The VW Golf R – Don’t mess with the UndeRdog

Published on August 28th, 2015

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I sit here writing this piece, with deep conscious thoughts about the great joys in life. Surely the basic Maslow’s hierarchal needs have to be sufficed before one can even think about these things – and it’s without a shadow of a doubt that Im in utter despair when I tell you that; Me, returning the Mk7 Golf R back to VGM is one of the most unpleasurable things I’ve had to do thus far.

We motoring journos – we are given the liberty to take a car home with us for a couple of days, “test it” to a certain extent on public roads and drive around wherever we like to take beautiful photos (well, not everyone does this…); all in the name of giving sound advice and views to our readers about a car. But you know what? it isn’t always great fun…

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Yes, the fun stuff begins on Friday when you go and pick up the car at the manufacturer’s HQ. From that moment on, you get yourself acquainted with a car, familiarising where all the switches are and the size of it all. But sometimes, on rare occasions… you accidentally built a bond between you and the car, thus not long after that, you’ll know you’re screwed because the weekend ends and you have to say goodbye to driving it.

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The Golf Mk7 R – Currently, the world is so buzzed up with Merc’s A45 AMG that VW’s R division cars are so overlooked. Previous generations of VW R cars were super hatches that made a statement, and in a way, trying hard to be more than just fast hot hatchbacks. Horsepower figures are always the key recipe to these super hatch blends, and sadly this round the R cars are not RIGHT up there anymore.

10-20 years ago, we’d be thrilled to have 300-odd-so-horses under the hood from some serious sports cars like the Porsche 911; but technological advancement has once again proved that over time, things are only going to get better and better.

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Thinking of power – the old skool mentality was that having a small, 2.0-litre turbocharged engine to produce a lot of power meant your engine would eventually break into a million metal pieces, if your spine don’t go first from the “rally-derived” suspension. Clearly you guys know what I’m referring to. The good ole’ Evos and Imprezas of the golden age.

That’s the difference though with cars of then and now; technological advancements has not only enabled a car to produce more power and go faster, but at the same time keep reliability as a top priority.

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Driving the new Mk7 R seems to have enlightened my senses on how a daily driven car should be. It’s a variety of elements combined that makes it one spanking package.

In my time – never have I driven something that handles as well as the new R could, which has also attained the perfect balance to a supple ride. For our Malaysian roads, the R soaks up pretty much all the ride surfaces despite the rather thin riding, 19″ wheels. If matched with thicker rubber on 18s, I believe it could be even better. And I think that is just the tip of the iceberg, because clearly… our roads can be pretty cruel to rides at times.

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Our test car is the high-spec’ed, ‘Tech Pack’ variant which comes fitted with multiple electronic goodies. But the one that I’m most interested in is the DCC system. Many of you whom are familiar with VW cars will know that this system allows the driver to select the kind of driving mode he/she wishes. This adjustability between Comfort, Normal, Race and Eco allows the driver to choose how the car is set to drive.

More than anything – what this system does is it enables the R to come with multiple personalities to fit the different situations. With a touch of a button, the car can be an economical, practical hatch like a normal 1.4 TSI Golf; but when the mood suits, Race mode will sharpen up the throttle and steering, stiffen up the suspension and enable the car to be just that little more sharper for thrills.

  • 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • 297bhp and 380nm
  • 0-100km/h – 4.8 seconds
  • Top Speed – 250 km/h electronically limited (as tested)
  • RM 291,888.00

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Matched along side VAG’s new MQB chassis on the Mk7 Golf, is the XDS+ system on the R that seems to have altered the way these things handle on the road. Previously on the Mk6 R, the car felt head heavy which wasn’t confidence inspiring in the corners. In other words… ‘fundersteer’ prone.

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But that seems to have changed on the Mk7 R. In spirited driving mode – the initial bite on the turn in seems to instill a surprising amount of agility, despite the rather controversial electric steering. The combination of the XDS+ differential keeps the car in check through the corners, and fill the driver with plenty of confidence.

I found myself tackling corners at some subliminal amounts of speed; and left amazed at how it grips in the dry like it was on rails. It is awe-inspiringly confident in the corners, and not in any way edgy. Such talent is difficult to find; because unlike those Jap rockets I mentioned earlier, anyone can get into a Mk7 R and drive it really quickly. Even so in the wet, the car was a little more understeery (I believe the exhausted tyres had something to do with that), yet still leaves the driver with a safe and fun drive.

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Powering the new R is a familiar EA888 unit from VAG – which is a 2.0-litre derived turbocharged engine. Unlike the one placed in the GTI variant, the R comes fitted with a larger, K04 turbo to deliver a deliciously linear 297bhp and 380nm at your discretion. Clearly, that is more than enough to get you in trouble because it’s naught-to-sixty time stands at a supercar rivalling 4.8 seconds (thanks to DSG and launch control).

Of course – as hot-hatches go, the clientele are not there to purchase one to leave it stock. Tuners like APR and REVO technik are able to tune it up to 350bhp figures with just a Stage 1 remap. And exactly as you might think, with that spare change over buying an A45, you’ll be able to tune an R up with a sweet sports exhaust, better cooling system and handling upgrades to make it into an even sweeter hot-hatch.

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Don’t even get me started on the interior. The Golf has the most capacious interior in it’s class, so it’s undoubtedly the most practical of all. And fully loaded, the Mk7 R comes with plenty of tech to keep you entertained. I certainly enjoyed the R’s infotainment system that comes fitted. Highly purposeful, matched with a seriously brilliant AI and graphics.

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Ergonimically – everything is exactly where you need it to be, and although there are elements of plastics within the dash area, VW has taken the liberty to laminate it in Piano Black. So at least it looks pleasing and not tacky right?

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The most controversial bit on the new R has definitely got to be the seats. Enthusiasts argue of the change from the Recaro buckets fitted on the Mk6 R in favour of the more stock looking, GTI like seats. The seats were the bits that separated the R and it’s GTI baby brother, and it sort of looks inexpensive.

Here’s my testimony though. These seats are a combination of support and comfort. Though they may not look like anything special but they do indeed work very well. It isn’t like the ones on the GTI, as it is more bolstered up and lets be honest, you’re going to spend most of your time driving the R everyday… so a comfier setup is the better choice. (P.S – me being plus-sized has nothing to do with this… lol!)IMG_9590

Being a journalist, what I’ve realised is that… your perception towards cars will eventually become more reserved with time, as it’s part of the job to not be biased. And your checklist criteria to a car you like has turned from just a page, to a booklet. Thus it’s been very difficult for me to seriously fall for a car out there. But the Mk7 R is definitely one that tops my list in 2015. I could go on-and-on about the new R. So before it goes even longer, here’s my conclusion…

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As underdogs go – clearly the Mk7 R is one brilliant package of a car. VW found the sweet spot with the R, balancing between comfort, usability and performance. Probably we are so used to hardcore performance cars that finding one that performs so well, yet staying comfortable could be so surprising. But that’s always the case no? We sometimes tend to forget how the underdog is almost always, the one to have. And it’s no different here. Keep your AMG boosted pocket rocket. You’ll be happier off with a Golf Mk7 R.

Words & Photos: Qhalis Najmi

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