From £30,3458
Track-friendly extras for VW's superheated hatchback, but it's the uprated exhaust that gives the Golf R the soundtrack to complement its pace

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Golf R 2019 road test review - hero front

Billed the 'Ultimate Golf' and given more power, but can this facelifted Volkswagen Golf R knock the imperious Ford Focus RS from its perch?

Volkswagen Golf R Performance Pack 2018 UK

What is it?

The Volkswagen Golf R is already one of our favourite superheated hatchbacks here at Autocar towers. Not only is it an immensely talented and supremely entertaining steer, it's also properly usable on an everyday basis in a way that the likes of the Ford Focus RS and FK2 Honda Civic Type R can’t quite manage.

Now, though, Wolfsburg has made its fastest hot hatchback even zestier with the introduction of the Performance Pack. While the Golf R’s already potent turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine doesn’t gain any additional power — remaining at 306bhp at 5500-6500rpm and 280lb ft at 2000-5400rpm — it has been derestricted so that it can now hit a top speed of 166mph.

Uprated R-Performance brakes are also included — these save two kilograms compared with the regular brakes — while a set of larger 19in ‘Spielberg’ alloy wheels replace the standard car’s 18in ones. A new rear spoiler makes an appearance, too.

And the price attached to this new Performance Pack? That’ll be £2,300, thank you very much. It’s worth noting, too, that it can only be specified on DSG-equipped Golf Rs, which cost from £34,255 in three-door guise. So you’re looking at an asking price of at least £36,555.

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But wait, there’s more. Launched alongside the Performance Pack is a new titanium sports exhaust made especially for the Golf R by Akrapovic. It was fitted to our test car at an additional cost of £2,975. So, if you fancy a Golf R with the Performance Pack and Akrapovic exhaust, you’ll need to part with at least £39,530. After options, our five-door test car came in at an eye-watering £44,460. Yikes.

What's it like?

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.

Should I buy one?

If you’re no fan of the current Civic Type R’s outlandish styling, and don’t think you could live with the Focus RS’s harsh ride on an everyday basis, the Golf R — with its more subdued styling and comparatively forgiving chassis — is a very compelling thing indeed.

But we already knew that. What we’re here to establish is whether or not the Performance Pack is worth the extra money. And unless you’re planning on taking the Golf R out on track on a frequent basis, we’d be inclined to suggest you don’t tick that box. The standard brakes are more than capable enough to withstand regular blasts down your favourite country B-road, making it hard to justify that extra £2,300.

Go for the Akrapovic exhaust, though. It’s just fantastic. And £810 for the Spielberg wheels doesn’t seem too unreasonable, either.

Volkswagen Golf R Performance Pack specification

Where Hampshire, UK Price £38,910 On sale now Engine 4 cyls, 1984cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 306bhp at 5500-6500rpm Torque 280lb ft at 2000-5400rpm Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch automatic Kerb weight 1535kg Top speed 166mph 0-62mph 4.6sec Fuel economy 39.8mpg (combined) CO2 163g/km Rivals Honda Civic Type R, Ford Focus RS

Join the debate


12 June 2018

 All Golfists will drool after one....

16 June 2018

I know you say you're not behoven to VAG, but seriously, this is not a good look.  Should have received one star and a scatching review.  


What would Setright do?

12 June 2018

3 grand for an exhaust !!!??? Whats it made out of gold ? Competent it may be but its a Golf so it ll still be as boring as fcuk.

12 June 2018

 That’s the word attached to Cars that changed daily transport for some, came out in the early 70’s and showed up all the claimed fast Fords and Vauxhall’s and the like and continued over the decades to be the Car to beat, with the exception of the mark four ( a blip) the Golf is still popular, I’m not a Golf Driver by the way, but, I do understand the iconic label put on it, if you don’t like them that’s fine your opinion no one will take that away from you.....


16 June 2018

You are a monotonous, insipid, gasbag, who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.




16 June 2018
typos1 wrote:

3 grand for an exhaust !!!??? Whats it made out of gold ? Competent it may be but its a Golf so it ll still be as boring as fcuk.


You are a monotonous, tedious, boring, predictable gasbag, who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

12 June 2018

Ah yes.  Recommend buying a car from a company that gasses monkeys.

12 June 2018

£45k for a Golf - how this can be awarded four stars for being so overpriced is really beyond me - however it just seems accepted. 

12 June 2018

Sounds like you have a problem with that!?

12 June 2018

Actually bonkers price. Really. 

But at the the usual risk of saying anything on this site any more, to suggest a golf R is boring to drive really indicates that one hasn’t actually driven one.


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