Golf R: Café Racer?


images: Postfuel/Influx

I’m seriously tempted to slip into motoring hack clichés about wolves and sheep when I get my first look at, and drive in, the new Golf R.

We suppose the ‘R’ is meant to refer to ‘Racing’. But this is a is a racer to take you to the (Waitrose) café and back.

The car’s understated styling fools everybody. And nobody too. And taking over the mantle of the great GTi, to spend some time with one of the earliest customer cars feels, well, fairly historic.

But, unlike the tricked up Batmobile inspired supercars favoured by Saudi Princes or the bespoilered roadshaggers of the EVO posse, this car cloaks its inner strength in an understated elegance.

An understated stance
An understated stance

Visually I can tell straightaway that it’s different from the standard Mark VII Golf, but I’m having to look quite hard to see what makes it so.

It sits 20mm lower than a standard Golf and 5mm lower than the GTI giving me the impression of something crouched, ready to pounce. It has a new front bumper with a redesigned grille from where the ‘R’ badge tips me a subtle wink.


Other extras start to become apparent as I break out the camera; daytime running headlights, matt chrome wing mirrors and 18 inch alloys.

Inside are sports seats and on the dash specially designed dials which come replete with blue needles.

As I pull away the first thing I notice is how easy it is to drive. It feels like an ordinary golf, quiet and comfortable. But this is the most powerful production Golf ever made and when you punch the throttle it proves it to you.

There is the slight lag as the turbo kicks in, the crack and pop of the exhaust and then the high pitched whine as I’m pushed back hard into the seat watching those electric blue needles dart and fly.


Now it sounds like a racing car.

And it feels like one. I’ve got it in race mode, which increases the dampening and reduces body motion. As I chuck it into some hard bends it feels low, tight and safely stuck to the tarmac.

This particular one is hot off the press and has the optional 6-speed DSG gearbox which delivers even greater performance, knocking the 0-62mph down to 4.9 seconds. That’s about the same as a Ferrari from the mid nineties. Not bad.

Not that I’m looking at my stopwatch. The world outside the window is starting to blur and the dry stonewalls of the country roads are flying past at alarming speeds.

The handbook says that it tops out at an electronically limited 155mph. Needless to say officer I lost my bottle well before that but it left me in no doubt of its abilities.


The R has got all the sort of features that you’d expect from a top of the range performance car; all round air ventilated disc breaks, an intelligent 4-wheel drive system as well as super spec 2-litre turbocharged TSI engine.

However, it averages 40 miles to the gallon, has a relatively low C02 emissions (165g/km) and is a relaxing car to drive.

It is a racing car that is also a Golf.

As I hand the owner back his keys I’m still biting back that overused sartorial metaphor.

There’s nothing sheepish about the R though. This particular wolf is wearing a beautifully cut Paul Smith suit and if he’s selling us a lie it is that he is a steady, well behaved kind of fellow.

We know better…


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