Re : PH Carbituary | Volkswagen Golf R (Mk7)

Re : PH Carbituary | Volkswagen Golf R (Mk7)

Monday 13th January

PH Carbituary | Volkswagen Golf R (Mk7)

Arguably the most influential hot hatch of the last decade went off sale this week. Dan looks back...



Well, that's it. If you didn't get your order in for a Mk7 VW Golf R this week, I'm afraid that ship has sailed. From close of play on Wednesday no more new orders will be taken and one of the most discreetly brilliant performance cars of this century so far will be available only from existing dealer stock or as a second-hand purchase.

The Golf R didn't do instant gratification. Instead it revealed its brilliance over time, its qualities making themselves known to you only after you'd hacked along a rainy motorway in it, and piled people and stuff into it, and battled city centre rush hour traffic with it, and hammered it along a really good stretch of B-road. And it took me a little while to work that out.

Absolutely the worst scenario in which to sample a car like the Golf R for the first time is one of those end-of-year car magazine tests that pitch the best supercars, sports cars, performance saloons and hot hatches of the past 12 months against one another, always in some idealised setting, to crown that year's best new car. And in the company of a Ferrari 458 Speciale, McLaren 650S, Jaguar F-Type R, Porsche Cayman GTS and others, and on the ribbony roads that bend themselves over the Scottish Borders, an all-rounder like the Golf R was never likely to shine brightly. I drove it, thought it competent enough, and jumped straight back into the Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy-R that was more raw, more uncompromising and so much more exciting to drive.


A few months later it would be my enormous privilege - though I didn't realise it at the time - to run a Golf R as my everyday car for a year. It had dark blue paint, five doors, the smaller wheels rather than the flashier 19s and black leather. It might have been the subtlest 300hp hot hatch on the road in Britain at the time. It didn't turn heads or draw comments, and I don't remember anybody trying to goad me into a street race. But for the quad exhausts (entirely unnecessary for that same number of cylinders) and the discreet R badging, it could have been any other Golf.

Only when you'd figured out how easy the car was to use day-to-day - how comfortably it rode and how civilised it was at motorway speeds, plus how sure-footed it felt in soggy conditions - did you begin to appreciate its competency at the more titillating end of the driving spectrum. For any car to be that undemanding in one moment but then so capable when catapulted along a winding road the next is quite something. For an affordable hatchback with very humble origins to manage it? Well, that's worth celebrating.

There was no real adjustability in the Golf R's chassis, but acres of stability. It generated its steadfast grip on the road not through uncompromising compounds and aggressive tread patterns, but brilliantly pliable suspension that allowed each wheel and tyre to trace the changing surface of the road, keeping all four contact patches pressed firmly into the asphalt. Whereas so many other performance cars thump and thud their way along a tricky road, the Mk7 Golf R always seemed to glide.


It steered crisply and accurately, and although the front-biased four-wheel drive system was never able to overpower the rear axle and make the car behave like a Nineties Impreza or Evo, it did at least mean every one of those 300hp would find its way to the road surface and not be spun away. The R had its limits, though. And as you approached them, what you found was not knife-edge balance or any kind of playfulness, but gentle understeer and nothing else. On circuit in particular, the fastest Golf revealed itself to be less rewarding than the front-wheel drive GTI.

You wouldn't have called its 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-pot an evocative engine, but it was crisp, energetic and muscular right the way through the rev range. The car I ran for a year had the six-speed manual, a perfectly decent gearbox but not as well suited to this very versatile, more grown-up sort of hot hatch as the seven-speed DSG for my money (which became the only transmission option later on in the car's time on sale).

Since the day it arrived, the Golf R was far and away the best car of its type. You'd need a Renaultsport Megane or a Honda Civic Type R to really set your world ablaze, but of the premium-badged, four-wheel drive hot hatch brigade, the VW was peerless. Not even the Audi S3 with which it shared a platform and drivetrain was quite as good. And when I tested a Golf R alongside the Mercedes-AMG A35 last year, it was the VW that came away victorious.


You can tell a basic formula is right in the car world when rival manufacturers hurry to imitate it. The A35, and now the BMW M135i xDrive too, are so technically similar to the Golf R it'd be almost impossible to identify one from the other based on their tech specs alone: front-biased four-wheel drive, 2.0-litre turbo engines, paddleshift gearboxes, something like 300hp. That basic configuration just works.

The question now, as the Golf R takes its leave, is whether or not its latest challenger will finally be the one to topple it. The BMW is a difficult car to like based on looks alone, but its cabin feels two generations newer than the VW's and it's very talented out on the road, too. Better than the R? You'll find my own thoughts on that in the video below.

I hope VW is brave enough to simply transpose the Mk7's core attributes directly onto the new Mk8 version, perhaps with a shade more power. Online reports suggest the third model in the series (or the fifth if we include the earlier R32s) will have as much as 400hp and perhaps hybrid assistance as well. Whether or not any of that will make the next Golf R better than the old one remains to be seen. VW certainly has its work cut out.


