Currently reading: New Volkswagen Golf R lands with 316bhp, improved handling
Most potent Golf yet is also lighter and even more focused than before; gains new Drift mode
Felix Page Autocar writer
3 mins read
3 November 2020

The new, eighth-generation Golf R is the fastest and most powerful series-production version of Volkswagen’s family hatchback yet. It will arrive in dealerships this month as the fifth member of the brand’s significantly expanded performance line-up.

Like its new Arteon R and Tiguan R stablemates, the top-rung Golf takes 316bhp and 310lb ft from an evolved version of the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that has powered the R-badged model since 2009.

The subtle power and torque boosts for the fourth iteration of the EA888 unit – dubbed the Evo4 – bring the Golf R’s 0-62mph sprint time down by 0.2sec to 4.7sec, plus Volkswagen claims peak torque is available from 2100rpm all the way through to 5350rpm.

The focus hasn’t been solely on improving outright performance, however, with a series of tweaks to the drivetrain aimed at improving agility and responsiveness over the previous car. The Golf R receives the same upgraded version of Volkswagen’s torque-vectoring system as fitted to the hot Arteon and Tiguan, meaning drive is distributed variably between the rear wheels for the first time, rather than just between the front and rear axle. Using a pair of electronically operated multi-disc clutches, the system is said to balance output across the axle from 0-100% within milliseconds.

Elsewhere, the camber on the front axle has been upped by 1.3deg, the stabiliser and spring rates have been raised by 10% and the steering software has been tweaked for a more direct turn-in response.

Some 1.2kg of unsprung mass has been shaved from the braking system, too, while the front aluminum subframe has been lightened by 3kg. The brake discs have been expanded by 17mm in diameter on the front axle for improved stopping performance and an uprated master cylinder gives a “crisp, precise” pedal response.

The Golf R is most obviously told apart from standard Golf variants by way of its 20mm suspension drop, “motorsport-style” front splitter, sizeable black rear diffuser, quad-exit exhaust and bespoke wheel designs. Blue brake calipers and a new illuminating blue strip across the grille round off the exterior upgrades.

Inside, the upgrades include sports seats with blue inserts, a sports steering wheel, stainless-steel pedals and a selection of R-specific displays for the touchscreen infotainment system. A new R-view, for example, displays a horizontally oriented rev counter and gives gearchange recommendations when the car is driven in manual mode.


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The optional R Performance upgrade package returns for the eighth-generation model, removing the 155mph limiter for a top speed of 168mph, gaining a larger rear spoiler for added downforce and wearing a set of 19in sports wheels as standard.

This pack also brings two additional driving modes: Special, which has been configured especially for optimum performance at the Nürburgring (where the new Golf R is said to beat its predecessor’s lap time by 17sec) and Drift, which Volkswagen said “opens up a whole new level of driving dynamics away from public roads and makes the experience behind the wheel even more fun”.

As before, an Akrapovic titanium performance exhaust system is available, weighing 7kg less than the standard system and bringing valve control so that the driver can adjust the exhaust volume.

Driving modes are selected using a new wheel-mounted R button, which puts the car into Race upon a hard press. Despite the enhanced focus on driver engagement for the new Golf R, Volkswagen has no plans to reintroduce the option of a manual gearbox, citing greater demand for the dual-clutch automatic (DSG), which it said gives “the best of both worlds” and is equipped with a manual shift function via paddles behind the wheel.

However, as for whether an uprated version of the EA888 engine could be introduced for a more hardcore Golf in future, head of technical development Jan Schiedek-Jacht was less categoric. “As a good engineer, you’re never really satisfied with what you have achieved. From that angle, we might look into further improvements in the future,” he said, fuelling the suggestion previously reported by Autocar that Volkswagen is plotting a 400bhp Golf R Plus to rival Mercedes-AMG’s A45 S.

There’s no word on prices yet, but a subtle jump is to be expected, meaning the new Golf R will likely cost from around the £40,000 mark.


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AddyT 4 November 2020

No thanks. I much prefer the

No thanks. I much prefer the looks of the Mk7 R over one of these. Despite the bodykit, nothing can still be done about that ugly rear and the poorly executed interior still remains. Since the Mk8 has been launched, I have seen one in Holland and two in the UK...and that is with quite a lot of travel, not stuck shut away at home. I can remember seeing an awful lot more new Golfs in the months following their launches. VW have lost their way with the Mk8 in my opinion. 

Boris9119 4 November 2020


I also think the mk7, mk7.5 will be seen as the high water mark for both the GTI and the R. Nothing wrong with the gen 8 but more is often not better and that's the case here for me. I will be buying the mk 7.5 in a Spectrum color when I find the right one.

si73 4 November 2020

As competent as this surely

As competent as this surely will be it does nothing for me, I am not keen on its styling and find the prospect to be less as opposed to more than the GTi, though I do like the blue they use for the R golfs.
Lanehogger 4 November 2020

R Plus too far for a Golf?

Oddly, I saw the new Golf R this morning where I live. Well, it was a Mk8 in moonstone grey with a different front bumper and the R badge on the front grille...may have been just a R Line model with a R badge stuck on.


Anyway, as for a R Plus, would this be pushing the Golf too far up the price range? More so when the RS3 will be available with a more upmarket Audi badge on it and that fabulous 5 cylinder engine. If the Plus did go ahead, I wonder if VW would instead give it a hybrid set up to boost the overall bhp and torque of the car rather than simply ramp up the 2.0 engine. It'd give the VW Group an alternative take then on the RS3. Unless VW somehow gets their hands on the 5 cylinder engine.

Boris9119 4 November 2020


Here in the USA its likely going to be circa $8k less than an M2 Competition. Much as I appreciate the Golf R if you close that price delta anymore its a no brainer for most enthusiasts. Here discounts on Golf R are historically almost non existant whereas on the BMW you can get $2-3k all day long.   

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