In the sophisticated, practical and fun hatchback category the Volkswagen Golf has always been an obvious choice. For 2014 Volkswagen have brought out a revised extreme 'R' version of the Golf and its something pretty special.
When Volkswagen UK say would you like to take our new and most powerful production Golf for a spin its hard to say no. The car in question was a beautiful Lapis Blue - a colour now associated with fast Volkswagen's - and the 3 door version. Golf's have always looked right, had that kerb appeal and standing back the 2014 R will age like a fine wine.
On first inspection the Golf R's interior seemed a special place to spend a long time. Sliding into the Titan Black and Grey R logo race inspired seats they gripped immediately in all the right places. The dashboard functions were well designed, easy to reach and clear. I loved the blue needles on the dials.
The beautifully stitched leather and gloss black R logo height / reach adjustable steering wheel felt good in the hands and the fantastic six speed manual gearbox felt such a luxury these days. There was even the classic golf ball size gear knob which unfortunately disappears if you choose the excellent DSG dual clutch transmission.
I admit I am still quite old fashioned and was pleased with the manual gearbox version I had for the test. However, it is well known that the DSG dual clutch box is one of the best in the business and takes the 0-60 mph time to 4.9 seconds verses 5.3 for the manual. Volkswagen have left the decision purely to the drivers personal preference which is fantastic.
The Golf R manages its 296bhp with front and rear electronic differentials and grip through its clever fifth-generation 4MOTION four wheel drive system. Its also lowered on sports suspension by 20mm which gives it an instant planted feel.
This model shares the same four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged TSI petrol engine as the GTI, however the R’s engine has a modified cylinder head, exhaust valves, valve seats and springs, pistons, injection valves and turbocharger.
For out on the road there were several driver settings to select from on the slick, modern and very usable 5.8 inch colour touchscreen. The options were 'Eco', 'Race', 'Normal' and 'Individual'. A fifth profile 'Comfort' was also available on this model as it had the optional extra of Adaptive Chassis Control.
Taking the car out on the unforgiving Wiltshire roads I tried the 'Normal' setting and to be honest the Golf R felt an accomplished everyday commuter. I then decided to change the profile to 'Race' and this is when the game changed completely.
The quad exhausts fired a new tone and the engine management gave me what felt like a totally different animal. A lighter throttle when pushed gave a delicious harmony of turbo whirr, a higher growl of rev range and a hugely exciting prospect for the road ahead.
The Golf R gripped the corners like it was on rails due to the intelligent four wheel drive system. The steering feel was accurate, had no sign of understeer and stopping power was superb. I can imagine in winter the Golf R would be a reassuring companion for a slippery journey to the office.
A quoted combined fuel consumption of 39.8 mpg (40.9 mpg DSG), and CO2 emissions of 165 g/km (159 g/km DSG) also makes this range topping Golf up to 18 per cent more efficient than its predecessor.
On reflection the Volkswagen Golf R is what can truly be classed as a perfect all rounder. It has a generous kit list as standard. Is happy doing the daily commute, weekly shopping run (boot space is huge), as well as family duties, but at the weekend is perfect to be let loose on the best of Wiltshire's roads and will reward it's driver heavily.
Prices for the range-topping R start at £29,900 for the three-door model with six-speed manual gearbox, and £31,315 for the three-door with six-speed DSG gearbox. The five-door versions cost £30,555 and £31,970 respectively.