One can go through years of your driving life without really needing the safety features built into modern cars - but then something happens and that something happened on the SA launch of the 2014 VW Golf 7 R.The event was run in the Eastern Cape, inland from Port Elizabeth, on what - given the bad press that province attracts, - were pretty good roads. Fellow journo Dieter Lossis was at the wheel and we were cruising at or around the national speed limit on the R335 heading for the VW plant at Uitenhage.GALLERY: 2014 VW Golf R 2.0 TSIAs we crested a rise a wide valley vista opened up with a couple of kilometres of straight but downhill grey tar below. Heading towards us, a couple of hundred metres away, was a 22-wheeler labouring up the gradient with a tail of cars closed up behind.BRAKING NO OPTIONThat was cool. The Range Rover towing a small car (was it an old Escort?) alongside it in our lane, well, wasn't. Its driver had nowhere to go; panicking, he flashed his headlights, but we'd already seen death on the way at a closing speed of perhaps 180km/h.Braking wasn’t an option; the weedy, untended and unusually narrow soft shoulder was; there’d been heavy rain so Lossis didn’t know what to expect as he instantly steered half off the tar without braking.Now, the Golf R is not only one helluva powerful car, it also has traction control and electronic all-wheel drive that in milliseconds reacts to changing surfaces and grip – so fast did it adapt that it didn’t even twitch when two wheels hit the soft ground and two stayed on the hardtop as we flashed past just centimetres from the Rover and its tow.Sure, the Golf R is not the only 4x4 with driving aids – my point is that they (and Lossis’ reactions) probably saved our lives and (as with other brands) should be a strong point in a purchasing decision.NO SEISMIC SHOCKSThe launch drive had swept north on the N2 out of PE towards Port Alfred with a stop on the R72 at the Oakly Farm Stall outside Alexandria for a breakfast/coffee break (see images). By then it had already shown its ride excellence – not many cars can take potholes with solid thuds that don’t transmit seismic shocks through the steering wheel, your feet and the seat of your pants. Of which Lossis’ pants-seat reaction was later to avoid catastrophe.VW SA describes the latest Golf R as one of the sportiest compact models in South Africa. It the most recent of a series of VW Golf derivatives launched here in the past 12 months – one of them the R’s closest brand relative, the 162kW Golf GTI.The Gen6 R is powered by a new 206kW engine, 18kW more powerful yet as much as 18% more fuel efficient than the previous version. Still present, however, is turbocharging to add heft to the 4MOTION system turning all four wheels with the aid of a fifth-generation Haldex transmission coupling under a body now 20mm close to the tar.There’s also a “progressive” steering system and among many options are dynamic chassis control and a driving profile selector that now includes “race mode”. Just the job for Saturday shopping...IGNITION STOP/STARTFor now there’s a six-speed auto/manual sequential direct-shift gearbox; soon to come will be a six-speed manual for which VW claims 100km/h in 5.2sec (0.5 quicker than before). The auto can, the automaker adds, manage five flat and eventually both ‘boxes will howl on to 250km/h – at least one brand is still observing the European-standard top end.Fuel consumption (Euro standard test, of course) is said to be down from 8.5 to 6.9 litres/100km with a consequent fall in CO2 production from 199 to 158g/km, helped by an ignition stop/start and braking regeneration for the battery.The new Golf R is equipped with an extensive package of customised and exclusive parts – the two pairs of chromed exhausts perhaps the most obvious – but including model-specific bumpers, sills and 19” Cadiz alloy rims, standard bi-xenon headlights with new U-shaped daytime lights, dark-red LED rear lights, leather sport seats, leather-trimmed three-spoked sport steering wheel, “ambience” lighting, automatic aircon and a radio-CD system with touchscreen controls.The car’s extra 44kW comes partly from a re-engineered cylinder head on the four-cylinder, 206kW (5500-6200rpm) turbo engine – now one of the world’s most powerful fours.Maximum torque has increased by 30Nm to 380Nm that’s on call way faster than any Jeeves from 1800-5500rpm. To attain these values, the 1984cc TSI had surgery on the following components (don’t try this at home):MULTI-PORT INJECTIONStarting with the GTI engine... the cylinder head (and exhaust valves, valve seats and springs), pistons, high-pressure injection valves and the turbo.Efficient thermal management: The turbocharged direct petrol injection engines have innovative detailed solutions, among them water-cooled exhaust-gas channels running through the cylinder head to the turbocharger (to reduce full-load fuel consumption) and a dual injection system with direct and multi-port injection.Fully electronic coolant control system: Thermal management of the TSI in the Golf R is much more efficient with a reduced warm-up time. The Golf R has a 20mm lower sport suspension tuned to suit the 206kW all-wheel drive car; that makes it five mm lower than the GTI. It’s a Macpherson-type front suspension (spring struts) to, VW says, deliver optimal handling and steering (for when you meet an errant Range Rover) and to reduce shock vibration (those seismic shocks).At the rear is a multi-link rear suspension set-up, the whole, VW says, “giving the new Golf R maximum driving fun with extraordinary driving stability and good long-distance touring comfort”.'EXCEPTIONAL ABILITTY'“Compared to the previous model, steering response is more agile with direct steering gear ratios through the car’s progressive steering system. In addition, maximum attainable speeds significantly increased through bends.”And when avoiding big trucks on narrow roads: “The extremely fine adjustment of shock-absorber characteristics shows an exceptional ability to follow the line the driver wants to drive precisely – on flat or uneven route profiles.“Driving stability is especially noticeable in lane changes and load alterations.”We noticed that, too.The latest Golf R can be ordered with Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) as an option. It supplies three driving modes - Comfort, Normal and ‘Sport - selected through the new and aforementioned touchscreen on the centre console as part of the Driving Profile Selector.The Golf R has also adopted what VW calls “extremely durable brakes” with internally ventilated discs and black callipers (with ‘R’ logo) on all wheels. The front pistons have a diameter of 60 mm, the rear 42mm; the front 30mm-thick discs have a diameter of 340, the rears are 22mm thick and 310mm across.DECISIVE DIETERHad Lossis not been such an ace, we could (perhaps for a very brief time) have explored the benefits of the R’s standard “automatic multi-collision braking system” which automatically brakes the vehicle to “significantly reduce its residual kinetic energy”. Essentially, AMCBS applies the brakes until the car slows to 10km/h. “The residual speed,” VW says, “can be used to steer to a safe location after the braking process”. The odds against another such high-speed happening are pretty long so I doubt I’ll ever have a chance to test such an advanced survival kit. If it does, I hope I’ll be in a Golf R.With Decisive Dieter driving. Thanks, pal!PRICES (inc VAT and emissions tax)2014 VW Golf R 2.0 TSI a/t - R486 200; lots of extras will allow you to spend lots more – ask your local VW dealer.The Golf R will be delivered with five-year or 90 000km service plan, three-year or 120 000km warranty and 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. Service intervals 15 000km.