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.
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.