Here's the new, driftable Volkswagen Golf R

Derryn Wong

320hp for the super hatch, drift mode, torque vectoring and more – we predict Singapore arrival in 2021 and sub-S$250k price

With high-performance small cars now making in excess of 400hp easily, it might seem like it’s not winning the headline race.

But Volkswagen’s Golf R, which has 320hp and is the most powerful production Golf to date, has always been about more than just the raw numbers – and besides, it’s borrowing lots of tech from Audi (but don’t tell Audi). 

The current Golf R

What’s the Golf R hoo-hah about? Read our review of the current model to find out.

In fact, despite having 30hp and 40Nm more (320hp and 420Nm) and an updated all-wheel drive system, the new Golf R is 0.1 seconds slower in 0-100km/h than the old one, that’s 4.7 seconds now. The top speed is a shocking (ok not really) 250km/h, with an optional ‘R-Performance Package’ that increases it to 270km/h and also adds a larger wing and brakes and other tasty bits.

Volkswagen’s official announcement teaser – the interesting bits start at 4:00. Skip to 8:00 to see drift mode in action

VW hasn’t revealed any engine details but we’d be shocked if it isn’t related to the latest 2.0-litre units seen elsewhere in the VW Group, and it’s mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. There’s also an optional Akrapovic exhaust system too.

What’s really interesting is the chassis. The usual Golf R playbook is here, take a Mk8 Golf then strengthen and stiffen, lower, and widen the chassis, and slap on adaptive sport suspension – DCC in VW speak. 

The new all-wheel drive system is what VW calls ‘4MOTION with R-Performance Torque Vectoring’, and it says not only is torque shunted from front to rear axle, but also between each rear wheel, which helps the car go round corners quicker. In other words, it’s Audi’s Sport Differential that we see on its RS cars like the draggin’ wagon, the RS 4 Avant, we just tested. 

Like the RS 4, the Golf R has a performance button – R button – which gives instant activation to a preset high-performance drive mode. That’s useful because VW also says now all the driving systems are interlinked (front diff, electronic diff, ESP, AWD and so on) and monitoring your driving input and reacting accordingly.

You can also switch off the ESP and let the car drift, like some of the new AMG models can – but this is only available with the Performance Package. Oh and the latter also adds a ‘Green Hell’ optimised for the Nurburgring, but will probably be equally useful on the CTE which is its own sort of Hell too.

Yes, drift, in a Volkswagen Golf. Besides the one-off Golf W12, this must be some sort of historical moment for car fans. 

And remember what we said about numbers? The new R, at 7:51, is some 19 seconds quicker around the ‘Nurb than the old one – and that’s a number which counts for quite a bit in real-life pace. 

Visually the car looks quite similar to the new GTI (news on that below), the most striking feature being the front DRL bar which stretches across the face of the car. There’s also the usual plethora of larger intakes, silver mirrors, quad tailpipes, more aero kit and so on. 

R indicates speed, but also a new brand

How much will it cost here? Hard to say, since the new Golf isn’t even here yet, but with the Golf GTI costing just under S$200k with COE in, the Golf R should be comfortably below S$250k with COE – a bargain if you consider an AMG 45 will cost you at least S$300k with COE.

Here’s the new GTI

The eighth-gen Volkswagen Golf debuted last year and is now on sale in some overseas markets but its Singapore debut has been slightly delayed – we’ll update with more info when we know more, but 2021 is looking quite certain, and who knows, maybe the entire lineup will launch at the same time here.

To recap, the regular Golf has been unveiled, as has the new 245hp GTI hot hatch, so the range-topping, super hatch Golf R is likely the final brick in the Mark 8 Golf wall. 

Also with the Golf R, there’s now the Arteon R and Tiguan R models, and R is going to be the high-performance sub-brand of Volkswagen, as is the modern brand playbook. 


golf hatchback performance R small volkswagen

About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's former chief editor was previously the editor for Top Gear Singapore and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment.

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