2022 Volkswagen Golf R 2.0T – Review by David Colman +VIDEO
It’s got secret speed sauce!
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
For years now, the Golf R has been my theoretical top choice should I need to buy a new daily driver. This approbation was granted despite the fact that I had never had the opportunity to test one - until now. Finally, my dream ship came in when a Lapiz Blue Metallic Golf R arrived in my driveway.
Unfortunately, when I finally got my hands on this Golf, I quickly discovered that VW had gone and moved the goalposts for 2022 by introducing an "improved" interior upgrade. The revised dashboard is called the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, and initially, I disliked it because it required me to take my eyes off the road to deal with its digital pictographs. More or less immediately, the Golf R had gone from my A list to a delist. But after spending the rest of the week familiarizing myself with its initially off-putting dash graphics and shifter operation, the Golf R rebounded to the top of my chart as the sports hatchback I would most like to own. For the money ($45,885) there's nothing that will touch it for pure driving kicks combined with everyday practicality.
My first adventure consisted of a 120-mile freeway round trip from San Francisco to Santa Rosa. You might think that such a hyper package as the R would prove uncomfortable and ill-suited to cross-country motoring. In fact, if you select the Normal ride mode from the many choices available (including one called "Drift" !), the Golf R is perfectly calibrated for leisurely freeway mileage. We quickly engaged VW's "IQ DRIVE" system which combines Travel Assist (semi-automated driving assistance) with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Assist to help shepherd us through the vagaries of traffic on this heavily traveled section of US 101. The happy amalgamation of systems make the Golf R virtually bulletproof in analyzing traffic patterns and controlling throttle, brake, and cruising speed simultaneously. Of the many semi-automated vehicles I have turned loose on this confusing section of freeway, the Golf R was by far the best at decoding situations and responding accurately and correctly.
But you won't be buying this 3,360lb. hatchback for its erudite freeway manners. Rather you'll be seeking the R version for its electrifying back road performance, autocross potential, and race track aptitude. So settle into those shapely blue trimmed bucket seats, grab hold of the perfectly sized perforated leather steering wheel, and let's hit the nastiest stretch of canyon switchback we can find. Nothing is too twisty for this Golf. With a lot of hot hatchbacks and sedans, you have to go hunting for the appropriate switch to activate all the handling improvements (shocks, sway bars, steering feedback, throttle response) simultaneously. VW makes the transition instantaneous. They provide a blue emblazoned "R" button on the left steering wheel spoke. Press that magic R and the Golf instantly recalibrates all settings for maximum performance. Suddenly, the engine growls, the 4 pipe exhaust blats, the throttle becomes hair-trigger quick, the suspension hunkers down, and the phenomenally sticky Hankook tires grip the macadam with a vengeance that will astound you.
Make no mistake, the Golf R is mega fast in a straight line. With a power-to-weight ratio of 10.66lb/hp, this top echelon Golf will slingshot from 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds and turn the quarter mile in 12.5 seconds at 111mph. While those numbers are impressive, what really sets the Golf R apart from all the rest is its ability to translate straight-line speed into canyon-bashing leaps from apex to apex. Lots of sports sedans are quick from green light to green light, but very few have mastered the back road secret speed sauce VW has brewed up for the Golf R. The fact that you can buy this package for what amounts to a pittance in supercar circles is the real speed secret of 2022.
2022 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF R 2.0T
• ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, DOHC, 16-valve, aluminum block and head, intercooled and turbocharged
• HORSEPOWER: 315hp@5900rpm
• TORQUE: 310lb.-ft.@1900rpm
• FUEL CONSUMPTION: 23MPG City/30MPG Highway
• PRICE AS TESTED: $45,885
HYPES: Leech Like Cling
GRIPES: Fussy new Digital Cockpit
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10