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Most powerful Golf yet: The 2019 Volkswagen Golf R is a brute

2019-04-30 13:30

Sean Parker

vw golf r

Image: Wheels24 / Sean Parker

Being an older child comes with benefits, especially when you've been the strongest, smartest and best-looking child in the family. 

And then, a younger sibling comes along and in his teen years goes on an anabolic steroid binge and turns into a juiced up oke that gyms in Bedfordview. 

That younger sibling is the Golf R, a more powerful, flagship version of the ubiquitous German hatchback.

Volkswagen first introduced the R in the MK6 generation. It ran a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and was the successor to the the famed V6-powered R32. 

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Most powerful stock Golf on sale 

The R's engine is, in fact, the same one fitted to its Audi S3 cousin. 

And like the R32, the R puts its power through all four wheels. For 2019,  the facelifted the R receives a power upgrade (from 213kW to 228kW) and an optional Akrapovic exhaust to make its four-pot sound a little spicier.

For the record, Volkswagen claims the R has 400Nm. 

It's the most powerful Golf ever sold by VW in South Africa though I'm sure there's someone on the East Rand who reckons his Mk1 Golfie makes more power. 

But is the R that guy in a loose vest standing outside the club shouting expletives but scampers away when the first punch is thrown? Or does its bark match its bite? 

I spent a few days with the 2019 Golf R and while it's not as popular as the older GTI sibling, the R is capable of a sub-5 second 0-100km/h sprint time, courtesy of a launch control system and great traction off the line. 

So, let's evaluate the R as a driving tool. It rides on 19" wheels and sits on 235/35 section rubber which gives it prodigious grip through corners and a settled feeling on wet roads. 

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It'll take you a long time to find the limit of this car's cornering ability and that's where it shines when you tackle mountain passes on a weekend driver. 

In its sportiest setting, Race mode, the steering has a lovely weighty feel and that four-pot lights up like the eyes of an ecstasy dealer at a trance party. 

Yes, it lacks the steering feel of the Civic Type R, but the Golf fights back with excellent grip and a decent amount of feedback. 

The option VW are boasting about is the new Akrapovic titanium exhaust that'll set you back just under R40 000 and offers a 7kg weight-saving over the standard exhaust and well, top-notch acoustics. It's bloody loud when you run through the revs swop cogs via the paddle shifts. 

It sounds good on the inside thanks to a symposer fitted to the sound system, a bit of a cop out, but everyone does it these days so who cares? 

Want to stand out? Get the R  

In standard specification, the R costs R676 500. That's around R100 000 more than its older brother, the GTI. However, the R gives you the bragging rights (more power, all-wheel drive and that lovely exhaust, if you spec it).

It's also not as common as the GTI. 

So the R may be the young kid but it's packing a mighty punch and has the looks to match. But all that show and go comes at a price. If you're looking for a performance Golf (that seats four people and has a decent size boot) and your budget can stretch north of R700 000, go for it. 


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