• Feb 28, 2011
Volkswagen Golf R – Click above for high-res image gallery

As part of its 2011 Geneva Motor Show festivities, Volkswagen is letting us loose behind the wheel of its range-topping Golf R, set to arrive in United States as a 2012 model. Production of the Stadeside-spec car begins at the automaker's Wolfsburg plant this November, and we've just learned how different our version of the Golf R will be from the model that's already on sale in Europe.

Don't worry – we're still getting the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to the company's fourth-generation Haldex 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. But while the European car cranks out 270 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, Volkswagen tells us that the U.S. car will produce something closer to 256 hp and 243 lb-ft (not yet confirmed). Still, that's 56 hp and 36 lb-ft more than the standard GTI, and since the Golf R is estimated to weigh around 3,300 pounds – 250 pounds lighter than the most recent R32 – the end result should be quite lively. Volkswagen is estimating that 0-62 mile-per-hour times will fall somewhere in the 5.7- to 5.9-second range.

As we reported earlier, the Golf R will only be offered with a six-speed manual transmission when it hits our shores. European cars can be had with Volkswagen's slick-shifting DSG unit, and we must admit, not offering the twin-clutch setup in the States seems like a curious omission, especially when you consider that the take rate on DSG in the less powerful GTI is around 50 percent. Still, Volkswagen says that its research with different enthusiast groups and dealers suggests that the vast majority of U.S. consumers have been clamoring for a row-your-own Golf R, and since the automaker had to keep the number of build options to a minimum in order to get the vehicle approved for American consumption, manual-only was the way they decided to go.

Follow the jump for more details on the U.S.-spec version of Volkswagen's Golf R hot hatch.




On the subject of reducing the number of build configurations, all U.S. Golf Rs will be outfitted almost exactly the same way. The only options available will be a choice of two and four doors, as well as a package that incorporates things like a sunroof, navigation, smart key and the Dynaudio sound system. We will not be able to spec the Golf R with the super-supportive motorsport-designed seats available in Europe (a €3,800 option – over $5,200 USD, for what it's worth), and all Golf R interiors will be leather only. Sadly, the Euro-spec LED taillamps will not be carried over to the U.S. Golf R, as well.

As for pricing, Volkswagen is targeting a base MSRP of around $33,000 – right about where the 2008 R32 was priced. During the Golf R's run here in the U.S., Volkswagen hopes to move about 5,000 of the little hot hatches – in total, not annually. If demand meets or exceeds supply, Volkswagen will have a better case for bringing a next-generation Golf R to our shores, as well. We'll be driving the Golf R later this week in Europe, so stay tuned for our full report.


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  • 119 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      I recall the outcry among the faithful when VW announced the '08 R32 was to come auto only. A departure from the beloved '04 R32. Enthusiasts voted with their dollars and the '08s languished on dealer lots with huge discounts and incentives to move them. Very few original R32 owners appeared to have made the shift.

      I had had an early A3 2.0T with manual, and when that left my household, I thought I might give the '08 R32 a whirl since I'd always liked the sweet sounding VR6. A short test drive was all it took to realize I didn't want one. Too quiet, and lacking driver involvement. So I went out and found an unmolested '04 R32. That was a serious challenge! A year into ownership, and no regrets at all.

      Granted, it's not the sharpest knife in the drawer for track duty in stock form, but I have other devices for that job. However, it's an entertaining car to bomb a back road at maybe 7/10ths, and when I meet a traffic jam, it is a nice place to spend time. A good all-arounder. Hopefully the latest version can fulfill the same mission.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I'd also note that the '08 R32 was hardly anything like the "04 version other than the powertrain.

        The "04 looked legitimately different than the base Golf's and GTI's with a nice sporty bodykit as well. The '08 looks frumpy by comparison and comes with that hideous chrome grille to boot. It certainly doesn't look particulalrly sporty.

        I wouldn't blame the '08's slower sales on the DSG alone either. Recall that '08 was also the beginnign of the economic collapse and was also the year that gas prices climbed sky high. Neither of those is a recipe for selling more expensive, higher performance cars. Anyone claiming that DSG is the sole reason is overlooking a number of other reasons.

