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Driven: Volkswagen Golf R Performance Pack. Image by Volkswagen UK.

Driven: Volkswagen Golf R Performance Pack
Can a noisy Akrapovic exhaust and some other odds n sods propel the Golf R back among the hot hatch elite?


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Volkswagen Golf R Performance Pack

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Good points: still boasts all the Golf R attributes - hugely fast, very flattering, nice and urbane - only there's now a noisy pop-pop-bang-bang exhaust added into the mix

Not so good: has been outpaced for driving thrills by newer rivals (both FWD and AWD)... and HOW MUCH?!

Key Facts

Model tested: Volkswagen Golf R Performance Pack DSG
Price: Golf 5-door range from 20,275; R DSG hatchback from 34,910, car as tested 49,675
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic, 4Motion all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hot hatch
CO2 emissions: 163g/km (VED Band 151-170: 515 in year one, then 450 per annum years two to six of ownership, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 39.8mpg
Top speed: 166mph
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Power: 310hp at 5,500-6,500rpm
Torque: 380Nm from 2,000-5,400rpm
Boot space: 380-1,270 litres

Our view:

We're not going to go into the Volkswagen Golf R, as a model in general, in any great detail here, as you should know precisely what this oft-spotted hot hatch is all about by now. It's been around since 2014, for heaven's sake, and we've driven it as the sublime Estate and facelifted hatchback in recent years, with our findings largely the same as everyone else's: the R is a flattering, immensely likeable and deeply talented hot hatchback.

And here's another review of a facelifted Golf R, which - on the face of it - won't look that different to our last drive of the 310hp German. Look, it's in the standard warpaint of Lapiz Blue metallic (635) and sitting on a set of 19-inch 'Spielbergs'. However, those rims are part of the Performance Pack, which is why we're testing the hottest Golf one more time in Mk7 guise. The PP, if you'll permit us that shorthand, costs 2,300 and, aside from the alloys wrapped in 235/35R19 tyres, adds more potent brakes with silver callipers, a derestricted top speed of 166mph and a performance rear spoiler. Strangely, the headline Akrapovic titanium sport exhaust, 7kg lighter than the standard pipes, is not part of the PP... it's another 2,975.

So, aside from four round tailpipes, instead of oval exits, you're going to need to be eagle-eyed to spot the different rear spoiler of the R PP. However, this particular machine, R20 VWW, is hiding another secret and it's not a pleasant one - it's a 50-grand Golf. Fifty. Thousand. Pounds. For a Golf. Good grief. OK, you can go on about the monthly PCP costs maybe not being catastrophically different between the 35,000 standard car and this 50k optioned-up motor. Or even make the case that both of the AWD 'hyper-hatches', namely theAudi RS 3 and now-defunct Mercedes-AMG A 45, are (were) 50,000 and more with the right options, but both of those have 381-400hp and, while they're not quite as polished to drive as the Golf R, they're both more dramatic in the way they look, the noises they make and the insane speeds they can summon up (where legal). We might pretend handling is the be-all and end-all but, to a lot of hot hatch buyers, it's outright speed and wild looks that can swing the deal.

How do you end up with a 49,675 Volkswagen Golf, anyway? Well, aside from the R specification plus the DSG gearbox, and then the paint, the PP and the Akrapovic, you need to tick the following: Carbon/Nappa leather upholstery with heated sports seats, a front centre armrest and lumbar support (2,615); the Dynaudio Excite 400-watt, eight-speaker sound system (550); Carbon Fibre door mirror housings (450); heated front windscreen (300); a rear side airbag system (290); keyless entry with a Start/Stop button (375); Dynamic Chassis Control (850); wireless smartphone charging (360); Lane Assist Plus, consisting of Lane Assist, Dynamic Light Assist, Emergency Assist, Rear Traffic Alert, Side Scan, Traffic Jam Assist and Traffic Sign Recognition (1,225); LED headlights (no cost, with Dynamic Light Assist); a rear-view camera (265); a panoramic sunroof (995); rear tinted glass (95); and a retailer-fitted Tracker (485). Or you don't tick these things, because a) you don't need 'em, and b) you find 375 for keyless go on a Golf R to be an affront to your sensibilities. Either way, this 50-grand Golf still had manually adjustable seats, after all this largesse...

Sadly, the price of this Golf R Performance somewhat colours the verdict, but even if you can, somehow, put the outrageous price to the back of your mind, the Volkswagen is outmanoeuvred and out-thought by the three rivals we list below - one of which has now gone out of production. You'll get more fun behind the wheel of all of these competitors and, in all instances, you'll pay a heck of a lot less than 50 grand for them. This is not to say the Golf R is without merits, because it's still a tremendously capable and quick hot hatch. But, if we're honest, we were expecting the Akrapovic to add more to the soundtrack than it does; there are some nice rumbles and thuds on the overrun and, with the car in its most aggressive mode, then there are notable 'PPPHHWWAAAAARP!' noises on flat upshifts, but it's not the noisiest exhaust we've ever heard. The brakes feel good, but then so do the stoppers on the regular Golf R, and it feels like a bit of a shame that Volkswagen didn't take the opportunity to give the Performance Pack a power/torque hike, in order to give the Mk7 Golf R a decent send-off - something like 350hp/430Nm would have made that price tag make all the more sense.

So, ultimately, the Golf R Performance Pack is a victim of the ridiculous pace of change in the modern automotive industry. Four years ago, the 300hp AWD Volkswagen was the darling of the motoring world. Two years later, it felt like it was struggling to hold on to a few of the most exciting new entrants to the hot hatch arena. And now, even with 14,765-worth of options and a (sort of) noisy exhaust, the Volkswagen Golf R is no longer on the podium for C-segment performance hatchbacks. It's great. Wonderful, even. But just not quite wonderful enough. Certainly not at 50,000, either.


Ford Focus RS: out of production now as the Mk4 Focus takes hold, but even in fully-laden Heritage Edition-spec, it was less than 40 grand and it had 375hp. It's also simply more fun than the Golf R, even in 'regular' 350hp guise.

Honda Civic Type R: the Golf R will satisfy the less extrovert hot hatch buyers more, as the CTR is lurid to behold, but the chassis on the Honda is magical and, while it is traction-limited by front-wheel drive, once it is rolling the speed of it is phenomenal.

Hyundai i30 N Performance: the one which totally torpedoes the Golf. The Hyundai is incredible fun to drive, does comfort to a decent degree and, in Performance guise (with a diff and 275hp), it's 28,000. How can the Golf possibly compete?

Matt Robinson - 6 Nov 2018    - Volkswagen road tests
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- Golf images

2018 Volkswagen Golf R Performance. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Golf R Performance. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Golf R Performance. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Golf R Performance. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Golf R Performance. Image by Volkswagen UK.

2018 Volkswagen Golf R Performance. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Golf R Performance. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Golf R Performance. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Golf R Performance. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Golf R Performance. Image by Volkswagen UK.


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