Volkswagen unveiled the new 2022 Golf R with something everyone can agree is good: More power. Due out in 2021 as a 2022 model, it's one of two variants of the eighth-generation Golf (the other being the GTI) that will be sold in the United States.
Power for the latest Golf R comes from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine turbocharged to 315 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, increases of 27 and 15, respectively, over the outgoing model. Volkswagen points out the engine's maximum torque output is available over a broad range that stretches from 2,100 to 5,350 rpm.
While many carmakers are abandoning the manual transmission, the Golf R still offers enthusiasts a six-speed stick. Motorists who want two pedals can order a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox linked to steering wheel-mounted paddles at an extra cost. We learned sending the manual to the automotive ash heap wasn't an option in the United States, because about 40% of R and GTI buyers order their car with three pedals.
"We fought extremely hard to retain [the manual transmission]. There are other brands in the United States that are slowly but surely starting to phase the manuals out, but we pushed to keep it. It's important, it is a driver's car," Hein Schafer, the firm's senior vice president of production marketing and strategy, told Autoblog.
All-wheel drive -- a hallmark of the Golf R since the competition-bred Golf Rallye, its predecessor, arrived in 1989 -- again comes standard, but how the power reaches the wheels is different. The 4Motion system gains a torque vectoring function that juggles power between the rear wheels as-needed to make the R sharper and quicker around corners. It can notably send up to 100% of the engine's output to the wheel that's outside the bend.
Volkswagen quotes a 4.7-second sprint from zero to 60 mph, and a top speed of 155 mph. Going in a straight line isn't the R's claim to fame, though, so it also benefits from a variable-ratio steering rack, as well as suspension modifications that make the ride firmer and lower it by nearly an inch compared to the standard Golf.
Software is almost as important as hardware in the composition of the new R's character. Engineers developed what they refer to as a Vehicle Dynamics Manager (VDM) that runs the 4Motion system, the electronic differential locks, and the adaptive damping system, among other technologies, in a bid to achieve the best set-up for every situation. It can slow a wheel and keep understeer in check, for example.
Drivers can choose from seven driving profiles called Comfort, Sport, Race, Special, Drift, and Individual, respectively. Special sets up the car the way Volkswagen tuned it for testing on the Nürburgring, where it's up to 17 seconds quicker than its predecessor, while Drift -- you guessed it -- lets the Golf R go sideways.
Offered only as a four-door, like the eighth-generation Golf it's based on, the latest R retains the low-key appearance that characterizes its predecessors. Stylists added a subtle body kit that includes a roof-mounted spoiler, a blue piece of trim that runs across the front end and lights up as soon as the engine starts, a rear diffuser, chrome-plated exhaust tips, and a sprinkling of black trim. 19-inch wheels come standard.
Inside, the digital instrument cluster can display a long list of information about the car and its surroundings: navigation directions, turbo boost pressure, transmission oil temperature, front and rear torque distribution, plus horsepower and torque outputs. Carbon fiber-like trim on the dashboard, blue contrast stitching, and blue R logos on the front seatbacks further set the R apart from the Golf.
Volkswagen's new Golf R will arrive on American shores in late 2021 as a 2022 model, though pricing information hasn't been announced. For context, the last-generation R carried a base price of approximately $40,000. It will be joined by the eighth-generation GTI, which packs a 242-horsepower turbo four. We learned the Clubsport model unveiled in October 2020 won't be sold here, so nothing will fill the gap between the GTI and the R.
When it lands, it will come standard with a sunroof, stainless steel pedal caps, 30-color ambient lighting, touch-sensitive surfaces on the steering wheel, leather-upholstered sport seats for the front passengers, and a digital instrument cluster, among other features. Buyers will initially have three exterior paint colors named Lapiz Blue Metallic, Pure White, and Deep Black Pearl effect, respectively, to choose from, though we wouldn't be surprised if Volkswagen again expands the color palette with wilder hues a little bit later in the hatchback's production run.