Bodystyle, dimensions and technical details

If you’re wondering how far VW has stretched the basic Golf R recipe for this car, the answer is ‘not far at all’.

The transversely mounted EA888 engine is reprised from the Mk7, albeit in Evo 4 guise, with power lifted from 296bhp to 316bhp. At a time when the frontier for top-class hot hatchbacks sits closer to 400bhp than 300bhp, that arguably looks unadventurous. Perhaps it is deliberate, done to enhance everyday drivability, or maybe VW’s at the limit of what can be reliably and cleanly extracted from an Audi-designed engine that first appeared in 2007.

As standard, the Golf R sports a neat rear spoiler, although the optional R Performance package adds a much more conspicuous split-level spoiler- cum-wing, as well as tickling the ECU to take top speed from 155mph to 168mph.

Either way, on paper, the Mk8 car is now in fact one-tenth slower to 62mph than its predecessor, with weight being the culprit. At 1476kg, the new Golf R is 16kg heavier than before, so the power-to-weight ratio is mostly unchanged.

Elsewhere, the similarities persist. The Mk8 Golf R is a lower, longer and wider device than the car it replaces, although in each case not by much, and the wheelbase has grown by just 2mm. The new car also comes with five doors and a seven-speed dual- clutch gearbox only, although the options of having a three-door shell and a manual gearbox had already been phased out during the Mk7’s life.

Things get more interesting when you look more closely. As is customary, the R’s ride height is 20mm lower than that of the regular Volkswagen Golf, but the fact that the spring rates and stiffness of the anti-roll bars have increased a tenth over those of the Mk7 Golf R suggests a sharper dynamic character is intended. VW has increased the amount of negative camber at the front axle, which also benefits from 600g-lighter aluminium brake calipers as well as drilled discs that are 17mm larger in diameter than before, at 357mm. At the front axle, sprung mass has fallen, too, by 3kg, thanks to a stiffer new aluminium subframe.

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But by far and away the most exciting addition to this new Golf R is entirely hidden from view. It’s the R-Performance Torque Vectoring system that’s layered atop the car’s existing Haldex driveline. The rear differential is sandwiched by electromechanical clutch packs that allow all of the available torque at the rear axle (which is up to half of what the engine is making at any given moment) to be siphoned to either side, and in totality, if necessary.

The set-up follows in the tyre tracks of the system pioneered by the Mk3 Ford Focus RS, and if buyers specify the R Performance package, there’s even a Drift mode, which coaxes the car into oversteer when the opportunity arises.

Our test car goes without the pack but does benefit from VW’s optional DCC adaptive dampers, which replace the standard passive items and offer an array of settings.