Entry price: $21,845
Price as tested: $43,790
This week, we drive the 2019 Volkswagen Golf R, a performance-bred Golf assembled in Wolfsburg, Germany, and one of VW’s most impressive motorsports inspired compact vehicles. Not to be confused with the Golf SE we recently test drove, this Golf is a more powerful version and even outpaces the Golf GTI when it comes to performance comparisons.
Notable is Golf R’s assembly in VW’s native country, where for whatever reason the German-built VW’s always score higher on my personal satisfaction meter versus VW’s built elsewhere around the globe. Golf R may not be for everyone, but for those who seek the utmost in performance from Volkswagen engineering, this car is worth a serious look. It still has some of the exterior boxy aesthetic genes that date back to the original 1974 Golf, but that’s where any similarity ends.
Two areas of assembly deserve extra attention, the first being the Golf R underpinnings. Included as standard are a five-mode selectable adaptive chassis control (Eco, Comfort, Race, Normal or Custom); four wheel independent sport suspension; XDS Cross differential system (dealer will explain); vented front and rear black caliper disc brakes with R logo on front calipers; dynamic power steering; and 19-inch Continental summer traction performance tires. With these high-performance essentials, the Golf R combines horsepower, torque and handling into a unique Golf R performance experience, especially when in race mode.
The second area of assembly noted sits under the hood. All R models come with VW’s high performance 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, ours coming coupled to a six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed dual stage clutch automatic version is available, but for those who still enjoy manual gear changing, this Golf R will earn very high marks. Output comes in at 288 horsepower and 280 lb. ft. of torque, allowing zero to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds. Fuel mileage is good for a performance car, with 21 city and 29 highway the EPA averages.
Golf for 2019 comes in Sedan, Hatchback or Small Wagon dress in trims of entry Golf, GTI, Golf R, e-Golf and Sportwagen. Our tester arrived with 4-Motion all-wheel-drive (AWD) and a stout $40,395 base price. A special selection of historical paint colors is available and is called “VW Specktrum,” which adds $2,500 and brings the final retail price with $895 delivery to $43,790.
Important to remember is that the entry Golf S Sedan, which is a popular consumer choice, starts at just $21,845. Most notable is that even with the lower priced entry model, all Golfs come standard with forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring (front assist) blind spot monitor and rear traffic alert. Our tester also includes the modern traction controls, parking assist, safety rearview camera, intelligent crash response, lane keep assist, high beam control, adaptive smart cruise and an auto dim rear view mirror that all combine to deliver solid Five Star government safety ratings.
The R interior also comes with “race” style features ala special performance monitor, leather wrapped three spoke sport steering wheel, heated lumbar 12-wy power driver seat, heated power passenger seat with manual lumbar, perforated leather seating all around, Golf R carbon fiber interior trim, black molded headliner, stainless steel pedal cluster and more. An eight-inch Discover Media touch screen operates a Fender Premium Audio system with subwoofer, HD radio with CD player along with Bluetooth, SiriusXM Satellite and all the other high tech gadgetry.
Golf models offer surprising roominess for a compact car and the rear 60-40 folding seat expands cargo room to over 50 cu. ft. All of the expected Golf amenities are standard, from cruise to dual air climate control to three 12V outlets. There’s safety cage construction, all the airbags and the very popular 6-year/72,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 103.5-inches, 3,300-lb. curb weight, 14.5-gallon fuel tank, from 22.8 to 52.7 cu. ft. of cargo space and a 4.8-inch ground clearance.
In summary, I’ll take a Golf R any day of the week. Further, I’d opt for the seven-speed dual clutch automatic over the six-speed manual, as the paddle shift automatic is faster accelerating than the six-speed manual. The automatic also delivers better fuel mileage at 23 city and 30 highway.
If you want a Volkswagen Golf R you better hurry as it won’t be available in Golf’s 2020 lineup. Additionally, a new generation Golf is expected for 2021, which means you should be able to negotiate a nice deal on a leftover 2019 or even a new 2020.
And don’t be surprised to see an “R” version return in 2021, as it’s simply too good a performance vehicle to push aside evermore.
Likes: Modern high performance package, safety, top line underpinnings.
Dislikes: Touch screen learning curve, high R model entry price.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.
Test Drive: 2019 Volkswagen Golf R 2.0 Turbo
Entry price: $21,845