R. Generally a letter applied to modern Volkswagens in the form of sportier lower valences, flat-bottomed steering wheels and some version of their 'Mallory' alloy wheels. But when it follows the word Golf or is prefixed to the number 32, it is much, much more than that.
The 2015 Golf R, based off of the all-new MK7 architecture, is no different. The next-gen R was announced in mid-2013 and rumors started swirling shortly thereafter. Will it come to the US? Will it have a manual transmission? Will it be as powerful as its European brethren?
It's now 2015 and the first of the US-bound Rs have started to arrive. The initial 500 units were all identical pre-orders; four-doors finished off in Lapiz Blue, equipped with a DSG transmission, and fitted with the optional Navigation and DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control) system. No two doors will reach our shores. The total cost rang the register just south of the $40k mark, but every penny is accounted for. The Golf R may be cross-shopped against the WRX STI or the Lancer Evo, but compared to those two, it graduated summa cum laude from finishing school.
Under the hood, the R is powered by a beefed up version of VW's ubiquitous AE888 2.0T, making 292 horsepower and 280 lb/ft of torque. The only transmission available for 2015 will be VW's direct shift gearbox (DSG), but a proper 6-speed manual will be introduced with the 2016 model. Paired with the grip and go action of launch controlled 4MOTION all-wheel-drive, the sprint to 60 should be achieved in under five seconds, making this R the fastest one yet. The optional DCC features adaptive tuning capabilities to further enhance the R experience. Although fuel economy has risen to 30 MPG on the highway with DSG, it still can't compete with the GTI's 34 MPG rating.
The exterior of the R is distinguished from the front-drive GTI with unique front and rear fascias, side skirts, and my favorite feature - the quad exhaust tips. The 'Cadiz' alloy wheels come in either 18" or 19" sizes. Larger brakes from the Performance Package GTI feature black brake calipers with the signature 'R' logo. The standard bi-xenon headlights feature LED daytime running lights, and to further distinguish it from the GTI, LED turn signals. The pictured Lapiz Blue is exclusive to the R, and Oryx White Pearl and Limestone Gray Metallic are two other colors that won't be found in the GTI's palette.
The idiom 'if it isn't broken, don't fix it' is followed when it comes to the interior of the R, which applies unique, yet minimal, accoutrements. The leather sport seats are GTI items with an R logo stitched into it. The leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel replaces the GTI insert with an R one. The stitching is gray, the trim is piano black, and the ambient lighting and gauge needles are blue. Otherwise, the cabin is comfortable and appropriately laid out. Unlike say, the cup holders of the MK3 generation, nothing makes you think "now why did they put that there?" Additional fun fact: the parking brake is now electronic. Which matters not, because 4MOTION and ESP would put a stop to an induced e-brake slide very quickly.
So just how awesome is the MK7 Golf R? Very, but it depends. If you are the type to get the best version of everything, then this is the car for you. It is essentially a fully loaded GTI with more power and standard all-wheel-drive. However, it does have its drawbacks. I still don't understand why VW is holding back on the LED taillights. Nearly every other model they offer has that option. And people are being very vocal online in regards to the smaller media screen, 5.8" versus the European 8" version. My thoughts on that are simple - the more time you spend with the smaller screen, the more you get used to it. I spent a week with an RNS-315 and after two days, didn't notice the missing 1.5" over my car's Premium VIII unit. It isn't as historically significant as VW's original hot hatch, but with four generations under its belt already, including this newest iteration, it has made quite the name for itself.
I'm confident that this newest R is worthy of the single letter moniker. With VW's constant quest for market share, I'm not sure if it will be offered in the limited numbers it has in the past, but I do know that it will be a hot commodity. Perhaps one day I'll trade my GTI in on a Lapiz Blue manual. But then again, the Interlagos plaid is quite the conversation starter to new passengers.
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