Living in a part of the world that deals with snowy winters, we’ve become accustom to driving all manner of vehicles though the white stuff. There is a certain confidence that comes from piloting a well-prepared vehicle. The 2018 VW Golf R, with its 4Motion all-wheel-drive system and Pirelli Sottozero winter tires, is one such car. With nearly 300 horsepower on tap in this hot hatchback, it tries its best to melt away some of the dreary cold of winter.
A number of changes have improved the Golf R since our last encounter in 2015. First, the previously-optional DCC and Navigation package is now included as standard. The 2018 refresh includes VW’s new 8-inch touch screen infotainment system and 12.3-inch Digital Cockpit display. Outside, an attractive new front fascia and LED lighting give the Golf R a wider and more aggressive appearance. Stylish new 19″ wheels round out the visual changes.
The Golf R is, without a doubt, the best hot hatch available in the US. One minute you’re blending in with every other Golf, the next you’re slaloming though the corners like a WRC driver with a Cheshire grin plastered on your face. The Golf R doesn’t quite settle down quite as comfortably as a regular Golf; the sport-tuned suspension and large wheels offer a constant reminder of the hatchback’s true purpose. But for all intents and purposes, you could drive a very long way in the Golf R. We know, because we packed our skis for a weekend ski trip to the White Mountains of NH. Fitted with Pirelli Sottozero winter tires, VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system got us to our destination without issue as 10-inches of powdery snow fell around us.
At the heart of the Golf R, the 292 hp turbocharged four-cylinder remains unchanged. For 2018, VW introduced a new 7-speed dual-clutch transmission to replace the 6-speed option. If anything, the new transmission is faster than ever before. While a 6-speed manual is still standard, the programming on the DCT is such that you might not even miss the clutch pedal. Easy going in Normal, the transmission hold gears and fires off down shifts in Sport like it’s somehow wired into your brain. In fact, sometimes it feels like the whole car is reading your thoughts. Especially in Sport mode, with the sharper suspension, throttle, and steering settings, the Golf R has lightning fast reflexes. It remains planted and unwavering without the bone-crushing ride of the Focus RS.
Volkwagen addressed all of our previous complaints with the Golf R in this 2018 update. The larger and crisper touch screen was well overdue. The addition of the Digital Cockpit offers useful displays and adds an upmarket touch. The sport seats and flat-bottom wheel are simple and sublime. With the other high-quality materials in the cabin, the Golf R now puts all other hot hatch interiors to shame. This Golf R is actually less expensive than the Focus RS we tested last fall, which means there’s no reason to raise an eyebrow at the price. It’s also almost $8,000 cheaper than the S3 we tested, making it a much better value for money.
The 2018 VW Golf R is one of the good ones. The bright red hot hatchback brought a much-needed break from the dullness of winter. The driving experience is top notch, allowing us to rack up over 600 miles in absolute comfort. The interior is best in class and the ride quality, despite the sport suspension and impossibly small sidewalls, remains livable for hours on end. With the refreshed looks and technology, we returned the R with nothing but praise.
|2018 Volkswagen Golf R
|As Tested MSRP||$41,735|