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Author
Discussion

Ursicles

Original Poster:

888 posts

191 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
The car that had one of the best lease deals ever and took a lot of peoples leasing virginity!

SidewaysSi

6,281 posts

183 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
And the car that led to many people having guns pointed to their heads.

Fast, competent but ultimately not really a fun car. Typical Golf.

HeMightBeBanned

530 posts

127 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
My wife has a dark blue, 5 door with manual gears on 19s. I bloody love it.

Funk

20,932 posts

158 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
Had mine two years, it really is the consummate all-rounder. I'll miss it when it goes but it's been great to have had one.

rare6499

324 posts

88 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
So much better looking than the BMW. And I’m a BMW fan.

I would love an estate version but you don’t see many for sale.

David87

5,405 posts

161 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
Never did get that 400bhp one that was always mooted. Thanks very much, dieselgate!

In other news, car criminals everywhere are shedding a tear about it temporarily going out of production. hehe

Peanus

138 posts

54 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
SidewaysSi said:
And the car that led to many people having guns pointed to their heads.

Fast, competent but ultimately not really a fun car. Typical Golf.
I’ve had mine for 18 months. I have lots of fun driving it. This is my 5th car ever. My first was a Mk6 Fiesta ST, then two EP3 Civic Type Rs which I tuned, then an M135i. I suppose if you’ve experienced many cars it will seem ‘too’ competent.

Msportman

192 posts

105 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
I’ve got one...absolutely a great all rounder especially in our poor winter climate. Great confidence inspiring and safe car that’s not too shabby with some Cup 2’s on track.

Mines been fiddled to 400bhp / 440lbs runs Racingline springs DCC a Superpro Caster Camber set and APR Stage 2 power with TCU tune.
Also runs a Tarox 8 pot 2 piece BBK.

What a weapon for little outlay that’s great for family duties. It’s just ridiculous. No loud exhausts on mine I kept it’ stealth and keeps the missus happy.The DCC is a must and really smooths poor road surfaces especially on 19’s.
Mines a 7 and not 7.5 but it’s equally as appealing. Discreet and not an ASBO car but mature thinking mans hot hatch.

Who needs a A45S which I priced up today at Merc WSM
£58k
PCP @ 5.9 APR
Monthly £741£5k deposit
Balloon £27k

Would cost £2500 per year just in interest over 4& months.....ouch.
Think I’ll keep my bargain basement but Uber quick daily Golf.

Well done Dan great review and if still looks better than the new 1 series.


Edited by Msportman on Saturday 11th January 01:29


Edited by Msportman on Saturday 11th January 01:32


Edited by Msportman on Saturday 11th January 01:33

Msportman

192 posts

105 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
I’ve got one...absolutely a great all rounder especially in our poor winter climate. Great confidence inspiring and safe car that’s not too shabby with some Cup 2’s on track.

Mines been fiddled to 400bhp / 440lbs runs Racingline springs DCC a Superpro Caster Camber set, 034 Motorsort rear ARB upgrade APR Stage 2 power with TCU tune.
I also swapped out stock brakes for track to a Tarox 8 pot 2 piece BBK.

What a weapon for little outlay that’s great for family duties. It’s just ridiculous. No loud exhausts on mine I kept it’ stealth and keeps the missus happy.The DCC is a must and really smooths poor road surfaces especially on 19’s.
Mines a 7 and not 7.5 but it’s equally as appealing. Discreet and not an ASBO car but mature thinking mans hot hatch.

Who needs a A45S which I priced up today at Merc WSM
£58k
PCP @ 5.9 APR
Monthly £741£5k deposit
Balloon £27k

Would cost £2500 per year just in interest over 4& months.....ouch.
Think I’ll keep my bargain basement but Uber quick daily Golf.

Well done Dan great review and if still looks better than the new 1 series.


Edited by Msportman on Saturday 11th January 01:29


Edited by Msportman on Saturday 11th January 01:32


Edited by Msportman on Saturday 11th January 01:37

Hellbound

2,365 posts

125 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
The BMW is passable in black, dark tints and black shadow trim. It'll remain the new kid on the block until the next GTI and R are out on the streets.

ghost83

3,377 posts

139 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
Loved my golf mk7

It was fun it was well specced

But it was a theft risk

Over the last 18 month I’ve caught a few nosying around and I’ve confronted and luckily it’s never gone!

Sold it 2 days ago! Missus cried as she loved it but she’s actually had a decent nights sleep since

Court_S

1,719 posts

126 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
A massive hit for VW in terms of sales but a car that seems to divide the opinion of enthusiasts; for some it’s the ultimate, unflappable daily but for others it’s too dull / competent.

My biggest issue is that to me, the ‘lesser’ GTI is a better looking car, these are just a bit too subtle but then gets four exhausts. On paper it was the perfect daily when opting out of my company car scheme last year but but didn’t do enough for me.

