where’s this whole black leather thing come from? Tartan. Cloth.

    VW selling out their heritage. Gross.


  • avatar

    I gotta agree , when looking to replace my TDI Jetta wagon , blue w siege interior , I test drove a GTI and even w the pano roof it felt like a cave in there, if I could have had the plaid seats and the pano roof I more than likely would have pulled the trigger, esp if they would have gotten rid of the 19 wheels, If I am buying a new car I get to pick my interior and exterior color, if i buy used I have to be less picky. I would never buy an R bc VW does not offer a sunroof even as a option so no sale.

  • avatar

    In Europe, the R can be had with a sunroof and a sweet two-tone leather interior. God knows why VW America always denies us nice things…

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect it’s VW Wolfsburg making that decision. They might be like the French, who didn’t think Americans were sophisticated enough to know good wine, and exported their lower grades to America at premium prices. That didn’t turn out well.

  • avatar
    Hoon Goon

    Just deal with it. Everybody has to be fussing about something I guess.

  • avatar


    I have a Golf R, and I also was a bit put off by the all too blackness of the interior, even though it was well designed, otherwise. I made just one small addition which changed everything: I installed a set of LEYO knurled aluminum bezels over the HVAC and radio knobs. They look like they’re straight off of a Mercedes and bring just the right amount of bling to the otherwise monochromatic interior. $45 for just five trim pieces, but they actually transform the dash. Seriously.

    Here’s a link to a pic of them in a GTI:×500.jpg

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