Volkswagen Golf R 20 Years debuts – is this the Mk8 range-topper we’ve been waiting for?

Small tweaks across the engine, gearbox and chassis could all add up to make a real difference

 Volkswagen has revealed the Golf R 20 Years, a special edition of its flagship hot hatchback that celebrates 20 years since the arrival of the Golf R32 that features a selection of subtle tweaks over the standard hatchback. evo’s had a somewhat complex relationship with the eighth generation VW Golf, and in particular the Golf R. We felt it fell some way short not just of being a competent top-of-the-line hot hatchback, but also of being a worthy replacement for its excellent predecessor.

VW first signalled that it had something in the works a few months back with a cryptic teaser image, but has now laid all its cards on the table, revealing that engineers have, in fact, been hard at work returning the Golf R to its former glory. The changes start under the bonnet, where the same turbocharged 2-litre four-cylinder engine has been given an extra boost with a higher peak power figure of 328bhp – a 12bhp increase over the current model. Torque figures have yet to be confirmed and it’s the same story with official performance figures, but we expect the 20 Years special to improve on the standard Golf R’s 4.7sec 0-62mph time.

> 550bhp Golf R review – can this modified Golf take on an A45 S?

Alongside the extra power, VW has also been working on improving the engine’s character, giving it an aggressive edge that’s been missing in the current generation. One method employed is a new mode for the turbo, which keeps the throttle valve open under part throttle, holding higher boost pressures for longer and improving the engine’s responsiveness. Think of it as an electronically controlled anti-lag system. There’s also a new ‘Emotional Start’ function that flares the revs to 2500rpm on cold start, projecting the sound with the help of a standard-fit Akrapovic exhaust system. 

The seven-speed DSG has also gained some new software that should deliver faster and crisper shifts, but any changes to the 4Motion all-wheel drive system or the torque-vectoring differential situated on the rear axle have yet to be confirmed. We do know that the standard fit 19-inch wheels (which are optionally available in a fetching shade of Lapiz Blue) can also be optioned with Michelin Cup 2 rubber – although VW UK’s hesitancy to fit this sort of aggressive tyre choice straight from the factory makes it unclear if we’ll see them on UK cars. 

Visually, the Golf R Performance Pack’s taller rear wing is the only physical change aside from those fetching blue wheels, although there is some bespoke R 20 badging on the rear bumper and door pillar garnish. Inside VW has fitted real carbonfibre to the main trim elements, but don’t get your hopes up if you’re wanting to see the Golf GTI Clubsport S’s brilliant Recaro buckets. 

Prices and final UK specifications are still to be confirmed, but we suspect the Volkswagen Golf R 20 Years to sit somewhere north of £50,000 considering it’s possible to specify a standard Golf R over and above that level with similar options fitted. Production numbers are not expected to be limited, but the production timescale will be, with confirmation that the car will only be built until the middle of 2023.

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