        DSG is also becoming an option (or even the sole choice) on a number of sporty cars as time goes by. Don't expect that to change any time soon, especially since VW was on the forefront of the technology.
      Ralph
      • 3 Years Ago
      Booo on VW!. what wrong with offering the new R with a DSG auto, especially since half of their GTI.s are bought with auto's. Bad move for a company that wants a larger share of the automotive pie!
      • 3 Years Ago
      This still will be FAR too much money without enough performance to back up its $32,000+ price. There are much better, and less expensive alternatives out there especially if you don't require or want AWD.

      Mazdaspeed3
      Focus ST
      WRX
      Lancer Ralliart

      I don't need or want AWD, so my choice would be the $23,000 Mazdaspeed3 which has more horsepower and FAR more torque. I also wouldn't have to suffer through VWs potential reliability issues and save ~$10,000 for a vehicle that will likely perform better when not launching from a dig.

      Sorry, this vehicle just doesn't make much sense to me.
        • 3 Years Ago
        "Sorry, this vehicle just doesn't make much sense to me."

        It doeas actually. Golf has one thing that cars you mentioned don't - quality. When you don't need full power VW can be quiet and comfortable cruiser so you can relax in high quality interior.
      • 3 Years Ago
      yes...i want it. DSG be damned.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Unfortunately, with "the one option package" that includes everything from sunroof to nav to keyless start to whatever (based on the GTI Autobahn package), this $33K Golf R is going to be a $40K Golf R.

      As much as I love the idea of a 4-door AWD GTI on steroids, $40K competes in an entirely different league of car than a standard GTI. Just like most people found it nearly impossible to justify a $80K+ Phaeton with VW badges (despite being an incredible car), I'm going to have a heck of a time justifying a $40K Golf.

      No, this car is directed at the very small group of true VW enthusiasts. That's why they plan on selling so few here, and that's why they can get away with decontenting the US model (then again, this same model runs about $50K or more in most European countries, so I guess they had to make some concessions, right?)
        • 3 Years Ago
        I'm not sure how you figure it's a $7k upgrade package. The numbers being thrown around on VW Vortex are more like $2500. If it's $7k, I agree they're not going to sell at $40k. My guess is at $35.5k it might do okay.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I hope you're right, Stereodude, but my VW experience makes me think otherwise.

        For example, the current GTI Autobahn package includes almost all of the same options (sunroof, nav, keyless start, upgraded stereo, etc.) is well over $5K. Even if the leather seats, currently part of the Autobahn package, is standard on the Golf R, I'm guessing VW is unlikely to drop the total much below that.

        Best case, I'd estimate the actual window sticker to be $38K or so. VW continues to price their premium cars a few grand over what they should be - they think they are worth it, I guess. Like I said, I really hope you're right...
        • 3 Years Ago
        The last generation R32 was a lot rock at its price. This will follow down the same path and but not give you the aural delight of what was the R32.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Agreed. VW needs to either get in touch with realistic pricing, or be prepared to continue to appeal to a very limited US audience.

        I like what VW has to offer, and I'm willing to pay a bit more to have it - but the performance and features the cars offer has to be reasonably competitive. To most buyers, there is a HUGE gap between the $30K (GTI Autobahn) and $40K (Golf R with "the package") price points. At that level, I'm thinking BMW and Audi, not VW Golf - and that's just in terms of new cars. The same savvy enthusiasts who are looking at cars like this are comparing to off-lease, low-mileage German and Japanese sport sedans. No comparison.

