Aside from “GT,” it’s perhaps one of the most over-used and sometimes mis-applied letters to designate performance cars. Yes folks, we’re talking about the letter R. There are manifold examples of it, some deserving, some less so. Where does Volkwagen’s latest hot hatch fall on that continuum? Carlos Lago puts it to the test to find out.
The Golf R is the most powerful Golf to date, even more than its six-cylinder predecessor, the R32. Comparisons to its more common stablemate, the GTI are inevitable. The most notable difference, aside from the added 56 horsepower and 36 pound-feet of torque, is the Haldex all-wheel-drive system, which gives the R the ability to transfer up to 100 percent of its power to the rear wheels.
However, its price premium over the GTI is substantial, and as instrumented testing bears out, doesn’t offer a proportionately substantial gain in performance. Lago was frustrated by the non-defeatable stability control, which took the edge off of what was expected to be a raw, on-the-edge experience.