- VOLKSWAGEN GOLF R and TIGUAN R
- Price range: $77,990 to $82,990 (Golf, plus $517.70 Clean Car fee), $80,990 to $85,990 (Tiguan, plus $1955 Clean Car fee).
- Powertrains: 2.0-litre petrol inline four-cylinder turbo with 235kW/400Nm, 8.6L/100km (Golf R), 9.7L/100km (Tiguan R), seven-speed dual clutch transmission, AWD.
- Body style: Five-door hatch and SUV.
- On sale: Now.
Volkswagen is expanding its hot R range with a number of new additions heading our way, and the first two have landed now – the eighth-generation version of the iconic Golf R and the all-new Tiguan R.
Make me an instant expert: what do I need to know?
The Golf has been the mainstay of Volkswagen’s R range since the Golf 4 debuted the performance moniker with the R32 way back in 2002, meaning that the new 8th-generation version also represents 20 years of R.
The R32 was followed by the Passat R36 and the mighty V10-powered Touareg R50, but the numbers were dropped in 2009 when the 6th-gen Golf R switched from the narrow-angle VR6 V6 engine to a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder, which was then followed by a Scirocco R, and the 7th-gen Golf R in 2013.
Now, with the arrival of the 8th-gen Golf R, we also get the first Tiguan R accompanying it, with the arrival of a T-Roc R and the plug-in hybrid Touareg R due at a later stage.
But it is the Golf R and Tiguan R that are here now, with both featuring the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that pumps 235kW of power and 400Nm of torque through a seven-speed DSG transmission to all four wheels via a new version of Volkswagen’s 4Motion AWD set up that features the new ‘R Torque Vectoring’ system – basically a version of the trick torque vectoring diff we last saw on the Audi RS3.
Both also get a number of suspension tweaks to sharpen up handling, as well as an aluminium front subframe and R-specific dampers. And both are fairly brisk as well, with the Golf R scampering to 100kph from a standing start in 4.8 seconds, while the larger Tiguan R knocks it over in 5.1 seconds.
The Golf R and Tiguan R also come with four standard drive modes (Comfort, Sport, Race and Individual), with the 1st Edition version of the Golf R also coming with Drift and ‘Special – Nurburgring’ modes as well. The Tiguan R also gets a 1st Edition model, but it doesn’t get the additional drive modes.
The extra drive modes pretty much do what they say on the packet, with the drift mode channelling most of the torque and power to the rear for lurid, drifty back end action. On a closed track only, of course, as Volkswagen points out…
The ‘Special’ mode is calibrated especially for the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife track and sees the Golf R actually lapping the circuit a staggering 19 seconds faster than the 7th-gen Golf R. While designed for the iconic race track, Volkswagen New Zealand says it is also perfect for our winding, undulating country roads, particularly the way the DSG will hold gears as long as possible and downshift early and aggressively under braking.
While the additional drive modes aren’t available on the standard Golf R just yet, but they are part of an optional performance pack available in Europe that will likely make its way here eventually, but while Volkswagen New Zealand says the 1st Edition is ‘limited’, it hasn’t put a number or time frame on it.
The 1st Edition models also score a panoramic sunroof (a $2500 option on both standard models) and a premium Harmon Kardon audio system (a $1750 option), while the Tiguan R 1st Edition also gets larger 21-inch alloys (the standard R gets 20s, while the Golf R sits on 19s) and the Golf R 1st Edition scores a larger rear wing.
Where did you drive it?
Volkswagen says R stands for ‘racing’, so where else – a race track! But this time it wasn’t the expected Hampton Downs, but instead a blast from the past – Pukekohe Park raceway.
After a drive out to the track from Auckland’s Britomart precinct in the city centre, Volkswagen New Zealand presented us with a selection of Golf and Tiguan Rs for a day of solid thrashing around the famously bumpy and seriously fast track.
After a few hours of various activities, such as slaloms, drag racing and experiencing the drift mode, we got to the real meat of the day – some fast full laps.
While both the Golf and Tiguan were impressively fast, comfortable and composed on the road, the Golf stole a clear lead on the track (as you would expect it to do over an SUV), and was addictively fun, absorbing the worst of Pukekohe’s bumps, but always communicating exactly what was going on through its superb chassis and wonderfully sharp steering.
The combination of the accurate steering and new trick diff/torque vectoring system is utterly fantastic, making diving into – and powering out of – corners massively satisfying, while the punchy engine is not only brilliantly powerful, it also sounds great.
While the Tiguan wasn’t quite as razor sharp, or satisfyingly fun as the Golf on the track, it was WAY more sharp and satisfyingly fun than a medium SUV ever has the right to be, while the growly soundtrack from the engine is brilliantly incongruous with its family-friendly silhouette.
What’s the pick of the range?
That depends, because while they share a lot of oily bits, the Golf R and Tiguan R are aimed at very different people. Or, at least, people at very different stages of life.
The Golf R is the obvious enthusiasts choice, being a fantastic hot hatch that truly makes you question whether it is actually worth paying a hefty premium to get four rings on the nose, but the Tiguan R is for the enthusiast who has to lug kids to school, but still wants to have a bit of fun when alone on a back road.
Personally, I couldn’t go past the Golf, but if you had to jam a bunch of kids (and their associated accessories) into it, then the Tiguan R is hardly a compromise…
Why would I buy it?
Because you were slightly disappointed by the latest Golf GTI and want a proper VW hot hatch, because you fancy an Audi RS3, but don’t fancy a $100,000-plus price tag, or because you just want proper driving fun.
And, in the case of the Tiguan R, because you need to be sensible, but just not all the time.
Why wouldn’t I buy it?
You don’t hold with the idea of cars being fun…