Put Your VW Opinions Aside: The New Golf R is Awesome

Those of us in the USA think it’s a bit cheeky to release a car the night of our presidential election, but it’s hard to stay upset for long when that car is just so freaking awesome.

For years, the Golf R has been lambasted by some as one of the most boring hot hatches. We don’t agree with that view whatsoever, but it general it is true that car enthusiasts tend to gravitate more towards the Focus RS and Civic Type R. Volkswagen, having taken this personally, had to work a bit harder to prove their worth goes beyond Passats and GTIs.

Enter the new 2022 Mk8 Golf R. It’s saving grace? Drift mode.

Yes. Drift mode. Apparently, the all new Golf R features an active rear differential with torque-vectoring that can transfer gobs of the engine’s 316 bhp between the rear wheels. However, in order to have this option you’ll need to spec the R Performance Pack which includes the custom rear diff. Also included in this pack is “Special Mode” mode, a drive mode designed for you to whip your new Golf R around the Nürburgring Nordschleife as quickly as possible. No, seriously, that’s what it’s for. VW themselves tested it already and beat the previous Golf R’s time by a whopping 17 seconds, clocking in at 7:51. With a boost of only 10hp from the Mk7, that seems like a pretty massive jump.

But the real magic lies in the handling improvements. The AWD system has a front-diff lock (XDS), and an enhanced version of Volkswagen’s Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC). Another big culprit in the Mk8’s faster lap times was its DSG 7-speed transmission. Unfortunately a manual option will not be available in the 2022 Golf R, which is a severe knock to dedicated VW fans and car enthusiasts alike. Then again, the majority of customers dropping $40k on a hatchback demand quick-shifting paddles, so VW says.

On the outside, the Mk8 Golf R follows in the footsteps of its lower trim brothers, but it does have a few standout features that boost its sporty aesthetic. The snarling front fascia pairs nicely with the smooth yet aggressive lines of the car, and the subdued splitter atop the quad exhausts is admirably proportional. One could argue its simple looks have been retained from past models, often a point of contention among hot hatch purists for past Golf Rs, but it’s very hard to call the 2022 Golf R ugly.

A new design for the R logo comes with the 2022 model, and the screen-adorned interior is covered in embossed, stitched, and plastic copies of the logo in case you forget you’re driving the top tier Golf, and not just some other GTI.

With the Focus RS and its coveted drift mode having departed from US markets years ago, is the Golf R a worthy replacement for tire-slaying maniacs and hot hatch enthusiasts? We think it might be.

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