320hp Volkswagen Golf R shifts into Mk8 form

  • Latest Volkswagen Golf R shifts up a gear
  • Maximum is 320hp, maximum speed up to 168mph
  • Available to order in November, deliveries early 2021

Volkswagen Golf R (2021) front view

The Volkswagen Golf 8 range is expanding rapidly  - the family hatchback range has swelled to include the GTI, GTD and GTE - and now the covers have come off the range-topping performance-focused R model.

The outgoing Golf R proved an exceptional hit with UK car buyers thanks to cracking finance deals with giant-killing performance for a modest monthly outlay. Volkswagen is hoping to recreate this success with the latest model - so it follows the same formula, while spearheading the expansion of the firm's R Performance brand to include T-Roc R, Tiguan R and Arteon R.

It's up against some hugely capable rivals and will need to be good to stay ahead. The BMW 1 Series M135i xDrive and Mercedes-AMG A35 version of the A-Class are likely to be near the top of Golf R buyers' shopping lists, but the lairy Honda Civic Type R should also be worth a look too, if you don't mind attracting too much attention.

What's under the skin and how fast is it?

The Golf R uses the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that features in the GTI, but has been tuned to develop 320hp. Maximum torque is available between 2100-5300rpm, which means for drivers that it will pull strongly at all speeds, without lots of gearchanging.

Volkswagen claims that the Golf R takes 4.7 seconds for the 0-62mph dash, and powers on to a maximum speed of 155mph. An optional R-Performance Pack raises that top speed to 168mph. As with the last Golf R, all of that power is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic - making it a hugely usable and grown-up hot hatchback.

To ensure it's stable the all-wheel drive system is a new generation with what Volkswagen calls ‘R-Performance Torque Vectoring’ – while a normal all-wheel drive Golf only allows no more than 50% torque per rear wheel, the Golf R’s system allows 100% to go to either rear wheel. It's a clever change that will make it more controllable in bends.

What other tech is on offer?

Volkswagen Golf R (2021) interior view

The Golf R gets more drive modes. Along with the usual Comfort, Sport, Individual and Race, the R-Performance model is also offered with Nurburgring and Drift modes. The latter will no doubt prove popular with those who want to enjoy sliding their car by turning down its stability control entirely and sending power to the rear wheels.

Other points worth noting are that the standard Golf R will be fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, with the R-Performance pack adding larger 19-inch items as well as a larger, dual-level rear spoiler.

All Golf Rs also get bespoke sports seats inside, ambient lighting and navigation as standard. The digital instrument cluster has R-specific dials and graphics. Finally, there’s an 'R' button on the steering wheel to directly switch drive modes.

What this means for you

If you loved the old Golf R, you'll be hoping this one lives up to its ability to get from point to point faster than just about anything else - and do so without attracting attention. The ingredients certainly appear to be there on paper - as it's fast, and Volkswagen looks to have avoided the temptation to make this one look subtle.

The new Golf R will have a presale period starting on 5 November, with the car being open to order for all at the end of November. Deliveries are expected in the first few weeks of 2021.

Further reading

>> Volkswagen Golf 8 full review
>> BMW 1 Series full review
>> Mercedes-Benz A-Class full review

Volkswagen Golf R (2021) rear view