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2016 Volkswagen Golf R Review

2016 Volkswagen Golf R Review (select to view enlarged photo)

2016 Golf R
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Notwithstanding all the Volkswagen diesel drama of late, VW purchasers and lessees seem to like their vehicles. Based on survey data gathered from these folks between February and May of 2016 (and the diesel drama was quite mature at that time), the VW brand was ranked the highest non-premium nameplate in the J.D. Power 2016 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

This is the first time that Volkswagen has led the non-premium sector since 2001: the brand ranked 12th overall in the study, out of a total of 33 nameplates. Volkswagen performed better than the industry average score of 801 points (out of 1000), with a total of 809 points. This was also 15 points better than the non-premium nameplate average.

2016 Volkswagen Golf R Review (select to view enlarged photo)

The Golf R is one of those cars from VW that has lots of appeal. Appeal if you are the type who wants a performance hatchback for fun, daily commutes, and transporting the family.


The wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing Golf R looks like any other Golf to the untrained eye. That to me is a big draw. Auto enthusiasts will know one when they see one. However, the average citizen will see the Golf R as the VW hatchback that it is. Certainly a more in-your-face car such as a Porsche or Corvette or Lexus RC will turn more heads. Some may like that.

The Golf R has 292 HP coming from its turbocharged 2.0-L engine and puts the power to the ground through all four wheels via VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. The “R” will scoot to 60 mph in under 5 seconds. At the same time, it has plenty of room for your children buckled securely in their rear seat child-seats.

For 2016 there is a new six-speed manual transmission available as well as the six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic. Prices are $35,650 and $36,750 respectively.

EPA test-cycle fuel economy estimates are within one mpg of each other between the two transmissions, with the DSG the better. That is, 22-23 city mpg and 31-32 highway mpg. Not all that bad considering all the performance on hand.

Also new for 2016 is an MIB II infotainment system bringing USB connectivity, VW Car-Net App-Connect technology, and support for all three available connected car systems: Apple CarPlay, Google Android Auto and MirrorLink. More importantly, a Driver Assistance Package is now available on Golf R equipped with DCC and Navigation. The package includes Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Park Distance Control (Park Pilot), Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), Lane Departure Warning (Lane Assist), and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert. All priced at $1,295.

2016 Volkswagen Golf R Review(select to view enlarged photo)

2016 Volkswagen Golf R Review (select to view enlarged photo)

My R-for-a-week was the DSG version, which would actually be my preference if buying. I just love the crisp shifts combined with the ease of driving in my big-city Chicago environs. A new feature is Brake Hold that, when activated, holds the brakes on while at a traffic light allowing you to remove your foot from the brake pedal.

And as for the R’s appeal, like every Golf it seats five, has a big rear hatch that opens to nearly 23 cu. ft. of space. The rear seat can be folded and the space grows to about 53 cu. ft. All this in a car only 168 inches long; a length that makes for easy maneuvering and parking.

A versatile pocket-rocket for sure. Oh, by the way, the top track speed for this hot-hatch is 155 mph.

Performance of another kind is now available in the Golf R, as mentioned earlier with the new Driver Assistance Package. Some of the items that I mentioned above will make driving a little easier and help prevent some bumps and dings. Forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking may save you from a rear-ender and lots of damage and even injury. I would weigh heavily in favor of purchasing these safety features.

More info, specs, prices and comparisons for the 2016 Golf R can be found Volkswagen Buyers Guide 2016 Volkswagen Golf R and at

2016 Volkswagen Golf R Review (select to view enlarged photo)

Lest I forget, I see the Golf R as being very capable in winter too. Mount a set of four good winter tires and you should have no difficulty in getting through snow thanks to the all-wheel-drive system.

It’s fair to say that the 2016 Golf R is the top performer in the hot-hatchback segment. Although its price hovers in the near $40,000 arena, the all-out performance packaged in a VW Golf will surprise many drivers of very much higher priced performance cars.

But there is a challenger in the wings, the new kid in town. Perhaps arguably the most anticipated new performance car coming to the U.S. is the Ford Focus RS. Just now hitting our shores, the 4-door hatchback Focus RS has 350HP, a six-speed manual and all-wheel-drive. Let the games begin.

© 2016 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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