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First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R on Everyman Driver

First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R on Everyman Driver

The Golf R is the fastest and most powerful performance Volkswagen ever to be sold in the U.S. Based on the seventh-generation Golf, the R model shares the same Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) architecture and is bigger, lighter, and more spacious than the previous generation Golf R, which was sold in this market as a 2012 and a 2013 model.

With 292 horsepower from its turbocharged and direct-injection EA888 TSI® engine, the new Golf R has 36 horsepower and 37 pound-feet torque more than the previous version. In addition, the new R model will be considerably more fuel-efficient than its predecessor with an EPA-estimated highway fuel economy rating of 30 mpg with the six-speed DSG® automatic transmission, up from 27 mpg for the previous, manual-transmission model.

Like all previous Golf R models, the new model transfers its power to the road via a permanent all-wheel-drive system; in this case, the latest version of the 4MOTION® system with a fifth-generation Haldex® coupling. To help ensure great chassis dynamics, there’s a new sport suspension, the Progressive variable-ratio steering system, and an ESC Sport stability control system which can be deactivated for track driving. Other highlights include the optional DCC® adaptive damping system. The six-speed DSG® dual-clutch automatic transmission offers a launch control feature, enabling the car to complete the 0 to 60 mph sprint in just 4.9 seconds. The top track speed is 155 mph.

First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R on Everyman DriverThe new Golf R is equipped with an extensive package of exclusive features. Along with specially designed bumpers, side skirts, and standard 18- or available 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, the Golf R can also be visually distinguished from the GTI by details such as standard Bi-Xenon headlights with newly designed LED daytime running lights (in a dual-U design) and a two-branch exhaust system that has four chrome tips. Inside, the Golf R underlines its position as the flagship of the model range with sport seats with leather seating surfaces, a leather-wrapped three-spoke sport steering wheel, ambient lighting, and R specific instrumentation.

The Golf R will be launched in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2015 in four-door form only, initially with the DSG dual-clutch transmission. There will be two models: the well-equipped Golf R starting at $36,595 and the technology-rich Golf R with DCC & Navigation, starting at $39,090 for DSG-equipped models.

First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R on Everyman DriverExterior

The Volkswagen designers decided to give the Golf R an understated yet aggressive appearance. Components developed by Volkswagen R GmbH include the bumpers, side skirts, rear diffuser, dual chrome exhaust tips per side, unique headlights, black painted mirror caps, and the aluminum-alloy wheels.

The Golf R is distinguished at the front by a new bumper design with large air intakes, a modified radiator grille that sports the “R” logo, and newly developed daytime running lights that are integrated into the Bi-Xenon headlight housings. The headlights include LED turn signals and LED daytime running lights that form a distinctive dual “U” design beneath the headlights.

From the side, the Golf R is characterized by newly designed standard 18- or available 19-inch “Cadiz” aluminum-alloy wheels shod with 225/40 or 235/35 performance summer tires, black brake calipers with the “R” logo, body-color “R” style side skirts, “R” badges on the front fenders, and black painted door mirror caps. Rear-end details that define the new Golf R include an “R” design diffuser, the four chrome tailpipes, and an “R” logo on the hatch.

The Golf R can be ordered in one of five colors. Lapiz Blue Metallic is a new paint that was created specifically and exclusively for the Golf R. Alternative color choices are Tornado Red, Limestone Grey Metallic, Deep Black Pearl Effect, and Oryx White.

First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R on Everyman DriverInterior

Volkswagen R GmbH has extensively upgraded the interior, just like the three previous R models based on the Golf. This most powerful Golf is equipped with front sport seats and leather seating surfaces. Leather is also used to wrap the upper and lower grip zones of the three-spoke “R” sport steering wheel, which has a chromed “R” logo on its lower cross bar.

The dashboard and door trim panels feature the “Carbon Touch” design, while the door sills are finished with a stainless steel look with blue illumination. The pedals, foot support, and shift knob are trimmed in an aluminum-alloy finish and the interior also features plenty of Piano Black surfaces. The blue illumination theme continues with ambient lighting in the interior door panels.

The instruments and the touchscreen’s start menu were also customized. When the ignition is switched on, the illuminated light-blue tachometer and speedometer needles sweep once across the entire scale to their end pins. The instrument needles are also automatically illuminated as soon as the driver’s door is opened. The radio or navigation-system touchscreen shows an animated “R” logo on startup.

The latest-generation radio and radio/navigation systems feature a 5.8-inch touchscreen that features proximity sensors: as soon as the driver or front passenger moves a finger near the touchscreen, the system automatically switches from display mode to input mode.

