Vital Stats

2.0L Turbo I4
261 HP / 258 LB-FT
6-Speed DSG Auto
0-60 Time:
6.2 Seconds (est.)
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,615 LBS
21 City / 26 HWY
Base Price:
$36,500 (est.)
The Golf VI's Last Hurrah Is Pure Niche

This was in the heart of the ultra-chic Côte d'Azur during winter. The car to be tested was the not-for-North America 2013 Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet. Prevailing weather conditions here this time of year are bizarrely pleasant, as though a dome of Swarovski crystal has been placed over the entire region to protect it from any real winter spoiling things. And the zippy Golf R Cabriolet is a sports car designed precisely for this area's preciously narrow winding streets, as well as for the lofty budgets of its property owners.

So then why was it snowing like we were in northern Michigan? The weather front hit from the north like a swift kick to the Jordaches. The roof was open on this Candy White Golf R Cabrio and I, as is my wont, was determined through thick or thin to keep it retracted. It had been raining and sometimes sleeting like the End of Days, but I kept the lid cracked because the 261-horsepower cabrio – the most powerful convertible ever built by Volkswagen – was snipping along nicely as the bad weather blew over my head and wetted only the rear headrests.

Then, as also invariably happens here, the twisty road went single-file behind a massive Tonka truck carrying crushed, heavy stuff. This is not a great circumstance for a cabrio, especially in such weather. In eleven seconds the multi-layer cloth top was in place, a move you can make while traveling at speeds up to 18 miles per hour. Then all was cozy and warmish in this completely opted-out Golf R Cabriolet interior with its heated sport seats, full-on leather everywhere and cushy R-logo'd carpets.

The rain and sleet switched to perfect, clumpy, snowball-fight snow at around 800 feet up the massive coastal cliff face. Here was where the business case for this now-outgoing-generation Golf R, with a base price that would be in the realm of $37,000 in the US, starts to crumble. In short order, I was in a southern French blizzard, surrounded by scared French motorists, driving a fancy fru-fru convertible shod with optional 19-inch high-performance Dunlops (235/35 ZR rated). There was great feathering of this engine's eager 258 pound-feet of torque that stays eager even in Comfort mode, and with the gear lever of the six-speed dual-clutch in fully automatic Drive.

I swallowed my moxie and turned around. This was the right thing to do because the Golf R Cabriolet – unlike the all-wheel-drive Golf R hardtop – is front-wheel-drive only despite the higher sticker. More or less, this is a fully loaded, roofless Golf R treatment sitting atop the Euro-only Scirocco R chassis. And with the estimated 6.2 seconds it takes to get to 60 mph from a dead stop, this high-buck cabrio is nearly a full second slower than the all-wheel-drive hatchback. And there's less luggage space... to boot.

To make this business case work, one clearly has to put aside every practical thought in that sunbathed noggin and believe passionately in the cute and frivolous lifestyle provided by a cabrio that is nonetheless constructed well. Taken thusly, and with the bonus of the tautly assembled cabrio roof unit and R interior, any customer living in a sunny place – without freak snow showers – will be really very happy.

On the second day of this trip with Volkswagen, the weather stopped being life-threatening enough to resume my search for Golf R-worthy curves. Playing with the adaptive chassis, switching between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes, revealed a good platform with well-engineered brake-steer technology. That helps to minimize this front-driver's tendency to understeer through all these bends, and also helps keep the car's trajectory straight while accelerating out of corners.

I also had to accept the six-speed DSG transmission as a necessary lump of the luxo lazy life. Nothing would fit better in here, or in any Golf, than the company's tried and true six-speed manual transmission. Despite craving it, my wish would never come true. The DSGs are far better units than the Mercedes-Benz 7G family, for instance, but to really squeeze this powertrain's juices, a manual is needed.

