Test Drive Volkswagen Golf R “20 Years”

Beyond the well-known GTI that has been powering hot-hatches since 1976, the Golf’s R designation only dates back to 2002. A slightly less mythical name but has since designated the baddest and most powerful versions. . In fact, this production Golf which, as its name suggests, symbolizes 20 years of the line, has never been so powerful. Coup de com’ or real sport?

In the collective unconscious, the name GTi marks more minds than the name R, to the point that the three magical letters give birth to a market segment: we say in fact “the GTI” to talk about sassy little sports cars. Well… we say. Because today, this category seems to be losing momentum and its historical representatives are leaving their brand catalog one after the other, under the battering of a strange and electric right-think. Volkswagen will continue to be there, but for how long? The Up of the same name has disappeared and therefore only the Polo GTI (207 hp) and Golf GTI (245 hp) will appear. Which is not bad, we agree, knowing that other brands have forgotten their history, often however glorious. Not content to keep believing this, the Germans drive the point home with this R “20 Years” that is not just an appellation…

i loved

In fact, for this special series that will only be sold until mid-2023, the 4-cylinder 2.0 TFSI sees its power increase from 320 to 333 hp, still associated with the 7-speed DSG gearbox and all-wheel drive . 4Motion. Version 20e anniversary benefits as standard from the R ​​Performance Package, optional on the R, which includes, for example, Torque Vectoring and two additional driving modes: Special and Drift. The first puts all the settings at their best to deal with a terrain like the Norsdschleife, like a poorly coated circuit, which imposes the filtering capacities of the suspension to be maintained, unlike a smooth circuit that allows “frozen” settings. The second allows you to… do the kéké by getting yourself for the king of the drift without the talents of fire-Ken Block.

In use, however, it must be admitted that this rather special Golf R exhibits a very good homogeneity regardless of the selected driving mode. At a sporting tempo, and without having tested it on a circuit, where the winter tires of our test specimen were still not at the party, we were surprised by the vigor with which the nose adapts to curve entry. An observation that summer tires are clearly better in… summer conditions. The slight flutter observed in this case is therefore not attributable to the car. Then, thanks to a turbo that is maintained at a stable rotation speed even at half load, the response to the continuation of the gas is immediate while the appropriateness with which the 4Motion transmission responds allows not to dose excessively and therefore exit the curves with maximum speed. And this despite 420 Nm just waiting to fall. It’s certainly not the funnest car.

For more radicalism, we might prefer an Alpine A110 S, or even the upcoming R, but first of all they are overpriced (respectively 74,000 and 105,000 €!) and then they are not showing the same versatility on a daily basis. . For 63,000 €, this special series also allows you to drive every day in complete comfort, consuming 7.5 l/100 km, carrying the whole family and some luggage regardless of the weather thanks to the all- wheel drive. And to take advantage, when the time comes and if the circumstances allow it, of true sporting excellence. A true Swiss army knife this Golf R “20 Years”.

I didn’t like it

Despite the Emotional Start function that immediately puts the engine at 2500 rpm when starting (a function that can be disconnected), you will not get the impression of starting a V10 Lamborghini early in the morning. The desire to remain politically correct and undoubtedly environmental standards make for a provocative sound. The 4-cylinder does its best, especially in terms of resources, but it will not have the musical 2.5-liter 5-cylinder of the Audi RS 3. As a result, from its own camp the Golf must -beware of a serious threat. The Focus RS, and with it the 5-cylinder of some of its generations, is really gone.

That said, the RS 3 seems to have disappeared from the configurator. Bad omen, which is therefore alone in Golf. Therefore, how can he again be blamed for the lack of extra soul, this little touch of emotion that is missing, hidden under a layer of reason? The potential is there and there. That is not the question. But a little joy never hurt. That said, it is true that this is not the style of the house.

Another frankly annoying thing: the use of 100% touch for the smallest adjustments on the central screen. When simply adjusting the air conditioner or the radio volume becomes punishing, there is a problem. But it seems a change of strategy is underway at Wolfsburg.

Test blog - Volkswagen Golf R 20 Years - Xavier Daffe


Honestly, during my test week, I was happy every time I was behind this “20 Year” Golf R. Quite simply because he always manages to respond to my current mood. Because it’s not because we drive a sports car that we have to keep driving knives between our teeth. We also sometimes want calm mornings and soft music, padded comfort and a peaceful tempo. And that, this Golf can provide it perfectly. But with funky rhythms, it’s there too, and in a good way. And it is precisely this polymorphous aspect that makes it convincing and pleasant on a daily basis. Certainly, it is not a given. At 63,000 €, it is shown at .000 € more than a “normal” R and… 20,000 more than a GTI. But these are not the same cars.

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