For the most part, the Golf R rides sweetly, with a more heavy-set swagger than the lighter Golf GTI but a lithe underlying tautness that feels entirely appropriate for a machine with this level of performance.

There’s plenty of adaptability, though, and with the DCC dampers close to or at their softest, the car’s long-wave gait can even feel much too relaxed, with the kind of conspicuous float and bounce that belongs in something French and from the 1970s. You can remedy that by choosing something firmer, but whatever the dampers are doing, there’s always a noticeable degree of secondary-ride patter, most likely the result of the 19in wheels, and stiffened subframe and springs.

I’d love to try one of these on 18in wheels and with the Bridgestone rubber swapped for Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4S tyres, which in my experience are softer in feel and even more grippy. That might make the car an even more rounded package.

Sport mode is roughly where you want to be on a B-road, or possibly a notch or two to either side on the highly disaggregated DCC slider, depending on your preferences. It’s now, when driven fast but not necessarily furiously, that the Golf R reveals the poise and stability that has made it so popular in the past. Its ability to keep the body flat while allowing the suspension to react fluidly to the road beneath it is reminiscent of top-class mogul skiers and rare in this class.

In fact, if there’s any real criticism to be levelled, it’s that such immense composure comes slightly at the expense of personality. The new car doesn’t flow quite so expressively as its predecessor, and some testers felt the steering, while precise and confidence-inspiring in its linear weight build-up, lacked some of the natural communication of the old rack, although these were marginal criticisms. For the most part, this is an accurate, feelsome hot hatch.

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And in truth, this new Golf R, with its R Performance Torque Vectoring, is every bit as engaging as the old car. It’s just that it only reveals this part of its personality when you’re really cracking on. The old car was always impressively neutral, which was down to the faithful front axle on turn-in and then the clever electrohydraulic four-wheel drive, which would shovel the engine’s effort rearwards as soon as you got back on the power. This car builds on that, and to superb effect at times.

Not only does it resist understeer even in the face of truly ham-fisted driving, but its ability to bias the outside rear tyre also means a neatly driven Golf R will give its driver that rarest of hot hatch treats: a few degrees of power oversteer.

Admittedly, you need to go looking for it, and the actuation isn’t always seamlessly natural, but it’s natural enough, and even when you’re not driving with real commitment, it tends to give the Golf R an exciting, satisfying rear-driven balance.

Despite being searingly fast, the Golf R’s natural habitat has never been on circuit, although the latest version is happier on the Hill Route at Millbrook than any of its predecessors. This is in spite of the fact that our test car lacked the optional £2000 R Performance package, which includes a track-specific Drift programme for the torque-vectoring rear axle, as well as a Special programme that recreates the settings that Volkswagen used when testing the R on the Nürburgring.

It was interesting that, when pushed to its limits, the car still fell into understeer in a way that you would almost never experience with the limitations of road driving. The truth is that, on the road, it’s almost easier to coax oversteer out of this chassis than understeer, even though, as the Hill Route shows, there remains a fundamental understeer balance to the Golf R. If anything, this demonstrates just how effective and thoughtful Volkswagen’s set-up is.

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COMFORT AND ISOLATION

Architecturally, there’s very little wrong with the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf. Most of the discomfort comes in the form of frustration with the infotainment array, but that’s not something we should hold against the Golf R, whose seats are as comfortable as they are supportive and whose driving position is widely adjustable. As an everyday hot hatch, it remains the case that few do it better.

What the low-profile tyres and less yielding suspension could invite is road noise, so we were interested to compare the R with the mild-hybrid Golf 1.5 eTSI we tested in 2020. Given how highly we regarded that car in terms of comfort and isolation, it reflects very well indeed on the Golf R that its noise readings were almost identical in every measurement, except for that taken at the redline in fourth gear. In general, the car is drama-free on motorways.

If there’s a fly in the ointment, it’s the low-speed ride, which can crash on choppier surfaces and sometimes undermines the Golf R’s otherwise fine road manners. For this reason, we might be tempted to go for the regular 18in wheels.