It can be hard to recall a time when the VW Golf R wasn't the all-conquering, all-wheel-drive hot hatch. Maybe the Mk8 hasn't reset expectations quite like the Mk7 did, but those after pace and poise in all weathers are still very well served by the flagship Golf.
But the outlook wasn't always so rosy. Once upon a time the expectation was that the most powerful Golf would be bland rather than brilliant to drive. That was the era of the Mk6, which, by dint of losing the V6 which made the R32 something of a legend, delivered no more driving thrill than the GTI - while also looking duller than the Mk5. The first Golf R wasn't exactly a smash hit in any regard.
So how did VW attempt to remedy the situation? Did it add more power, modify the suspension, or maybe drop the price? Nope, none of those. To attract more interest in the Mk6 Golf R, VW made a convertible version. The first R cabrio and very likely to be the last, it launched just as the Mk7 hatch was about to arrive.
Quite why it ever happened has never really been clear, but it's a fascinating thing to pore over a few years later. The drop-top didn't even get the all-wheel drive system that was the signature feature of the R, instead making do with just a single driven axle and 265hp from the old EA113 2.0-litre turbo. It was DSG-only, too, rather heavy (1,539kg) and incredibly expensive - a £38,770 launch price made it more than a 2.7 Porsche Boxster. A substantial price cut of more than £5k (!) followed a few months later.
Though reviewers weren't exactly blown away by the open-top model, it wasn't without merit. One described it as more engaging than a TT RS, another praising both grip and refinement. The market for a very fast, four-seat hatch convertible will have been small, but the Golf R would probably have suited some people down to the ground.
It isn't clear exactly how many were sold, though it can't have been many - even when the price dropped to £33k. All that said, at considerably less than half that money (and more than £20k off its new price), this Golf R Cabriolet looks a whole lot more recommendable. Now, of course, £15k buys all manner of nice convertibles - and January is always a good time to do deals - but those after something a bit different could do a whole lot worse. When did you last see one, if ever? TTs are everywhere...
A 63-plated car, this Golf R cab has covered just 36,000 miles in that time. Perhaps it's the much-missed sunlight in these images or the presence of buttons and instruments in a Golf interior, but the R looks really good for those miles as well. Beyond the obvious wear to the driver's seat it's flawless, black paint lustrous and Talladega wheels far nicer than anything currently offered on a fast Golf. Yes, we'd all quite like a Boxster - but you're not getting a 2013 Porsche for £15,000.
Maybe we're going a bit mad in bleak mid winter, but a Golf R cabrio seems no more silly, all things being relative, than a drop-top T-Roc. Launched when it was with the price tag it had, the Golf was always doomed to fail. But many a decent car has suffered a misplaced launch strategy. And while clearly this will never be one of the iconic Golfs, the R arguably makes more sense than it ever has - the roof goes down and it'll do 155mph, at the end of the day. British buyers have cheerily bought convertibles with far fewer attributes.
SPECIFICATION | VW GOLF R CABRIOLET
Engine: 1,984cc, four-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed DSG dual-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 265@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 258@2,500-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 6.4 secs
Top speed: 155mph
Year registered: 2013
Recorded mileage: 36,000
Price new: £38,770 (reduced to £33,170)
Yours for: £15,995
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