The Golf R is comprehensively equipped. The base Golf R model includes: Driving Mode Selection; SiriusXM® Satellite Radio; heatable front seats; LED reading lights; a Media Device Interface (MDI) with iPhone® connectivity; Bluetooth® connectivity; VW Car-Net® connected service; KESSY® keyless access with push-button start; a rearview camera; 12-way power driver’s seat; and Climatronic® dual-zone automatic air conditioning. The Golf R with DCC® & Navigation adds: the DCC adaptive damping system; 19-inch wheels; navigation system; Fender® Premium Audio System; and front and rear Park Distance Control.

First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R on Everyman DriverEngine and Transmission

The Golf R has an even more advanced version of the EA888 four-cylinder turbocharged and direct-injection TSI® 2.0-liter engine that’s fitted to the highly praised and award-winning Golf GTI. The engineers boosted power to 292 hp, delivered at 5,400 rpm, thus creating one of the most powerful four-cylinder production engines in the world. Maximum torque has been increased to 280 pound-feet, available over a broad speed band from 1,800 to 5,500 rpm. That‘s 36 more horsepower than the previous Golf R, as well as 37 pound-feet of additional torque, delivered at 600 fewer revs in both cases. Compared with the Golf GTI with Performance Package, the Golf R has an additional 72 hp and 22 lb-ft of torque.

To attain this output, the Golf R model’s 1984-cc engine was subjected to a motorsports-style development program. The following components were modified or completely redesigned compared to the GTI engine: the cylinder head (together with exhaust valves, valve seats, and springs), pistons, high-pressure injection system, and turbocharger.

The Golf R model’s EA888 series engine has innovative engineering solutions such as water-cooled exhaust gas channels running through the cylinder head to the turbocharger to help efficiently reduce full-load fuel consumption. Thanks to its new fully-electronic coolant control system, the Golf R TSI engine has much more efficient thermal management with a shortened warm-up phase that helps to reduce frictional losses and fuel consumption. In addition, the TSI engine has variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust sides, as well as two-stage exhaust-valve lift. This helps enable optimal control of the charge exchange process for better performance, fuel economy and lower emissions.

At launch, the Golf R will be available only with the DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. This has steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters and a launch control feature. For the 2016 model year, a six-speed manual transmission will become available, featuring a reinforced clutch and a short-throw shifter.

The Golf R has always used 4MOTION® permanent all-wheel drive. Using refinements such as the Haldex 5 coupling, the latest-generation 4MOTION system is activated before wheelspin occurs, helping to eliminate traction losses. The system achieves this by using an advanced control function based on specific driving conditions. When operating under a relatively low load or when coasting, the front wheels are driven and the rear wheels are decoupled, helping to save fuel. However, the rear wheels can be engaged in fractions of a second when necessary via the Haldex coupling, which is activated by an electro-hydraulic oil pump.

A control unit continually calculates the ideal drive torque for the rear wheels and controls how much the multi-plate clutch should be closed by activating the oil pump. The oil pressure increases the contact pressure at the clutch plates in proportion to the torque desired at the rear axle. So, the amount of pressure applied to the clutch plates can be used to continuously vary the amount of torque going between the front and rear wheels, up to a maximum of 50 percent at the rear axle.

In addition to the Haldex coupling that acts longitudinally, electronic differential locks (EDS) at the front and rear axles act laterally in concert with the electronic stability control system. The system briefly brakes a wheel that is slipping, enabling an uninterrupted and stable transfer of drive power to the wheel on the opposite side.

The Golf R is also equipped with the XDS® brake-based cross differential lock at the front and rear. The latest version, known as XDS+, applies this functionality to a larger range of dynamic performance, helping make the vehicle more agile. When the car is being driven at highway speeds, brake pressure is applied to the inside wheel to help restore optimal traction as soon as the electronics detect excessively light loads. XDS+ thereby operates like a limited-slip differential and thus compensates for understeer during faster cornering.

The new Golf R also has “ESC Sport” as standard. The system is activated by a two-stage switch on the center console. When the driver presses this switch briefly, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) switches to the “ESC Sport” mode. In very fast driving on a race track, the ESC system has a higher threshold in this mode. When the ESC button is pressed for longer than three seconds, the system is fully deactivated for high-performance track driving, a feature that is available only on the Golf R.


The Golf R features a sport suspension setup that is specifically tuned to the car. Compared to the base Golf, the ride height was dropped by 0.8 inches, which makes the Golf R even lower than the GTI, by an additional 0.2 inches. In the Golf R, the strut-type front suspension has a newly developed lower control arm and the multi-link rear suspension was enhanced with different tuning of the toe-link bearings. The base Golf R is fitted with 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels shod with 225/40 R18 summer tires; the Golf R DCC & Navigation has standard 19-inch wheels with 235/35 R19 tires.

