Test Drive: 2017 VW Golf R

It may look like a regular Golf, but it’s got all the power and performance to prove otherwise. (Photos: Jack Kazmierski)

A wolf in sheep’s clothing!

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with a few of VW’s fleet customers as they test drove vehicles from the Volkswagen family.

One of the vehicles available for all to drive was the 2017 Golf R. Granted, I don’t see too many companies investing in a fleet of Golf Rs for their sales people to scoot around  with from meeting to meeting, but VW brought the R out for the day’s activities anyway, just to mix a bit of pleasure with the business.

Later on that day, as everyone gathered to talk about their experiences, a number of fleet managers couldn’t stop talking about the Golf R and how much fun they had driving it. I had to agree.

Practical fun

While I still don’t see too many fleet customers investing in a Golf R, I’m sure they could make a case for doing so with some of their top executives. After all, with four doors, there’s plenty of room for four adults – maybe even five, if you squeeze three into the back seat.

And since it’s a hatchback, once could argue that the Golf R has a practical side, with ample room for briefcases, luggage, and even a golf bag or two. Then there’s the fuel efficiency side of the equation. We averaged about 10 L/100 km during the week we spent behind the wheel of the Golf R, which is really pretty good, especially when you consider all the torque and power available.

That brings us to the core of the matter: This car is a blast to drive, but only if you’re in the mood to do so. That’s because you can adjust the “fun factor” with the push of a button, thanks to VW’s Dynamic Chassis Control.

The driver has four options to choose from: Comfort, which is nice for long road trips; Race, for those times when an adrenaline rush is in order; Normal, for day-to-day driving in a variety of conditions; and Custom, for those who really aren’t satisfied with any of the above and feel the need to tweak the settings on their own.

Power and control

VW has engineered the Golf R to offer both power and control. The power comes from the 2.0L TSI engine which packs 292 hp  and 280 lb. ft. of torque. The latter peaks at only 1,900 rpm, which translates into giddy acceleration, right off the mark.

Power is transferred to all four wheels (4MOTION all-wheel-drive) via a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. And the 4MOTION AWD system makes a world of difference, whether you’re on dry tarmac or on a wet and snowy road. In either case, with all four wheels biting into the ground underneath, the Golf R offers sure acceleration and predictable handling with power directed to the wheels that can use it the most.

Refined interior

The interior of the Golf R is almost as exciting as the powertrain. While consumers can choose from a handful of exterior colours, the interior comes in one colour: black, with black leather, black headliner, and lots of personality.

VW has also packed the Golf R with technologies and creature comforts like a 6.5-inch (or optional 8.0-inch) touchscreen infotainment system with a proximity sensor that brings the screen to life when it senses your hand getting close.

Then there’s all the safety features, including Autonomous Emergency Braking, Rear Traffic Alert, plus all the usual airbags, a blind spot warning system, and so much more.

You know, now that I think about it, it wouldn’t be all that difficult for those fleet guys to make a case for adding a few Golf Rs to their corporate fleets. A practical vehicle that’s fun to drive, easy on fuel, and safe to boot… who could ask for anything more?

Vehicle Specs

Vehicle: 2017 VW Golf R

Base Price: $42,095

Price as Tested: $44,020

 Engine/Transmission (as tested): 2.0L TSI/6-speed DSG Auto with Tiptronic

 Power Output: 292 hp/280 lb. ft. of torque at 1,900 – 5,300 rpm

 Fuel Economy (as tested): 9.2 L/100 km

 Noteworthy Features/Important Selling Features:

  • Dynamic Chassis Control – choose between four driving modes
  • 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system

 Chief Competition (top 3): Ford Focus RS, Subaru WRX STI, Lexus IS

It may look like a regular Golf, but it’s got all the power and performance to prove otherwise.
A four-door hatchback with ample room for “stuff,” the Golf R is as practical as it is fun to drive.
The interior comes in one colour, black on black!
The R insignia reminds the driver and passengers that they’re in for a blast.
The 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system channels power to where it can be put to the best use.
The standard 6.5-inch, or optional 8.0-inch touchscreen is the gateway to a world of information and entertainment.
With Dynamic Chassis Control, you can choose between four driving modes.
The R even comes with a Lap Timer!
The multi-function steering wheel is standard equipment on the R.

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