Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

The Golf R may have been overtaken in the hot hatch power wars of late, but combining 316bhp with 310lb ft and four-wheel drive is still enough to have anyone questioning just how much performance they really need.

With launch control engaged, our car fired itself to 60mph in just 4.4sec at Millbrook Proving Ground and a good degree of self-inflicted clutch slippage from the DSG gearbox suggested that an even quicker time might be possible. Even so, 4.4sec makes the Golf R an exact match for the 996-generation Porsche 911 GT3, and we don’t recall describing that car as being anything other than stupendously quick.

Neither does the VW let up beyond second gear. Despite its precise 100bhp advantage over the Golf R, the Mercedes-AMG A45 S could go only one second quicker to 100mph, taking 9.3sec in similar circumstances. Acceleration is unrelenting until the gearbox has snagged fourth at close to triple figures, at which point the new brake set-up is ready to demonstrate how effective it can be. Beyond the confidence-inspiring positivity in the pedal feel, those larger discs helped bring the Golf R from 70mph to a standstill in 45.9m – 80cm less than that managed by the lighter, wider- tracked Honda Civic Type R.

But beyond the raw numbers, what’s so striking about this new Golf R is the insouciance with which it operates, even at maximum attack. Admittedly, this is a double-edged sword, because the ease with which the powertrain scythes through the gears seems almost dull. This DSG gearbox is known for its dexterity, but in this generation, the shifts really are seamless, even in Race mode, and the wall of torque, which reaches its full height at just 2100rpm and continues long thereafter, robs the power delivery of some shape. You’re left with an undeniably potent powertrain but one that at times does too fine an impression of the single- speed bungie acceleration found in the quicker electric cars.

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As for traction, in a straight line, and on dry roads, you’ll not break it. There’s no axle tramp, no torque steer. Just acceleration, as the 4Motion system neatly apportions drive between the axles. However, it can be beneficial to switch the ESP into its midway Sport setting for cornering purposes, where the Golf R is only too happy to break traction in the right conditions.