Review: 2016 Volkswagen Golf R

– Detroit, Michigan

Many of my fellow auto writers here in the U.S. adhere to a firm policy when it comes to handing out car-buying advice to friends and loved ones: “The answer is always GTI.” (“The answer is always Miata” is also popular.) That little truism – based on a near-constant performance-per-dollar value of the Volkswagen hot hatch – only falls flat when the advice seeker has already OD’d on GTI addiction. For these poor souls, the German company offers the still hotter Golf R.

It’s an undeniably entertaining thing, the Golf R. But the real question is whether or not it’s good enough to make us all forget the far-cheaper icon that sits just below in the Golf universe.

Pros

  • I reviewed the Audi S3 that shares a powertrain with the Golf R – the same 2.0T engine making 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, six-speed dual-clutch transmission, and all-wheel-drive system – just days before I drove the Volkswagen. Both cars are hilariously quick, whether you’re dashing through a weekend autocross or darting through traffic. The Golf R sounds better, most of the time, but I like the Audi a bit more for its sleepier looks and streamlined interior.
  • The VW version wins in terms of practicality, though. Along with the very dynamic powertrain, everything you’ve ever loved about Golf packaging stays intact here. This is a hatchback that feels just about right in all of the critical dimensions: Tall folks like me won’t scrabble for elbow and headspace when they should be c...