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.
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.