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Driven: Volkswagen's 206kW Golf R kicks off at $52k

Range-topper: The new Golf R beats its predecessor in acceleration and fuel economy, but at $54,490 for the DSG, costs more than before too.

All-paw VW Golf R flagship closer in price than ever to the related Audi S3

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Volkswagen logo10 Apr 2014

VOLKSWAGEN’S fastest and most powerful Golf to date, the new-generation R, launches in showrooms this week carrying the same $10,000 premium over its GTI sibling as the old one.

The five-door-only Mk7 Golf-based R gets essentially the same engine and all-wheel-drive configuration as the upmarket Audi S3, and kicks off from $51,990 plus on-road costs, or $54,490 with the six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

The new price is $2000 over its Mk7 Golf-based predecessor, which is the same premium as the new GTI has over the car it supplanted. This week, Volkswagen also launched a track-honed GTI Performance that splits the pair at $48,490.

Intriguingly, VW’s increase comes three months after sister company Audi slashed $11,300 from the price of the S3 when it launched the new-generation in December. A cost premium that was once more than $20,000 has narrowed to $5500 for the dual-clutch auto versions.

Golf R highlights include a fifth-generation front-biased Haldex-coupling 4MOTION AWD system channelling 206kW of power (up 18kW) and 380Nm of torque (up 50Nm) through all four 19-inch wheels shod in 235/35 R19 rubber, with torque allocated to where grip is needed most.

The zero-to-100km/h sprint is cut by seven-tenths to 5.0 seconds dead, while fuel consumption is down a substantial 18 per cent to 7.1 litres per 100km of 98 RON on the combined cycle.

The re-worked 1984cc EA888 engine is 44kW more powerful in Australian tune than the GTI engine on which it is based. It retains unique features such as a wastegate that stays shut at low boost and only releases waste gases under heavy use, thereby minimising losses and turbo lag.

Like Audi, Volkswagen has detuned the engine by 15kW from its European specification to handle the Australian heat, adding one-tenth to the 0-100km/h dash.

The engine sports a redesigned cylinder head, exhaust valves, valve seats and springs, new pistons and high-pressure injection valves, and a bigger turbocharger. Peak power is on tap from 5100 to 6500rpm, and maximum torque is available between 1500 and 5100rpm.

Drivers can use a more advanced version of the GTI’s Driving Profile Selector, with Eco, Normal, Individual, Comfort and Race modes accessible through the touch-screen. This system tweaks the dampers, steering, throttle response and even the headlights and adaptive cruise control (when optioned) to make them more aggressive or more sedate.

Unique to the R is a fully switchable stability control system that can be switched off for track work with a long press of a button. The R is also lowered by 20mm over the regular Golf and 5mm lower than the GTI.

Tare mass is 1416kg with the six-speed manual or 1435kg with the DSG, which is more than 100kg heavier than the GTI (thanks the AWD system for this). However, the Mk7 Golf’s modular MQB architecture renders this R about 50kg lighter than the old one.

The electro-mechanical steering system is the same as the one used in the GTI, and features increasingly angled teeth to reduce the required inputs. The arc is only 2.1 turns lock-to-lock. Suspension comprises MacPherson spring struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear.

Cosmetic enhancements beyond the lower body include 19-inch wheels with 10mm fatter tyres than the GTI, Bi-xenon headlights with newly designed LED day-time running lights, dark red LED tail-lights and quad chrome tail-pipes.

Behind those big wheels are bigger ventilated brakes than the GTI, measuring 340mm in diameter at the front and 310mm at the rear.

Inside the cabin are chunky sports seat swathed in a mixture of cloth and suede-like Alcanatara (leather is a $3150 option), piano black inserts, 4MOTION badges and ambient blue cabin lighting and instrument dials.

Standard equipment inside the cabin includes a 5.8-inch touch-screen to display satellite-navigation, media and entertainment, and the five driving modes, a reversing camera, keyless start (with a starter button) and parking sensors.

In addition to the optional Vienna leather ($3150), Volkswagen will also sell you a sunroof for $1850 or the Driver Assistance Package with radar-guided cruise control, autonomous city braking, and pre-emptive seatbelt pre-tensioners. Oddly, Park Assist 2 automatic parking is not available on the R.

Volkswagen Australia offers six-years or 90,000km (whichever comes first) on capped-price servicing on its cars, the Golf R being no exception.

2014 Volkswagen Golf R pricing*
Golf R$51,990
Golf R (a)$54,490
*Excludes on-road costs.

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