2019 VW Golf R
Updated: Feb 17, 2020
This week we are reviewing the 2019 VW Golf R. Our vehicle was assembled at the iconic Wolfsburg plant in Germany. Our test vehicle has an MSRP of $45610.00 CAD
Fun Factor: 10
Can it Family: 7
Karaoke Friendly: 7
City Cruising: 7
Now that we've driven almost every variant of the Golf, the GTI, the GTE and the TDI, the only one we had not experienced was the Golf R. We had high expectations when we tested the GTI this summer. Still, it left us wishing for more, especially since we tested the GTE the previous year, and we were delighted with the instant torque of the electric engine. Both of these had a DSG, and after driving the GTI in a manual variant, we did find that the GTI felt a lot more engaging with a manual transmission. So when we received the Golf R to test with an automatic gear lever, we expected it to be mundane, especially after the experience we had with the GTI. We couldn't be more wrong about it. After driving it for a while, we found that DSG in the Golf R shifts a lot quicker and is always ready to push you back into your seat even if you just brushed over the gas pedal. The Golf R comes with a turbocharged inline 4 producing 288hp and bringing 280 lb-ft of torque @ 1800 rpm. Acceleration is almost instantaneous and could seriously get you in trouble with the law as you always feel eager to push it a little further. In our real-life acceleration test to 100km/h using the Pirelli's Sottozero 3 performance winter tires, we achieved a time of 5.8 seconds, VW announces 4.8 seconds. We've experienced and driven faster cars, but the dynamics and size of the Golf R make it quite nimble around corners and also give it the agility to exit corners a lot earlier compared to its rivals. This is where we were quite blessed to get to test the Golf R during a snowstorm and experience the 4Motion system in the snow. While the Haldex system isn't comparable to Subaru's symmetrical AWD, it did provide a considerable feeling of accomplishment around bends during a blizzard. At no time did we ever feel that the 4Motion system left us hanging, it may just have been a little too playful when driving away from a stop. One thing that surprised us on our Golf R is even though it does have 4 exhausts, it's exhaust note doesn't scream "look at me I am louder than everyone else", its note is refined and enjoyable. Some may also criticize its tame design compared to its competitors' lavish exteriors and oversized wing. The Golf R isn't trying hard to be something it's not; it knows what it is, hence blending in with the other Golf's on the street and, in our opinion, the most affordable sleeper on the market.
Can the Golf R satisfy the needs of a family while being a fun vehicle to drive around? Naturally, we tested our vehicle with our family of 5, and we can definitely say the Golf R offers capacity for 5 passengers. The outer rear seats are shaped similarly to bucket seats and are quite comfortable and provide additional support to the rear passengers while taking spirited corners. Now for the middle seat, it's not as bolstered as the other seats, we'd even say that the middle seat should only be used for shorter trips. The driver seat offers the possibility to find a good seating position for smaller and taller drivers with it being 8-way power-adjustable, as for the passenger seat, it is only adjustable electronically to move forward and backwards, the rest needs to be adjusted manually. The heated seats warm up quite quickly and will keep your body warm enough even on the harshest winter days. As for keeping your devices connected, the Golf R only offers one USB connector, and its placement could be better, it required some finger acrobatics around the gear leaver to plug your device. The trunk is spacious enough to fit a medium stroller; however, it will eat up most of the depth of the trunk; items may still be placed on top because it's a hatchback, increasing it's practically. As for suite case we were able to place 2 medium ones in the trunk and still and enough space for an umbrella stroller. If you do need more cargo, the seats can fold in a 60/40 fashion and offer almost a flat floor once you've lifted the items over the trunk lip.
How's the fuel economy of the Golf R? In our test, we averaged 11.7L per 100km in the city and 8.5L per 100km on the HWY and average 10.5L per 100km in our 500km test. This included spirited driving on our part and driving through a snowstorm. VW announces 10.2L per 100km in the city, 7.9L per 100km on the HWY and an average consumption of 9.2L per 100km for the Automatic variant, in this case, the automatic variant is actually the most fuel-efficient as per Volkswagen. Our test was conducted using 91 octanes fuel and while outside temperature oscillated between -1c and -24c.
It's rare to find a car from a non-luxury brand that has such a stable stance while driving on the HWY; you can really feel that the Golf R was built for the German Autobahn. We have no issue believing that it can hold up perfectly at double the allowed north American speeds and that even in the winter. Naturally, we are not saying this should be done. The acceleration is linear, and you will never have trouble overtaking cars on the HWY. The major drawback of using a shared platform for multiple variants at different price points is that the cabin can get noisy at higher speeds; however, the noise level still manages to be acceptable to have a conversation with all passengers in the vehicle.
As for the sound system, the Fender sound system comes standard when choosing the Golf R. As with past VW reviews, we found that the sound system is tuned to sound great for music that is rich in instruments. Even live recording will sound extremely rich, something other audio systems don't always get right. The infotainment offers standard access to Android Auto and Apple Car Play; it works as designed and is fast enough to take all the commands you can throw at it. Once getting used to the location of the submenus from one of the 8 menus to choose from, items will be a lot easier to find. The touch screen works fast enough; a great addition would be haptic feedback to increase assurance that your command has been registered. What we disliked on the setup was all the gloss black around the screen, it is a pure fingerprint trap and needs to be cleaned almost after each use.
Someone would expect that car seat installation in a car like the Golf R would either be hard or not user-friendly. It's not that complicated in reality, the doors open wide enough to install a car seat easily; the ISOFIX ports are covered by a plastic cover which requires a little force to open; once they're off, the ports are very visible, and latching is simple. No need to fiddle around to attach the car seat; in our case, the latches were painted in the same colour as the exterior. This could mean that these were painted at the same time as the whole chassis. The plastic covers don't have any specific place to be stored while a car seat is in place. With experience, people will lose these covers and will not replace them when it is the time to sell the car. Younger kids will not have any difficulties opening the rear doors and entering the rear cabin will be a breeze given the lower stance of the vehicle, which makes it easy for them to get in and out of the car. Even the belt buckles are ergonomically placed for them, and they will be able to buckle themselves.
Now the Golf R suspension is on the stiffer side and, at the same time, relatively balanced over bumps. During the week we tested, not once did we find the ride unenjoyable; we would even say that due to the snow, we felt more connected to the vehicle. As for the start/stop that we disliked in the GTI, we tested earlier this year, we found that the way it's integrated with the Golf R feels more pleasant. We've already heard that the Mk8 version of the Golf will include a mild-hybrid system making it even more convenient for city driving and at the same time resulting in less emission and strain on the engine. The rear-view camera is hidden underneath the VW logo, so you can always expect a clean camera in the winter when you have a park between a car and a snowbank.
Why would we buy the 2019 Golf R or what we liked about it: The driving dynamics are extremely enjoyable, good value for performance, enough space for the family in a compact format, having 4WD is very useful in the winter.
Why we wouldn't buy the 2019 Golf R or what we didn't like about it: No sunroof available, you can seriously get in trouble with the law if you can't control the need for speed.
Spoiler alert: We will soon be reviewing the MIN Countryman JCW with 301hp and were able to get a good feel for both, more on it in our MINI Countryman JCW review.
Volkswagen has lent us this vehicle for one week as a press vehicle, we have no affiliation with Volkswagen Canada, and the above is a recollection of our personal opinion of the vehicle referred above.