New VW Golf R: the 300 HP Performance Bargain of the Year

For a while now, Audi has dominated the fast estate market, Volkswagen the European compact market and Skoda the European affordable car market. Nobody other than the owners seems to love their cars though. Ferrari makes more exciting cars, Renault makes cheaper ones and Kias pack more features. And yet Volkswagen Group continues from strength to strength, matching expectations, and slowly pushes for No.1.
This is the dichotomy between what people actually want and what auto journalists and bloggers say. I myself was guilty of this. A bit over a year ago, I was adamant the Renault Megane 265 RS was the best thing since McDonald's, better than all its rivals. People told me the Golf GTI wasn't its match, that the more powerful Golf R was, but I didn't get it. To me, the Golf R was too heavy, too expensive and too old-fashioned. And yet, now I get why people like them.

Auto testers, especially the ones from Britain, will tell you Mercs are better because they're RWD, while Audi's quattro systems have understeer. But guess who had the last laugh when 4Matic started appearing on the backs of AMGs?

I really want to talk about a specific VW Group product, the Golf R. Objectively, the old one was boring, blunt and bulbous. But because they concucted the formula so early, the new one has had more time to get the spices right. Which is why it could be the performance bargain of next year. Since I think British editors are messing up our perception, I'm going to prove my point there rather than in Germany where I would be even more pertinent.

The all-new Golf R was priced today in Britain, and all you need to know now is one number: £31,315. For that amount, you can have it with a DSG gearbox. This means 0 to 100 km/h (62mph) in just 4.9 seconds. What other new car can do this for that kind of money? The BMW M135i comes close if you go for the manual with three doors, but then you're missing a lot of toys. You can even spend £33,000 on a Toyota GT 86, which Top Gear said is the car of the year in 2012. What does fun matter when all you're ever going to see are the family hatchback taillights of a Golf if you ever challenge it to a race?

4.9 seconds. I thank God for modularity and standardization. Because the Golf and the Audi A3 have the same bones, the R has 300 horsepower and 380 Nm of torque delivered through a fifth-generation Haldex 4MOTION four-wheel drive system. 300 hp in a Golf that goes to 62 in under 5 seconds. That's like lifting the dress of Her Majesty Queen 'Liz and finding the legs of Usain Bolt underneath.

Don't think the Golf R is outrageously powerful? Not even a decade ago, the C55 AMG used its thumping 5.4-liter V8 engine to push itself to to 100 km/h in just as many seconds. If you want something even more embarrassing, look no further than a dedicated sportscar like the Maserati GranTurismo 4.3-liter, requiring 5.2 seconds to get to our beloved benchmark speed. It's not just older cars that it matches or bests: 2013 Porsche 911 Cabrio Manual – 5 seconds, 2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG – 5.4 seconds.

Things like bi-xenon headlights, LED taillights, 18-inch wheels, Alcantara trim and massive 340mm disk brakes are all standard. That's for £31,315. The back-to-basics £25,545 isn't actually the performance powerhouse some say it is, not for an old model with a bad engine management and yellow seatbelts.

You'll be happy for years with the performance. And even once the magic disappears, and you no longer have the fastest hot hatch on the road, you're still left with a relatively efficient family car with all-wheel drive, 380 liters of boot space and a well built interior. Go to Audi and they'll only be able to give you a well-specced 184 PS diesel for that kind of money. You just can't go wrong with the letter R!
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
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Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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