Volkswagen Golf R review – engine, gearbox and technical highlights

EA888 engine and DSG are a potent combo, making for an effective, if clinical powertrain

Evo rating
  • Engine still pulls; erm, strong resale?
  • Every dynamic element feels like it’s taken a step or two backwards

There is no manual gearbox available with the new R, just as there are no three-door Mk8 Golfs full stop, so the range has shrunk from four layout variants to just one. The powertrain is also familiar, with the 2-litre EA888 four-cylinder turbo now in its fourth generation, meaning it’s cleaner and also slightly more powerful, peaking at 316bhp and 310lb ft of torque.

The twin-clutch DSG transmission features seven gears, and its near instantaneous shifts contribute to effortless performance, even if the turbocharger and transmission feel like they need longer to wake up than they once did – something that could well be due to the gas particulate filter fitted to all Mk8 Golfs.

Like the Mk8 GTI, and particularly the new Clubsport, the R features a host of detail changes to its tried and tested layout of MacPherson front struts and a multi-link rear axle, with improved bearings and joints throughout and stiffer spring rates than on the old car.

The standard dampers are passive, but VW’s adaptive units are an option (and a must-have in our view), while the Performance Pack not only includes the raised limiter but also a larger roof wing in place of the standard spoiler, 19-inch wheels and two extra driver modes. The Akrapovič titanium exhaust is a further option.

The standard wheel size is once again 18 inches, but there’s a new element to the drivetrain that delivers power to them via a new torque vectoring rear differential that can send up to 100 per cent of drive to the outer rear wheel during cornering.

The R offers Comfort, Sport, Race and Individual driver modes, accessed via either a button on the dash or on the steering wheel. If the Performance Pack is fitted there are two extra modes: Special, where all the car’s systems are configured for the Nürburgring Nordschleife, and Drift, with obvious consequences. The front brake discs are larger than those of the old seventh-generation model at 357mm, and gripped by lighter calipers.

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