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Fastest Golf R production model hits the ‘Ring

Volkswagen is readying a faster Golf R 20 Years variant to farewell its ICE drivetrain

25 Aug 2022

CLOCKING fast laps of the notorious Nurburgring Nordschleife track in Germany is a rite of passage for wannabe fast cars. Volkswagen has been at it for years testing the high-speed prowess of its hot hatches on the demanding and dangerous Eifel mountains (Germany) course.


In fact, it’s 20 years since Volkswagen started punting its desirable Golf R over the Nordschleife and the latest variant is the fastest yet.


The effort has been marked by VW with a special Golf R 20 Years edition that gains an extra 10kW over the garden variety Golf R. It will likely be the last ICE powered Golf R as new performance models will be electron powered.


VW equipped the 20 Years edition with a “performance pack” to improve the car’s Nordschleife lap time by a good four seconds compared with the current Golf R. The company says its evolutionary enhancement of the Golf R’s engine and gearbox makes it possible to experience performance in everyday use and on the racetrack.


“The intelligent combination of R-Performance package, Vehicle Dynamics Manager and R-Performance Torque Vectoring increases the driving dynamics and enhances the driving experience,” said Volkswagen in a statement.


“The anniversary vehicle with all-wheel drive underlines the continuity and evolution of the most powerful Golf versions over a period of 20 years.”


The stopwatch tells us the new Golf R 20 Years edition completed a lap of the 21km track in an official time of 7:47.31 minutes.


Acknowledged as a fast time for a ‘normal’ road car by any measure, the effort was aided by what VW terms “exclusive standard equipment” together with optimised driving dynamics and a power output of 245kW.


According to VW, the Golf R 20 Years offers significantly improved performance and guarantees an emotionally charged motorsport experience between the Schwedenkreuz and Döttinger Höhe track sections.


The 20 Years edition has been tweaked for more power, tipped as increased turbo boost, to gain those extra kilowatts which propel the handsome looking hot hatch from 0 to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds and onto an electronically limited top speed is 270km/h.


Not only that, the engine tweaks have bestowed the 20 Years edition with enhanced engine response with the increased power making itself noticeable in everyday situations such as overtaking manoeuvres and not only at the track.


But it is not just the power of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine that makes the special-edition model the most dynamic Volkswagen R of all time on the Nordschleife. The sharper performance is also the result of Golf R’s extensive standard equipment with technical highlights contained in the R-Performance package.


Touring car race driver and Volkswagen R development driver Benjamin Leuchter took on the fast lap task after testing the special-edition model. He was actively involved in the realisation of the R-Performance package for the Golf R 20 Years.


In addition to the regular Comfort, Sport and Race driving modes, the special-edition model also comes as standard with the additional Special and Drift profiles. For driving on the Nordschleife, the race driver chose the Special driving profile, which was developed for this track.


It gives the vehicle a set-up that meets the unique requirements of what is probably the most demanding racetrack in the world. This includes adjusting the shock absorbers to a softer and comfortable setting due to the enormous loads at the maximum performance level when driving on such tracks.


As one of the 15 possible settings of the controlled shock absorbers, this guarantees optimum road contact on tracks with many bumps, just like the Nürburgring. Making it possible to take the large number of fast and medium-fast bends on the Nordschleife in an ideal way is adaptive steering and drive settings.


In Individual mode it is possible to manually adjust all parameters, such as R-Performance Torque Vectoring or the engine sound and adapt them in line with personal preferences.


The timed lap of the Nordschleife took place with a flying start in front of grandstand T13. The start and finish for the measurement are at the start and end of that grandstand with the 200 metres in between not counted.


Trust in the vehicle is a key to lap records allowing the driver to stay on line at all times.


According to Benjamin Leuchter: “The Golf R 20 Years effortlessly mastered the fast changes between kerbs and the following bends such as Hatzenbach”.


“The modified shift characteristics of the seven-speed gearbox allow gear changes with more intensive feedback and make the powerful driving experience in the Golf R 20 Years even more emotive.


“The optimised exhaust system sound in the low engine speed range and the rougher engine sound in the vehicle interior underline the vehicle’s increased dynamic performance.”


The step forward in development compared with the predecessor model is also shown by the enhanced engine tuning of the anniversary vehicle. The preloaded turbocharger is also kept at a constant speed in overrun mode so that the engine can develop its power more quickly in subsequent acceleration (a form of anti-lag).


This process is supported by the continuously open throttle valve. When the driver takes their foot off the accelerator and then accelerates again, this allows faster build-up of the torque and noticeably improves the engine’s responsiveness.


VW says the anniversary vehicle “Blurs the lines between production and race cars. The Golf R 20 Years effortlessly bridges the gap between everyday companion and thoroughbred athlete.”


“With this car, I can drive here on the Nürburgring and the next stop is then the baker’s or the DIY store. The vehicle is really an all-rounder that can do everything,” said Mr Leuchter.


The continuous and rapid development towards even greater performance can be easily seen by taking a look at some of the vehicle data of the models from past years.


Starting with the Golf R323 with a 177kW 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine as the drive unit, through the Golf 6 R3 its 199kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, the performance-oriented Golf models up to the Golf R 20 Years with 245kW have not just become more powerful, but also faster.


The production period for the 20 Years anniversary model is limited to approximately one year making it a potential collector’s item.


Highlights from the Nurburgring Nordschleife can be viewed here.

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