        I've owned numerous VWs over the last 20+ years, and there's no question I love the VW feel...but there's a reason a BMW and an Audi are currently in my garage.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I really like this car (especially that blue), but I think it's too rich for my blood. It seems like its not too badly priced (compared to a fully loaded GTI), but $33k still seems expensive for what "started out" as a Golf. I guess it's just my cheapskate mind talking

      I guess if I lived in an area where AWD would make a difference, I might have a different opinion (or if I raced cars), but as it stands I would rather save quite a few thousand and buy a GTI.
      • 3 Years Ago
      VW needs to be more realistic for the money they are asking. If Hyundai can come up with a 2.0 that makes 275hp for mid $20k, VW should be able to do much better for mid 30s. They have ridden the engine too long without improving. For that much money, a 414hp mustang GT is within reach. Not exactly the same kind of car, but unless you live in the snow belt, hard to argue with.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Well, yes. Mustang without upgraded rear suspension is quite wobbly and Genesis really has bad quality (=cheap) plastics inside. Thing is - Americans have lowered standards about cars, their quality, handling etc, they must be cheap but cheap is never good. It's sad but it's true. That's why Cadillacs, Chevys etc. almost don't exist on more demanding markets.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Realistic? Hyundai is not really their competitor, VW offers much higher level of refinement. 2.0T with 275hp still wasn't released, 210hp version is not very good - lots of vibrations, high fuel consumption (real one, not theoretical number), too short gear ratio (high noise level on highway). Hyundai is cheap and you can feel it, VW is more expensive but it's just worth it. Same thing with mustang - cheap in every way, crappy to drive because of no independent rear suspension. It's simple, if you want the most hp for the money (and nothing else) - VW is not for you, but is you want something else (like good handling, quality interior, overall refinement) - stay away from Hyundai or Mustang.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Ko:
        You haven't been near or driven in a new Mustang, have you? "Cheap" and "crappy to drive" are words that don't belong in a description of that car.
      • 3 Years Ago
      So, close the time when this will be on sale, should arrive also Focus ST, with close HP and 6 speed manual only also, altough no AWD but maybe better price and weigh less due to AWD lack. So , more choice for US entushiasts. Say : Horray ! Ok, its not perfect but its a step forward isnt it ?
      • 3 Years Ago
      i just don't understand the power drop. Can VW explain it to me?
        • 3 Years Ago
        California.
        91AKI is the highest that a 'sensible' automaker can optimize for.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I meant the S3.
        • 3 Years Ago
        What you talkin about? The golf r sports a detuned tt-s engine, the a3 sports a revised gti engine. The golf r already slaughters the three two generations older a3.

        Perhaps the revised a3 may get tt-s motivation, but right now the golf r is faster and more powerful than the a3.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Not wanting to step on Audi's toes with the same motor in the A3.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Any number of reasons. Dishwater for gas in the U.S., deffering emission regs, etc. Nothing new here. Das crap, but das the way it is.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ MikeW:

        and 91AKI is the same as 95RON which is what most performance vehicles in Europe are rated to run on. I verified through the UK VW website that the Golf R does in fact recommend 95RON fuel.
        http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/#/new/golf-gti-vi/which-model/brochures/ - it's on pg. 15 of the Golf R brochure pdf file. I've tried directly linking pdf's here before and it never seems to work, so click the link on your own.

        Additionally, the TTS offers this same engine and it has the full 270hp here in the US. Well, officially 265hp, but that's a result of the conversion from PS to HP largely.

        My money is on not wanting to step on the toes of VW's big brother and keeping Audi just slightly ahead of the game.

        As others have stated though, that deficit can be made up for and much more added with an affordable chip tune.


      • 3 Years Ago
      I thought American's love options? But we NEVER get them!
        • 3 Years Ago
        We love options, but we don't like to pay for them....
      tareemaa
      • 3 Years Ago
      finally!!!!!! these car companies are getting it, I dont give a damn how fast these clutchless "manuals" shift, if you are a true enthusiast, you drive with three pedals
        • 3 Years Ago
        @tareemaa
        Why do you get decide what a "true enthusiast" is? Who are you, McCarthy?
      BTEX
      • 3 Years Ago
      BTEX VW, NOT EVERYONE LIVES IN THE COUNTRY WHER ONE CAN EXPRESS THEIR INNER ' HANS STUCK' . SOME OF US ACTUALLY HAVE TO DEAL WITH REAL WORLD TRAFFIC AND GRIDLOCK. IT'S DSG FOR ME !!!!!!!!!!!!!
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