Those expecting controversy or surprise from the first sneak peek of the Mk8 Golf R are going to be disappointed. There's no great shock with the wraps unofficially off and the 334hp, Lapiz Blue reality there for all to see: it's a Golf made a bit leaner, meaner and lower for its position at the top of the range. No outrageous wing or silly exhaust placement here - leave that to the Honda Civics of this world.
It would've been daft to expect anything else, frankly; the R aesthetic template laid out in the previous generation having proved so successful. There are the hat-tip giveaways - the four exhausts, the spoiler, the diffuser, the grille treatment - alongside the more obvious cues of model-specific paint and wheels to ensure that nobody will mistake this for anything other than a Golf R. But nobody is going to have the point forced down their throat, either.
Not only are these spy shots interesting for showing the car virtually undisguised, they also give a sneak peek at the interior, too. Or rather, the R-embossed seat, here with gaffa tape that hasn't entirely done the job. And more blue accents to remind you of the R status if the logo is ever blotted out.
Otherwise these R images are all that we've come to expect over months of build-up from a performance car brand that is nothing if not consistent. This is the Christmas present you picked out with Nan in September - even when it's put in a box you know what to expect come December 25th. Given VW's current frequency of announcements for similar models - the Arteon R last week, the Touareg R earlier this year, the Tiguan very soon - it seems likely that we'll see the new Golf R in all its official glory before the week is done. Alright, it won't be quite that soon, but we'd be staggered if the uber-Golf isn't launched within the next month or so. Because there'll surely be another VW R to divert attention to after that...
The styling of the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf hasn’t gone down particularly well on PH but, as is often the case, it seems the hotter iterations may do the new design more justice. Closely following the recently revealed Golf GTI is the 334hp R, a car that according to new spy pictures is set to receive a racy makeover which takes influence from the GTI Clubsport.
That rear wing and those wheels in particular appear to be borrowed straight from the Clubsport, while the butch bumpers, quad exit exhaust system and rear diffuser evolves what the last R had. We reckon it all combines to create something far more comfortable in its own skin than the awkwardly proportioned regular model, and no doubt there’s a sizeable increase in performance all round thanks in part to the work done to VW’s 2.0-litre EA888 block and the all-wheel drive system it powers.
The turbocharged four-cylinder’s new peak output – which was first brought to light through leaked specification sheets early this year – will rank it well clear of AMG’s A35, and a retuned Haldex driveline that’s keener to shift torque rearwards might give it a dynamic advantage, too. Given that VW’s car is set to be priced to rival that one, at around £35k, this means the Golf R could very well increase on the compelling value for money its lineage has offered. Don’t expect the bump in power to upset the balance of sports car-rivalling performance and practicality that has long been established by its predecessors, though.
Mk8 GTIs will come with both with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard and a new 'shift-by-wire' seven-speed DSG as an option, but the R will be auto only due to low demand for three-pedal variants. It’s a shame, but not a surprise. The R has always been famed for its ease of use – plenty of supercar owners run Golf Rs as their daily modes of transport – leaving the likes of VW’s Golf Clubsport to cater to those after something more focussed. Rest assured those more honed performance variants will retain a clutch pedal.
The switch to auto-only does, perhaps, hint at a more rounded remit for the next R. Expect VW to build on the platform’s proven diversity, with cars equipped with adaptive dampers in particular having a much-appreciated ability to soak up the worst of British tarmac despite the oft-chosen option of enormous wheels and rubber band tyres. Don’t expect that trend to change with the new car by the way; the tyres are barely visible around the 19-inch wheels of this Nurburgring test car as it loads up through the Carousel.
We always knew the Golf R’s arrival would be held until the GTI and GTD had launched. We’re now a month clear of that, though, suggesting this top Golf variant must be imminently due, with a lockdown web preview likely in the coming weeks, before a we’re granted access to the car for real in the summer.
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