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William Maley

Quick Drive: 2017 Volkswagen Golf R

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When it comes to hot hatchbacks, there is a line that floats around in my head from one of the earlier episodes of Top Gear.

“I love hot hatchbacks as they offer drawback free motoring. You can put a chest of drawers in the back and then take it home at a million miles per hour.”

The only hot hatch that has come close to this is the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Not only is a hoot to drive, but you can carry your friends and stuff with no real issue. But what about the Volkswagen Golf R? It offers the space as the GTI, but with a more powerful turbo engine and all-wheel drive. But the Golf R also comes with a price tag that is nearly $10,000 more than Golf GTI. Is it worth the extra cost?

  • The Golf R uses the same turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder found in the Golf GTI, but the wick has been turned up. The R’s 2.0L pumps out 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. This comes paired with either a six-speed manual (what my tester featured) or six-speed DSG. No matter the transmission, Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system comes standard.
  • Acceleration in the Golf R is an exciting experience. It only takes a brief moment for the turbo to spool up and then hold on. Power comes on a fast and steady rate.
  • The six-speed manual is a bit notchy when changing gears. Like other Volkswagens equipped with the manual, the take-up point for the clutch is very narrow and you’ll have to have your foot almost off the floor to find it.
  • It should be noted that the manual is over a half-second slower than the DSG - 5.1 vs. 4.5. But the manual does give you a bit more control with controlling the engine’s performance and making you feel that you’re playing a role.
  • The 4Motion AWD system helps put the power down and keep the Golf R glued to the road when it’s dry. But the system really comes into its own when it is snowy. A few days into my loan and Mother Nature decided to drop a bit on snow in the Metro Detroit area. Driving through unplowed roads, the 4Motion system was able to keep the vehicle moving through some deep snow.
  • One issue that arose was a too-eager stability control system that would come on every few seconds to combat wheelspin when driving through the deep snow - something you don’t want. At least Volkswagen was smart to equip the Golf R with a sports mode for the stability control to allow some wheelspin. This made all of the difference to keep the Golf R moving.
  • Handling-wise? It is like a Golf GTI. Entering a corner, the Golf R feels composed and doesn’t show any sign of body roll. Steering is a bit disappointment as the R doesn’t have the weight or feel you would expect in a performance car.
  • The ride is slightly firmer than what you find on the GTI as some bumps and road imperfections will make their way inside. There are adaptive dampers, but you’ll need to spend an extra $3,000 to get it (along with some other features). Personally, I find the standard suspension setup is ok for most people.
  • Volkswagen has made some slight exterior changes for the Golf R such as a new slim grille, 19-inch wheels, a set of quad exhaust tips. On one hand, I wished Volkswagen could have done some more work to make the Golf R a bit more exciting to look at. On the other hand, the downplayed nature of the Golf R’s changes gives it the ability to hide its true nature.
  • The interior of the Golf R is mostly the same as the standard Golf, which isn’t a bad thing. A lot of the traits that we like in the standard Golf such as high-quality interior, loads of space for passengers, and one of the easiest infotainment systems to use.
  • The only changes Volkswagen did make are a set of sport seats, flat-bottom steering wheel, and carbon fiber trim.
  • If there is one problem for the Golf R, it is the price. As I mentioned in the introduction, the base Golf R is about $10,000 more than the base GTI. For some folks, this is tall order as the GTI can you 85 to 90 percent of the Golf R’s performance at a reasonable price. But for others, that extra 10 to 15 percent the R offers is very much worth the extra cash.

Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Golf R, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2017
Make: Volkswagen
Model: Golf R
Trim: N/A
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L TSI DOHC 16-Valve Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 292 @ 5,400
Torque @ RPM: 280 @ 1,800
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/31/25
Curb Weight: 3,305 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Wolfsburg, Germany
Base Price: $35,655
As Tested Price: $36,475 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
N/A


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Love the Hatch design, space and while not a fan of DOHC engines with high HP and low Torque, at least it has AWD.

Body Style and Dash are my hang ups with this. Traditional Bland VW style. Does nothing for me, ignites no passion or excitement. I look at the Dash and see an IRS audit. BLAH, ARGhhhhhhh. Body Style is like dating a nune. :puke: 

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There's a lot of misinfo here that needs to be adressed-

1) The Golf R and GTI engine differ in many ways. In addition to having a larger turbocharger, the R has some upgraded internal components, as well.

2) It's a subjective matter I suppose, but in the plushest setting, the R rides better than the GTI. Also, the DCC is standard and NOT a $3,000 option. Nav and DCC both are standard for MY 17, which is part of the reason the price increased. That, and DAP became a forced option.

3) There are no changes to either the grille or the exhaust on the R for 17. Only the wheels were changed.

4) There are no difference to the seats or the steering wheel in comparison to the GTI. They both share the same design of each feature. 

5) The price gap between an R and a base GTI is MORE than 10 grand. But it's only a 4 grand gap between a GTI with similar equipment. 

 

You can't make the case for the car being worth the extra money on paper stats alone. You're paying extra for the greater exclusivity, unique touches, greater potential, and better resale. 

There's no right or wrong answer, they're both great cars. I will say however, that the DSG really makes the R. It's another animal altogether. I've had a lot of diehard manual lovers be swayed by the DSG after experiencing it. 

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1 hour ago, Frisky Dingo said:

 You're paying extra for the greater exclusivity, unique touches, greater potential, and better resale. 

OK, Your gonna have to help out with a side by side photo comparison as I question the exclusivity other than lower production numbers of the auto. Unique touches? Where, as all I see in the existing photo's is the same bland VW formula used in all their other auto's. Greater Potential? Very subjective. Better Resale, maybe. Again very subjective.

