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2022 Volkswagen Golf R - Review by Larry Nutson

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Knowledge/Base: Volkswagen News and Reviews 1995-Present

Understated performance

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau

The Volkswagen Golf first arrived on the U.S. shores as a 1975 model bearing the Rabbit name. Now, forty-seven years later, the mainstream Golf is no longer as VW’s Taos and Tiguan utility vehicles can meet the needs of those U.S. customers.

However, VW hasn’t abandoned the performance enthusiasts who have found fun and enjoyment in the Golf GTI and Golf R. The new eighth-generation Golf GTI and Golf R are again available for 2022.

The Golf R based on the Mark VII platform headed into the sunset with the 2019 model. At the 2021 Chicago Auto Show “special edition” held in July the new eighth-generation 2022 Golf GTI and Golf R made their debut.

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The rally-inspired VR6-powered Golf R32 of 2004 with its understated performance raised many eyebrows. The new 2022 Golf R ups its game, now with 315-hp (a 27-hp increase) coming from the 2.0-L turbocharged engine. Both a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission are offered. Rear-axle torque vectoring for VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system brings a new level of handling. Brakes are larger with front cross-drilled rotors and dual piston calipers.

The Lapiz Blue Metallic 2022 Golf R that arrived at my front door was the six-speed version. It was January in Chicago and cold and snowy. The 19-inch wheels usually shod with summer performance tires had instead been fitted with Pirelli Sottozero 3 winter/snow tires.

Sottozero is Italian for below zero….and that’s zero centigrade or 32-degrees Fahrenheit. Winter Sottozero 3 tires are designed not just as snow tires, but as seasonal tires suitable for the cold weather and freezing road conditions.

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Entering the cockpit, sliding into the black Nappa leather nicely bolstered sport seats I pushed the power seat button to sit as low as possible. With the manual trans, fore and aft position is dictated by clutch pedal actuation. I was pleased that both the seats and leather wrapped steering wheel are heated for the cold winter day it was. I quickly realized I needed to “learn” how features and functions worked with the redesigned interior and new electronic architecture.

There’s a new 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and multi-function steering wheel. The driving lights and front and rear defrost functions are now operated using a “Light and Sight” shared digital panel to the left of the steering wheel. Touch sliders are used below the infotainment display to adjust the standard Climatronic automatic climate control and to change audio volume. These take a bit of acclimation but the learning curve is not steep.

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A new Volkswagen MIB3 touchscreen infotainment system display utilizes a capacitive-touch sensor (as in a smartphone) rather than the more common resistive touchscreens that require pressure, enabling controls like swiping and even pinch-zooming. Bluetooth technology is standard, as is App-Connect smartphone integration to run select smartphone apps directly on the vehicle’s display through services such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. 

The Driving Mode Selection feature offers six modes: “Comfort,” “Sport,” “Race,” “Drift,” “Special,” and “Custom.” The pre-programmed modes have a different steering effort and throttle response, while Custom allows a driver to tailor the steering and throttle to their preference. Using a rear differential with two multi-plate clutches, rear-axle torque vectoring can distribute up to 100 percent of the rear torque to an individual rear wheel to maximize cornering grip. Thus, a Drift mode is at your fingertips. And, as I did do some “testing,” the Race and Drift modes also opens up the exhaust for a bit more aural enjoyment.

Overall the Golf R is very refined---VW has been at it for a while. Acceleration is very quick (in the 4 second range to 60mph), it handles like a dream being very predictable and balanced, and yet, the ride quality on city streets is comfortable. Steering is light and yet with good feedback. The 6-speed manual is smooth shifting with easy and linear clutch action. The low seating position was perfect for me and the front seats were very comfortable for my medium frame body.

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As I drove with my wife I said, “I should own this car.” To her “Why?” response I pointed out all I just mentioned in the previous paragraph. Plus, the Golf’s compact size for ease of maneuvering, 4-doors for convenience., a large rear hatch for versatility, all-wheel drive for snow, and---lots of driving enjoyment. If I were buying however, I would opt for the 7-speed DSC dual-clutch transmission (which also gets you increased engine torque, 295 lb-ft v. 280 lb-ft with the manual).

MSRP for the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R with a standard manual six-speed transmission starts at $43,645. The seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission with Tiptronic starts at $44,445. The destination charge for all Golf R models is an additional $995.

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The Golf R comes one way, fully loaded, no choices here. Simply, pick your color and pick your transmission. By the way, in an unusual twist, the 6-speed manual is only offered in the U.S. and Canada. Take a look at

On the safety front the Golf R is standard equipped with a many Advanced Driver-Assist Safety (ADAS) features including park steering assist, road sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, blind spot monitor and more.

The originator of the hot hatch is still at it. Volkswagen delivers lots of hotness in the 2022 Golf R.

Happy Motoring!

© 2022 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy