Just as impressive as ever, really. There’s still a degree of lag when you put your foot down, but as soon as the turbo has spooled up the Golf R accelerates at a fairly alarming rate. With the DSG transmission equipped, Volkswagen claims it’ll hit 62mph from a standstill in 4.6sec — and it feels every bit as fast as those figures suggest.
Fitted with the Akrapovic exhaust, the Golf R now has the soundtrack to complement the pace, too. Select Race mode and the DSG will hold onto a gear right the way through the rev range accompanied by a deep, throaty warble. Pull the right-hand paddle shifter at the limiter and a rorty snort erupts from the exhaust as the next cog is selected. Tug the one on the left and not only will the lower gear be swapped in in impressively speedy fashion, you’ll also be treated to some rather lovely snaps, crackles and pops from the exhaust. It’s all a bit immature, but you can’t help but become at least a little enamoured of the Golf R.
Handling wise, the Golf R is much the same as before, albeit with a shade more stopping power, courtesy of those uprated brakes. MacPherson struts still comprise the front suspension, while a multi-link arrangement is employed at the rear axle. The front end reacts with a pleasing immediacy to your inputs through the sensibly weighted steering and there’s an agreeable amount of feel on offer, too, despite the rack’s electromechanical set-up.
At road-going speeds, the 4Motion four-wheel drive system provides more than enough grip — so much, in fact, that you get the sense that you’d really have to push the Golf R on a track to make it exceed its limitations. Body roll is kept in check nicely, although the lowered suspension can lead to a slightly brittle ride quality at lower speeds. Not that this put a damper on our time with the car in any way.
So, the Golf R with Performance Pack and Akrapovic exhaust is all very exciting to drive. It might come as a slight disappointment to some, then, to read that its interior does err on the dull side. There’s a lot of dark plastic to be found and, if it weren’t for the supportive R-embroidered front sports seats, you might mistake the cabin as being the same as it is in any other Golf.
Still, VW’s excellent 8.0in Discover Navigation infotainment system is included as standard, as is the 12.3in Active Info Display, which replaces traditional analogue dials in the instrument binnacle. Both systems feature crisp, easy-to-read graphics and are highly intuitive to use. Cabin space is good, too, with the rear bench of our five-door model offering plenty of room for adult occupants.