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22 minutes ago, dfelt said:

OK, Your gonna have to help out with a side by side photo comparison as I question the exclusivity other than lower production numbers of the auto. Unique touches? Where, as all I see in the existing photo's is the same bland VW formula used in all their other auto's. Greater Potential? Very subjective. Better Resale, maybe. Again very subjective.

The lower production numbers are exactly what I'm referring to by mentioning the exclusivity. That's the very definition of the word.

The R has totally different facsias, lights, trim, and other pieces from the GTI. It's intended to look low-key. It's not supposed to be boisterous and draw attention.

The tuning potential and resale are not subjective at all. They're both very easily measured. The R has a much higher power ceiling due it's upgraded engine and larger turbo. It also enjoys easily a 5-7% advantage in residual value. 

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29 minutes ago, dfelt said:

Better Resale, maybe. Again very subjective.

That's not a subjective metric. It can be measured by looking at the used market and book values.

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40 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

That's not a subjective metric. It can be measured by looking at the used market and book values.

Not totally, I can look at resale values here in Washington state and VW has piss poor resale and trade in value. Elsewhere it might be higher or even lower. Yes there is the range on the auto, but specific areas especially in a High Tech city like Seattle, VW is considered bottom dwelling auto's and as such, there is very little demand or desire for them. This shows up in how cheap they are to purchase here. 

Like all auto's even MB, BMW, Cadillac, all resale is subjective to the market forces and the specific areas of where demand might or might not be. Market forces and desires will affect this no matter what KBB or the auto association might say resale prices are.

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4 minutes ago, dfelt said:

Not totally, I can look at resale values here in Washington state and VW has piss poor resale and trade in value. Elsewhere it might be higher or even lower. Yes there is the range on the auto, but specific areas especially in a High Tech city like Seattle, VW is considered bottom dwelling auto's and as such, there is very little demand or desire for them. This shows up in how cheap they are to purchase here. 

Like all auto's even MB, BMW, Cadillac, all resale is subjective to the market forces and the specific areas of where demand might or might not be. Market forces and desires will affect this no matter what KBB or the auto association might say resale prices are.

But there can always be a number assigned to the vehicle even though that number will vary by zip code. Even if it does have a piss poor resale for an area a number can still be put to that.

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42 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

But there can always be a number assigned to the vehicle even though that number will vary by zip code. Even if it does have a piss poor resale for an area a number can still be put to that.

Yes, a number can always be assigned, but that does not mean is is a factual in the sand number. Like everything, life is very subjective be it a number on an auto, a expert chef's view on seafood or even polling info on presidents. Someone will always find the info to be subjective and will interpret the results in their own mind. 

After all the biggest crowds for inauguration happened for the POTUS, they had millions there to see him brought into office.

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What? We're not talking about life or a chef's opinion(which are both subjective) we're talking about a price of a vehicle.  So, to you, vehicle prices across the board are completely subjective 100% of the time?

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1 hour ago, ccap41 said:

What? We're not talking about life or a chef's opinion(which are both subjective) we're talking about a price of a vehicle.  So, to you, vehicle prices across the board are completely subjective 100% of the time?

Yup, So far, have you ever really paid the price stated? I have never paid the price stated on any auto. The price on KBB gives you a range / ball park price that you can get or pay for something but it does not mean you only pay that price as does everyone else.

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On 2/28/2017 at 0:57 PM, Frisky Dingo said:

There's a lot of misinfo here that needs to be adressed-

1) The Golf R and GTI engine differ in many ways. In addition to having a larger turbocharger, the R has some upgraded internal components, as well.

2) It's a subjective matter I suppose, but in the plushest setting, the R rides better than the GTI. Also, the DCC is standard and NOT a $3,000 option. Nav and DCC both are standard for MY 17, which is part of the reason the price increased. That, and DAP became a forced option.

3) There are no changes to either the grille or the exhaust on the R for 17. Only the wheels were changed.

4) There are no difference to the seats or the steering wheel in comparison to the GTI. They both share the same design of each feature. 

5) The price gap between an R and a base GTI is MORE than 10 grand. But it's only a 4 grand gap between a GTI with similar equipment. 

 

You can't make the case for the car being worth the extra money on paper stats alone. You're paying extra for the greater exclusivity, unique touches, greater potential, and better resale. 

There's no right or wrong answer, they're both great cars. I will say however, that the DSG really makes the R. It's another animal altogether. I've had a lot of diehard manual lovers be swayed by the DSG after experiencing it. 

6

Allow me to take on these points aside from 1 (since I talked about some, not all of the changes) and 5 (talking comparable base prices, not a similarly equipped Golf GTI, for which I agree)

2: On Volkswagen's consumer's site, it may show the Golf R DCC as the only model. But I had the base Golf R (no DCC, navigation, etc).They built a small number of these models. You can find this in Volkswagen's PR materials and the window sticker.
3 and 4: I should have made it clearer, but I was comparing the Golf R with the standard Golf.

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1 hour ago, William Maley said:

 

Allow me to take on these points aside from 1 (since I talked about some, not all of the changes) and 5 (talking comparable base prices, not a similarly equipped Golf GTI, for which I agree)

2: On Volkswagen's consumer's site, it may show the Golf R DCC as the only model. But I had the base Golf R (no DCC, navigation, etc).They built a small number of these models. You can find this in Volkswagen's PR materials and the window sticker.
3 and 4: I should have made it clearer, but I was comparing the Golf R with the standard Golf.

Makes more sense.

 

As for non-Nav and DCC cars, those must be press/demo cars only. No such cars were available for sale to the public afaik. At least we were never able to order any.

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