Driven: 2021 VW Golf R Mk 8
I bet 20 years ago you wouldn’t have expected Volkswagen to have built a Golf with speeds competing with the supercars of the 90’s – but they have, in fact, they’ve done it five times.
The Golf R has become a staple of Britain’s roads over the last decade, and if you haven’t ever been overtaken on a country road by a Golf R, then it’s likely you live in London.
Harry’s back to take the all new Mk 8 Golf R through it’s paces, and compares it with his GR Yaris, which has split opinions.
Volkswagen 2021 Golf R Mk 8: The Numbers
- 0-62mph – 4.7seconds
- 316 bhp
- Top speed limited to 168mph
- Turbo-charged 2.0L 4 cylinder engine
- Dry weight of 1551kg
- Starting from £39,295.00*
*The Golf R in Harry’s video was priced at £41k
It’s probably easiest to talk about the looks of the Golf R first. It is, first and foremost, a Golf. The iconic look that has slowly evolved over the last few decades has brought us to where we are now with the Golf R, which has all the bells and whistles on top of what you can find on a standard Golf.
You’re welcomed by a rather fancy talking point when unlocking the vehicle, as an LED strip along the front of the R winks back at you. A completely pointless feature, but as with many features on modern vehicles, it’s just something fun to look at much like Audi’s ‘sweeping’ rear LED indicators.
19″ wheels are available on the Golf R, however the 18″ wheels seem to be favoured by the majority. The wheels house 357mm brake discs, which Harry describes as “monster great brakes”. Moving up the car, the Golf R continues to sport its aluminium-lined wing mirrors. One notable change with the Mk 8 is that a 3-door option is no longer available.
Speaking of ‘no longer available’, if sporting a colourway to stand out from the crowd is to your taste, then the Golf R will disappoint. Only three colours are available, white as standard, black and blue – both of which are pricey extras. A choice made by VW which will no doubt prove unpopular, especially when taking into account the iconic colourways that hot Golfs once sported.
To the rear of the R, you will find quad exhausts that are actually connected! Excuse my excitement, but I’m still reeling from the disappointment from when I first found out that some exhausts are just for show. If exhausts do take your fancy, there’s an option of an Akrapovic titanium exhaust, costing £3100 as an optional extra. That’s right, nearly 10% of the vehicle cost. It does make the car sound notably better, though (pun intended).
When you get into the Golf R, you’ll most certainly notice the, erm, eye-catching dashboard. The infotainment system blends into the dashboard, giving the illusion of one giant ,off-centre display. Whether you like it is something that can be put down to personal preference, but it’s hard to ignore that the infotainment system really does want to take centre stage.
Then the drama begins.
One of Harry’s resounding dislikes of the Golf R is how dependent it is on the infotainment system to change every function of the vehicle. Fancy blasting the air-con? Changing to Race mode? Well, all of that can be done through the main display. Buttons are a thing of the past. But why fix something that isn’t broken?
Away from the nuisance that is the infotainment system, it’s clear that the Golf R is built for taking corners. DSG only, with no manual option, the R really does like to pull itself through the twisties. You can expect gear changes whilst exiting the apex, but you can also expect an insane amount of grip too. The control that the Golf R offers is second to none, and can just about make you forget about that infotainment system .
One thing that Harry can’t seem to get past though, is the electric steering. It feels too artificial, and it’s hard to master too. Compare this to the GR Yaris, in which Toyota excelled with their calibration of its electric steering. Couple this with the fact that many will rarely get to use the Golf R as God intended, and you may feel like you’re driving a standard Golf. Which isn’t quite what you’re looking for when spending £40k plus on a hatchback.
Harry does note what a brilliant job the German manufacturer’s have done on the chassis.
“[The chassis] has done wonders on what this car can do. It’s unflappable.”Harry Metcalfe
You can configure the Golf R to behave just how you want it. Find yourself loving the drive in ‘Race mode’, but the noise isn’t quite what you want on your way home from work? With the ‘Individual mode’, you can effectively pick n’ mix how the car behaves through its different settings. You can have ‘Race mode’ on, with the sound of Comfort. The best of both worlds.
The Performance pack also has a ‘Nurburgring’ and ‘Drift’ mode setting – not bad for what can be considered a fully family-friendly vehicle.
But the question is, is it better than the GR Yaris?
It’s so damn good. I’m just a little bit disappointed with the steering and the electronics. I don’t need them, but they’re here to stay I’m afraid. As long as you can live with those, buy your Golf R – but for me, I’m sticking with the silliness of the GR Yaris.”Harry Metcalfe
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