Finally

badger tails

What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?

low sun over the bay

If you thought it was R, you are so wrong. Of course it’s the C! You know, the sea, get it?

corner rock

Previous generations of Golf have generally left me as cold and lifeless as that joke. Then again, if you laughed, just remember that some people have always liked Volkswagens.

bend flare

Having previously driven a Mk7 GTI and come away feeling impressed by its maturity and modernity, I had high hopes for the Golf R. With a front-wheel-drive hot hatch, you can make some excuses about the driving experience because “that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

high front

The Golf R, however, has nothing to hide behind. Starting at $35k it faces competition up and down the marketplace from its little brother GTI to the Ford Mustang to the M3. I’ve seen it cross-shopped from the most logical competitor (Focus RS) to something you may not think is relevant (Porsche Macan). Seems like everybody could use a bit of Golf R–but would they want it?

big shadow

I wish you could hear the bells chiming and angels singing behind me, because hallelujah, Volkswagen launched a winner. I expected greatness and was duly rewarded.

with tree

Of course, you might look at these pictures and think you were not looking at a completely stock car. Well, you’d be mostly correct: the engine has been given a mild tune to enhance the powerband, and the wheels and tires have been swapped out for a bit more grip. But that’s it!

hellaflush front

Well, okay, almost. The sharp-eyed VW fans out there will notice that the aluminum-esque shiny accents from the front end have been vinyl’d black, as well as the mirrors and roof.

R interior

But performance-wise, it’s really only the chip and the slightly grippier rubber. Everything else is as it came from the factory.

proper lever

Including, of course, the manual gearbox. I can’t imagine this car being anywhere near as fun with two pedals and two paddles–it’s just nowhere near frantic and fast enough to make you want that shifting experience.

roof gloss rear

I chucked this thing down my favorite twisty road and was impressed by its crisp turn-in and the way it powered out of corners with the rear wheels, feeling very much 50-50 balanced and sporty. Even the engine’s character and shift engagement were conducive to sporty driving.

backfocus bw

In a world where the demand for an isolation box far outstrips the demand for an exhilarating driving experience, it’s pretty amazing what Volkswagen has done with the Golf. The same chassis that can be an EV or econobox can also be a hot hatch or, as VW themselves refer to it, a “performance hatch”. And each one is a great car for its intended purpose. Well done, Volkswagen. Now I’m impressed.

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