Raygun

3,063 posts

69 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
As good as car as it is a VW Golf is not a car I would aspire to.

spookly

2,280 posts

44 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
I had a MK7 R Estate. It is a superb all rounder and was popular as it is quite a lot of performance for the money without being too shouty and showy.

So what if people leased a lot of them? I could have bought one outright, on finance or leased it. If I'd bought outright then I'd have taken twice the lease cost in depreciation over the 2 years I had it. If I'd financed it then it would be the same depreciation + interest. So leasing is the sensible option when the total lease cost is half what the depreciation would be. You'd have to be a moron not to lease, even if you're loaded. The same discounts just weren't available via buying it.

I find the 'boring' criticism a bit strange. VW designs a car that enough to be simple to drive in most conditions at legal road speeds and cop criticism. It isn't boring, it just has to be pushed past most legal speed limits before it's on the edge. You could argue that makes it boring for road use, but in reality it's just well made.
If Mercedes F1 produce a really fast and easy to drive car this year you won't see Lewis Hamilton complaining that it's too easy to drive or too competent to be fun. If you want a car with flaws or less capability at lower speeds then buy one, or buy a Golf R and run skinny bald tyres.

ghost83

3,377 posts

139 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
You get nothing back when you lease though,

At least with pcp you can sell it,

My final payment 2 days ago was 12,150 and I sold it for 16k and the finance was till March so I’ve also got 2 330 payments too so call it 16500, so I’ve ended up with over 4K, with lease I’d have got nothing back whatsoever,

SidewaysSi

6,281 posts

183 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
spookly said:
I had a MK7 R Estate. It is a superb all rounder and was popular as it is quite a lot of performance for the money without being too shouty and showy.

So what if people leased a lot of them? I could have bought one outright, on finance or leased it. If I'd bought outright then I'd have taken twice the lease cost in depreciation over the 2 years I had it. If I'd financed it then it would be the same depreciation + interest. So leasing is the sensible option when the total lease cost is half what the depreciation would be. You'd have to be a moron not to lease, even if you're loaded. The same discounts just weren't available via buying it.

I find the 'boring' criticism a bit strange. VW designs a car that enough to be simple to drive in most conditions at legal road speeds and cop criticism. It isn't boring, it just has to be pushed past most legal speed limits before it's on the edge. You could argue that makes it boring for road use, but in reality it's just well made.
If Mercedes F1 produce a really fast and easy to drive car this year you won't see Lewis Hamilton complaining that it's too easy to drive or too competent to be fun. If you want a car with flaws or less capability at lower speeds then buy one, or buy a Golf R and run skinny bald tyres.
You can't compare a Golf to a F1 car... smile. Speed for speed's sake is of little meaning on the road, unlike racing.

I like the Golf but it lacks the interaction and fun factor for me. But that is not it's remit.

I have an old Subaru Forester as a practical family wagon which is considerably more fun and engaging to drive at all times. Shame really but it's the way of the world.

LotusOmega375D

4,462 posts

102 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
300bhp in a shopping trolley for the masses. No wonder every second Golf l see seems to be an R. My Ferrari with twice as many cylinders has the same power and is much slower. Same number of exhaust pipes though.

Baldchap

1,987 posts

41 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
LotusOmega375D said:
300bhp in a shopping trolley for the masses. No wonder every second Golf l see seems to be an R. My Ferrari with twice as many cylinders has the same power and is much slower. Same number of exhaust pipes though.
Something is popular, therefore it's rubbish. rolleyes

Baldchap

1,987 posts

41 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
I had a 7.5 R Estate. I think it was probably the highest spec one in the UK, with various people constantly telling me what I should have bought for that money. They were, of course, welcome to buy whatever they wanted and I told them so.

I ran it for just over a year and it was a genuinely excellent car to live with and drive every day.

Despite no longer having a Golf, I still maintain that the 7/7.5 Golf is one of the best all round packages money can buy. In the end it was the dealership's terrible parking arrangements that moved me into a different car. I'd recommend one to anybody. thumbup

LotusOmega375D

4,462 posts

102 months

Saturday 11th January
quotequote all
Baldchap said:
LotusOmega375D said:
300bhp in a shopping trolley for the masses. No wonder every second Golf l see seems to be an R. My Ferrari with twice as many cylinders has the same power and is much slower. Same number of exhaust pipes though.
Something is popular, therefore it's rubbish. rolleyes
Who said it was rubbish? Are you regretting buying yours then?

My post was alluding to the fact that a Ferrari 348 or Mondial T had 300bhp. That was the 488 category of the day. 25 years later the same power output is found in a family hatchback. I guess both the hot hatch and the entry level supercar have doubled in power since then from 150bhp to 300bhp and 300bhp to 600bhp respectively. They probably use less fuel too. Amazing really.


Edited by LotusOmega375D on Saturday 11th January 10:26