What does VW add to its $21K base Golf to make it a $39K road-rocket? Pretty much everything.
In Europe, the Golf is a best seller. Here in the sedan-focused US, the trunked Jetta outsells its hatchback Golf brethren.
But, the Golf has many ardent fans from diverse groups of owners.
This particular Golf we tested occupies the smallest niche of all those fans. This Golf R is go-fastest version you can get in the New World.
The 2016 Golf R With DCC and Navigation sounds more like a bill of materials than a car model, but that’s what VW calls this little box, so bear with us.
Surprisingly, the long name leaves out 4Motion, the all-wheel drive system that is one big reason this Golf is a bit better than the sporty Golf GTI.
Like the Subaru STI, this Golf has the turbo tweaked to full whammy, and power is put to the ground at all four corners. Unlike the Subaru STI, this one is all about refinement and keeping a low profile.
The 2016 Golf R With DCC and Navigation is so well put together that if it had a body that was anything but a box, it might sell for much more money.
As it is, this four-door hatchback is a “wicked sleepah” as we say in my part of New England. It draws little more attention than your grandmother’s base Golf.
Aside from the wheels, its quad exhaust tips and a few tiny details only Golf fanatics will notice, the Golf R looks much like hers.
But inside, and under the skin, very little is actually the same.
The Golf R With DCC and Navigation is the exact opposite of a Mazda Miata.
In the lightweight Miata, you zip around town feeling like you are flying.
In the Golf R, you zoom along at hyperspeed and feel like you’re not much above the posted limit, when in fact you are.
Having much more than enough – the 290-horsepower Golf R has 80 more horsepower than the peppy GTI – is part of the Golf R’s appeal.
Most reviews of this car stop here, but we had the pleasure of taking this Golf (and I think it was actually this exact vehicle) on the track at Monticello this past fall.
There, it was admirably capable and crazy fast, and it could stomp a lot of fast-looking cars with silly price tags.
The problem is that we also wrung out the less expensive GTI back-to-back with this car, and it too is fast and capable.
The GTI is 9/10ths of the Golf R at the limit and is 4/5ths the price. VW intended it that way. The Golf R With DCC and Navigation is for a very small pool of drivers that want to go as fast as possible in a Golf.
The all-wheel drive refines this Golf, and on the track it does two things. It makes the car understeer less at the limit, and it enables the driver to put all the power down.
In the real world, it would have an advantage over the GTI in snow too, but winter tires would be a big equalizer.
The DCC part of the Golf R is Dynamic Chassis Control with three modes. Pretty much every sporty car offers this type of selectable personality, and guess what? The GTI offers it too.
The seats in the The 2016 Golf R With DCC and Navigation have firm bolsters on the sides of the seat cushion that hold you firmly in place.
The bolsters don’t adjust, so at every moment, you are hugged as if you are on a racetrack pulling a G sideways. Even when you are on the highway using cruise control. Or in traffic. It gets old fast.
The steering wheel is nice to hold, and the gauges are clear. One quirk: the center console does not open.
Our research led us to a dead end – something to do with crash standards? In any case, we missed having that space to store sunglasses and cell phones.
The Golf R is the most exciting Golf, hands-down.
The only problem is the GTI is so good and so similar in its day-to day use as a zippy, refined four-door hatchback that for $31K it would be difficult to build any reasonable case that the near-$40K Golf R With DCC and Navigation makes sense as a daily driver.
It certainly makes sense as a track-day car.
Those that do opt for the Golf R will find a fast and refined vehicle with a look that flies under the radar.
2016 Volkswagen Golf R w/ DCC &Navigation
Base Price: $20,175
Price As Tested: $38,715 (Including destination charge)
- Rorty engine
- Old-school manual transmission (DCT Available)
- 4Motion all-wheel drive traction
- Dark interior, no moonroof
- Huggy seats won’t let go
- Console does not open