This 2.0-liter TSI four-cylinder engine is one of the finest drivetrains ever placed in a car. It's just plain always at the ready, while being smooth about it and convincingly quick. Choosing between this setup and, say, the turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder used in the Mini Cooper S Convertible, would be difficult since both are amazingly satisfying drives, and they both seem unduly tortured when coupled to their respective automatic gearboxes.

While, on the one hand, the Golf R Cabriolet's aggressive optional 19-inch wheel/tire set is probably overkill, the team developing this last farewell model for the Golf VI sadly decided to tone down the exhaust note versus the Golf R hatchback (booo, hisss). Now it just sounds pretty instead of pretty gnarly. Note also that the twin exhausts exit the rear scuttle at either corner and are not bunched together in the center as on the hotter hatch. They still look good, though.

To summarize, Volkswagen has issued a swan-song in this fully loaded Golf R Cabriolet trim with every significant option in the book aboard. The car is resting on the good but old PQ35 architecture, not the new and better MQB platform of the new Golf MkVII, Audi A3 et al., and is front-wheel-drive only instead of all-wheel-drive like the three-door Golf R. And it costs a few suitcases extra worth of cash. It's also a really odd duck in that it's being added to the lineup in Europe after the all-new Golf VII has already gone on sale.

Honestly, though, VW can do this with the Golf in Europe since the Golf VI is the most successful premium hatchback by far in Europe, even in the model's final year of production. At profit margins like this, what a luxury.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      Hello, Brian
      • 2 Years Ago
      Prefer this to the Eos. Too bad it\'s not available here.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Let the convertible retrofitting threads on US forums begin...Now! Despite this comment dripping with sarcasm, I frankly don't blame them.
      • 2 Years Ago
      VW, I would have bought this and I don't live in my parents basement.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I like the golf R32, but this cabriolet version just doesn't look right to me.
      • 2 Years Ago
      This thing costs more than a basic Porsche Boxster?!?!!? Erm yes... for a previous shape Golf with the previous dash etc... You must really want four seats badly to be this stupid to buy one of these over a Boxster.
        • 2 Years Ago
        You seriously think a new Boxster is in the low 30's. lol.
      Free Time
      • 2 Years Ago
      I guess VW is all Golf, all day, every day... Golf Cabrio, Golf Variant, GTD, GTI, GTI Performance. I guess that's a good thing the Golf is their best product.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Only thing I like about this car is the engine...
      • 2 Years Ago
      I like it quite a lot. The lower than standard Golf roof line makes for an almost chop top hot rod look.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Its a white VW convertible - how much more effeminate and non-hot rod can this get?
          • 2 Years Ago
          Trying to figure out how being white makes it effeminate........
          • 2 Years Ago
          perhaps he only buys his cars black, because he likes black tuxedos instead of white wedding dresses *ugly*
      • 2 Years Ago
      It is very pretty.... But oh the price!!!!
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don\'t see the business case problem. VW put Golf R on the market here, which sells-out. They put the EOS on the market here. This is better than the EOS. It\'s actually quick, it\'s better looking, it\'s obviously exclusive. The EOS was also well over 37K loaded. Put it on a ship. It\'s a high-margin car. It pays its freight. Also why does the car look totally slammed? No gap, like some Vortex guys got their hands on it. Don\'t see many cars come like that stock, even sports cars. It looks good but the ride must be pretty brutal. Never thought I would a see a VW that didnt like like it could do with a drop.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sorry VW you lost me at only FWD.
        • 2 Years Ago
        They lost me at VW, but FWD sure doesn't help any...
        • 2 Years Ago
        AWD plus convertible is weight plus more weight. Convertibles are necessarily heavier. Then add 350lbs for AWD. Now you need another 100hp to lug it around and have it still be \"sporty.\" Oh and you add a couple grand in costs. You have to stop somewhere and find a balance. But a convertible version of an existing platform is never going to be as \"sporty\" as the solid-top version.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Stupid. Takes the practicality of the hatchback and squashes it. Takes the performance and handling of a hot hatch and squashes that too.
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