Engineers designed the basic tuning of the running gear of the new Golf R for maximum driving fun combined with extraordinary driving stability and good ride comfort. The running gear was tuned to be more neutral for this purpose, avoiding understeer all the way up to the car’s performance limits. The new calibration of the all-wheel drive system assists in achieving neutral handling.

The Golf R DCC & Navigation has the second-generation DCC adaptive damping system as standard. DCC offers three driving modes: “Comfort”, “Normal”, and “Race”, which are selected and displayed via the center console touchscreen as part of the “Driving Mode Selection” functionality. In “Race” mode, the dampers are stiffened for more agile handling when on a track. The DCC system adaptively controls the damper valves via a further developed and refined control algorithm. DCC takes input signals from wheel displacement sensors and accelerometers as well as vehicle information from the Chassis-CAN bus to compute these values and adaptively adjust the optimal damping force. Moreover, damping forces are selectively applied to the four wheels individually. With the new generation of DCC, it is now possible to independently vary rebound and compression damping while cornering.

Race mode. The Driving Mode Selection feature has three programs in the Golf R, and four in conjunction with DCC: “Normal”, “Individual”, and a “Race” mode for track use that has been specially designed for the Golf R. In combination with DCC, “Comfort” mode is also available. In “Race” mode, which is designed for high-speed track driving, engine response and the shift points of the DSG transmission are configured to be even sportier on all Golf R models and the damping is stiffened on the Golf R with DCC & Navigation. In the “Individual” driving profile, the driver can combine mode settings for various individual parameters.

Steering and Brakes

Compared to the previous model, steering response has been improved thanks to the new Progressive variable-ratio electric power assisted rack-and-pinion steering. This is an elegant solution to a common problem with steering systems, which is that different speeds and maneuvers ideally require different steering rates. In this case, Volkswagen has spaced the teeth on the steering gear’s rack more tightly towards the center. The lower steering ratio in the center means that the car responds more quickly when entering a turn, while the higher ratio at the ends of the rack reduces the amount of effort needed near full steering lock, such as when parking. The steering wheel needs just 2.1 turns from lock to lock, whereas the standard Golf needs 2.76 turns.

The Golf R has the uprated brakes from the GTI Performance Package. At the front, the car has 13.4-inch diameter vented discs that are 1.2 inches thick, while the vented rear rotors are 12.2 by 0.9 inches. Black brake calipers include the “R” logo at the front. Up front, the single pistons per side are 2.4 inches in diameter and are 1.7 inches at the back.

To help keep occupants safe, the new Golf provides a combination of both passive and active safety systems. The Golf has been engineered to meet all current crash regulations and features no fewer than six airbags as standard.

Driver Assistance

A new standard feature on the 2015 Golf R is Volkswagen’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking system. This builds on the premise that a collision is rarely a single, instantaneous action, but rather a series of events that follow the initial impact—the most significant of which can cause additional collisions. The Automatic Post-Collision Braking system addresses this by applying the brakes when a primary collision is detected by the airbag sensors, thus helping reduce residual kinetic energy and, in turn, the chance of additional damage.

Warranty and Scheduled Maintenance
2015 Golf R models are offered with Volkswagen’s standard 5-year/60,000-mile (whichever occurs first) powertrain limited warranty and 3-year/36,000-mile (whichever occurs first) new vehicle limited warranty. In addition, a 3-year/36,000-mile (whichever occurs first) roadside assistance program is standard, as is the 1-year/10,000-mile (whichever occurs first) Carefree Maintenance Program that covers scheduled maintenance during this period, all at no additional charge. See dealer or program booklet for limited warranty and maintenance details.

Model Line-up

Golf R

Starting at $36,595 with the six-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission, this base model comes incredibly well-equipped and includes: the 292-hp 2.0-liter TSI engine; 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; Bi-Xenon headlights with Adaptive Front-lighting System, LED turn signals and LED DRLs; KESSY® keyless access with push-button start; Bluetooth® connectivity; a touchscreen infotainment system; Sirius XM® Satellite Radio; a Media Device Interface (MDI) with iPod® integration; a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, handbrake, and shift knob; VW Car-Net® connected services; ambient and footwell lighting with LED reading lights; sport seats with leather seating surfaces; 12-way power driver’s seat; automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers; auto-dimming rearview mirror; heatable front seats; a rearview camera; Climatronic dual-zone automatic air conditioning; and a new Driving Mode Selection feature.

Golf R with DCC & Navigation

Starting at $39,090 with DSG, the topline Golf R adds the following features: 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; the DCC adaptive damping system; Fender Premium Audio System; a touchscreen navigation system; and front and rear Park Distance Control.

Competitive Set
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Subaru WRX STi
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