It has been just under two decades since Volkswagen revealed the first Golf R32, a then-unexpected combination of the classic Golf hatchback platform with the go-fast parts of a performance car—namely the 3.2-liter narrow-angle VR-6 engine and an advanced all-wheel-drive system. From its cornering prowess to its exhaust note, the R32 quickly built a following.
Today, Volkswagen reveals the fourth-generation of the Golf R, and while the formula hasn’t changed, the performance potential has reached a new level. Arriving in the United States next year as a 2022 model, the Golf R will offer 315 hp, the most sophisticated 4Motion® all-wheel-drive system ever offered in the United States and technology that ties the ingredients together like never before.
And there’s even a Drift mode.
First, the key stats: The 2.0-liter EA888 turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the Golf R makes it the most powerful hot hatch Volkswagen has ever sold, with 315 hp, 27 more than the prior Golf R, and 310 pound-feet of torque, up from 280 pound-feet previously, with the max torque available from 2,100 rpm through 5,350 rpm. That power can be routed through either a North American-specified six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG® dual-clutch automatic. In a straight line, the 2022 Golf R can now hit 62 mph in 4.7 seconds, with an on-track top speed of 155 mph.1
But the Golf R experience was built around cornering ability and all-around ability, and here the new model has several upgrades. The upgraded 4Motion system now not only shifts power between the front and rear axles, but also between the left and right rear wheels. Where the prior system kept a 50:50 split from side to side, the new system can direct 100 percent of available power to the wheel on the outside of a corner, helping to reduce understeer and boost agility.
To manage those decisions, the Golf R features a new Vehicle Dynamics Manager, which monitors every corner the Golf R takes and helps adjust the vehicle as needed. It links the all-wheel-drive system, electronic differentials, the DCC® adaptive suspension, steering, transmission and brakes with a new level of sophistication, taking data measurements up to 200 times a second. In practice, this means the Golf R can now sense whether it’s entering understeer or oversteer and apply yaw and load changes on individual wheels at just the right amount to help improve response, shifting power delivery or applying a brake to an individual wheel.
The Driving Mode Selector now features five built-in settings; “Comfort,” for daily cruising, “Sport” for standard performance, “Race” for a more taut and louder setup, and two new modes, “Special” and “Drift.” “Special” mode was developed at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, with softer damping, coordinated DSG downshifts for cornering and other settings for that famed track; compared to the prior model, the new Golf R is up to 17 seconds quicker per lap in internal testing. “Drift” mode, intended only for the track, changes the stability control and all-wheel-drive power delivery modes to allow tire-smoking, sideways action.
Drivers can also customize an “Individual” drive mode setting to generate their exact preferences. For those taking the Golf R on track, the electronic stability control can be set to an “ESC Sport” mode that increases the thresholds for the system to intervene in traction moments, although Front Assist2 reactivates the ESC in emergencies.
The 2022 Golf R will feature more visual distinction from the Golf GTI than before, with unique front and rear bumpers derived and a two-part rear roof spoiler optimized for aerodynamic performance. The new Golf R adds a distinctive light signature for the first time, with a blue crossbar in the grille integrated with an LED strip that serves as part of the car’s daytime running lights.
From the side, the Golf R features 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with summer performance tires3 and larger cross-drilled brake discs, with blue calipers that feature the R logo. The car also sits 0.8 inches lower than the regular production Golf. The five-door Golf R can be configured in three different colors; the traditional Lapiz Blue Metallic, Pure White or Deep Black Pearl Effect.
The new levels of performance and technology continue inside the Golf R. The driver sits in Nappa-leather trimmed seats with the new R logo in the headrest. In front of them, there’s a heated and multifunction leather sport steering wheel, with DSG paddles, blue contrast stitching, touch controls with haptic feedback and an R button for choosing driving profiles. (Press it forcefully, and the Golf R switches directly into Race mode.)
Behind the wheel lies the Digital Cockpit configurable instrument panel, with data displays and graphics unique to the Golf R that work seamlessly to improve driving performance. Switching the DSG to manual and choosing Special or Drift profiles brings up shift recommendations in the Digital Cockpit. Other data display options include: boost pressure, gearbox temperature, torque, power, a G-meter, the torque distribution of the all-wheel-drive system, and a lap timer for track work.
The dash also includes a 10-inch Discover Pro touchscreen with key infotainment software, and the interior mood can be set with a 30-color ambient lighting that synchronizes with the display.
When it arrives next year, the new Golf R will bring a major jump forward in driving enjoyment, while offering a compelling mix of versatility and technology for its price. You won’t have to wait to own a future classic.