It’s never been a worst time to be an enthusiast than right now. Inflation is ridiculously high, dealers are placing crazy markups on cars, and the average price of a new car hovers around $48,008. If you’re an enthusiast, you’re looking at spending more money than ever to get into something fun. At this point, enthusiasts can’t purchase a new car that’s simply for fun – unless you managed to get into Bitcoin at the right time or have a successful YouTube channel.
Nowadays, you have to get a car that can be fun when you have some free time, take the family on a road trip, and come with tech features that keeps the significant other happy. Finding a vehicle that checks all of these boxes and is reasonably priced is almost impossible. Even if you ignore the situation with markups and steadily rising car prices. If a one-stop-shop car is what you’re after, few get it right as the Volkswagen Golf R.
The Golf R may not deliver the head-disorienting performance as the Honda Civic Type R or have the same stick-to-your-bones character of the Toyota GR Corolla. But it makes up for it with a premium interior, high-tech features, a grip-defying all-wheel drive system, and a refined driving experience that you would only expect from a brand that also houses Audi, Porsche, and Bentley under its umbrella.
Maximum Curb Appeal
With an as-tested price of $45,885 with destination, the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R 2.0T certainly isn’t cheap. At the price bracket, it’s attempting to draw older individuals than the other two hot hatchbacks previously mentioned and it has a restrained design to reflect that.
On the road, the Golf R doesn’t draw the same looks or random conversations from fellow enthusiasts. What it does is reflect your grown-up mindset. You could show off the Golf R to your in laws and not be met with worried looks or hushed messages of being a juvenile. Large spoilers and massive fender flares draw attention. For the folks that don’t want that kind of attention, the Golf R’s restrained looks fit the bill nicely without being boring.
It’s All About Balance
If you’re looking to have fun, the GR Corolla is the hot hatchback to get. If blistering lap times around a racetrack are your thing, go with the Civic Type R. If you want something that can go from being fun at the track and enjoyable around corners to being comfortable on a family trip to the beach, you’ll want the Golf R. VW’s hot hatch manages to do everything well.
Being able to do everything doesn’t make the Golf R boring. Quite the opposite. The Golf R’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes a hefty 315 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. With the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, the Golf R feels like a mini Audi RS model off the line. It pulls away like a scared rabbit off the line and doesn’t stop pulling.
There are so many different drive modes (Comfort, Sport, Race, Special, Drift, and Individual) and a mode to where you can mix and match for that perfect feel, but Sport and Race are all you really need when corners appear. The AWD system is smarter than a seventh-grader, doing calculations on the fly to give you the right amount of grip, while letting you have just a little bit of fun. Put a skilled driver behind the wheel of the Golf R, and they’ll easily be outrunning V8-powered sports cars down a road.
As much as we tried to enjoy tail-out antics of Drift mode, there’s just so much grip on hand that you’ll have to go to a parking lot or closed driving course to really explore the limits of the system. Regardless of how hard we pushed on the road, the hatchback’s rear end didn’t want to comply. Probably because it knew we would end up in ditch.
Stupid quick in a straight line and agile around corners, the Golf R strikes a sweet spot on the balance scale.
Comfortable Enough For Daily Use
Sure, the Golf R isn’t quite as performance oriented as the Civic Type R or GR Corolla, but it makes up for by being incredibly comfortable. The hatchback’s adaptive suspension won’t beat you up, regardless of how poor the roads, ahem Baltimore City, have become. Of course, there’s a noticeable difference between Comfort, Sport, and Race, but Comfort actually means comfort.
The interior of the Golf R also aids in the comfortable feeling. The Golf R’s cabin feels like it belongs to a $45,000 vehicle. Tri-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, sport front seats that are power adjustable, and Nappa leather upholstery were all standard on our tester. There’s also the fit and finish of the Golf R, which is great, and just how quiet the interior is. You could use the Golf R as a daily driver and not hate life.
Infuriating Touch-Capacitive Controls
VW got a lot right with the Golf R’s interior. It’s high tech and includes a 10-inch touchscreen and a 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster with loads of customization. The ambient interior lighting system has 30 different colors and your phone connects to the infotainment system wirelessly. But, and this is a huge but that would actually stop me from purchasing the Golf R, the touch-capacitive controls are something from a nightmare that belongs on Elm Street.
Besides the controls for the windows and door locks, every other major control is touch capacitive. The ones on the steering wheel are touch capacitive and the strange square layout on the center console is touch capacitive. You don’t know when you’re touching them and since the placement of the controls are terrible, you can accidentally turn the heated steering wheel on when you’re trying to do something else. The ones for the HVAC are especially annoying.
In a package that’s as good as the Golf R, the hatchback deserves to have more intuitive controls. They are a massive failure and VW needs to go back to the drawing board to figure something else out.
Regardless of what your reasoning is, if you need one car in your life that can impress your parents, get to 60 mph quickly, cause your heartrate to increase around corners, and be something you can take across the state, the Volkswagen Golf R is an excellent option. The punchy turbo engine never gets old, the quick-shifting gearbox is a joy to use, and the AWD system will make you feel like a superhero. The cabin, though, is the Golf R’s real selling point as it’s nicer than anything else in the class, comes packed with features, and is actually comfortable.
The touch-capacitive controls will make you so mad that you’ll wind up searching for a therapist. I could not live with the car because of the controls, which is a shame because the rest of the package is great. If you love the GTI, but have always wanted more power, the Golf R won’t disappoint.