Two steps forward, one step back

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2022 Volkswagen Golf R Highlights

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four (315 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 295 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm)

Seven-speed DSG automatic all-wheel drive

23 city / 30 highway / 26 combined (EPA, MPG rating)

10.3 city / 7.7 highway / 9.1 combined. (NRCan rating, L / 100 km)

Base price: $ 45,440 (United States) / $ 44,995 (Canada)

As tested: $ 45,440 (United States) / $ 49,495 (Canada)

Prices include $ 995 US destination charge and $ 1,850 for freight, preparation, and A / C tax in Canada and, due to cross-border equipment differences, cannot be directly compared.

Let me start by saying that I considered the previous Golf R to be the best all-rounder available in its price range during its sales period. That’s particularly high praise from someone whose performance tastes usually gravitate towards rear-wheel-drive V8-powered coupes, but I think Volkswagen has achieved something remarkable with the Mk7. It was a car that had the dynamic chops to hook up with very serious gear in canyons but didn’t need to scream at it from an aesthetic point of view, and it also sacrificed very little in terms of daily driving and driving. practicality to get there.

Beyond the fundamentals, the Mk7 Golf R had other important elements as well: solid interior materials in a well-appointed and comfortable cabin, a state-of-the-art infotainment system with nice-sounding stereo, that sort of thing. Automakers can get away with phoning some of these things when it comes to their top performance cars, as enthusiasts tend to have different priorities than traditional buyers, but Volkswagen doesn’t. did not do it halfway. All this to say that the Mk7 Golf R has set the bar pretty high.

All new for 2022, the Golf R returns to North America with a new look and supported by a revised version of Volkswagen’s MQB platform. Its turbocharged 2.0-liter powertrain has also been reworked, now producing a very healthy 315 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Using key chassis updates and a new multi-plate clutch on the rear axle that can distribute up to 100% of the torque sent from the rear to an individual rear wheel, VW development driver Benjamin Leuchter set a 7:51 lap time on the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife with the car in 2020. That’s a number that puts this sedan on par with the 997 generation Porsche 911 Turbo, and 19 seconds ahead of the Mk7. Golf R which is so close and dear to my heart.

Bradley Iger

There’s a lot of new tech on board too, and all of this certainly bodes well for Volkswagen’s latest high-performance machine. But in the week that I’ve spent with the new Golf R, I’ve found that the changes aren’t all for the better.

The Golf R has long been seen as a stealthy alternative when it comes to hot hatches, and the Mk8 remains much more aesthetically understated than something like the Honda Civic Type R, but it’s far from boring. The visual flair is enhanced by a unique front fascia with large air intakes, a rear roof spoiler, a quad tailpipe exhaust, gloss black accents, unique 19-inch alloys and a performance-oriented stance. The combination gives the Golf R a significantly more aggressive look than the GTI (the only other version of the Golf now sold in North America) without resorting to anything extravagant, and I think it works particularly well in this shade Lapiz Blue Metallic with the blue Brake calipers.

The interior materials feel like a bit of a downgrade compared to the outgoing car, but that indicates the Mk8 Golf in general rather than the Golf R in particular. The 10.25-inch, customizable Digital Cockpit Pro digital gauge cluster helps compensate for some of that, as does the 10-inch touchscreen with VW’s MIB3 operating system software, which supports Apple CarPlay. and Android Auto wireless. Both are fitted as standard on the Golf R.

Bradley Iger

But infotainment turns out to be one of the Golf R 2022’s biggest weaknesses, and since nearly all of the vehicle’s functionality is accessed through this system, the frustrations it regularly generates are seemingly inevitable. Unlike the MIB II system used in the Mk7 Golf R, MIB3 offers no physical button. Instead, just like Cadillac’s Cue system a few years ago, all input, except for those made on the touchscreen itself, is recorded via capacitive touch sensors and recognized by feedback. haptic. There’s no volume knob, no physical buttons to change driving modes, turn on heated seats, or skip audio tracks.

While this gives the Golf R’s interior a sleek and uncluttered appearance, it can be quite bulky to use in practice. Beyond the fact that this interface design encourages you to look away from the road in order to find the function you need and confirm that the requested action has been taken, the touch inputs on both buttons capacitors and on the infotainment screen itself often do not register. correctly, or not at all. Something as simple as changing the speed of the HVAC fan is a multi-step process. Throughout my time with the car, I kept wondering why Volkswagen chose to create a problem where there was none before.

Bradley Iger

When you can ignore the technological flaws, the Golf R 2022 offers drivers a lot to love. In town, adaptive shocks do a great job of isolating the cab from the big impacts that are common on pockmarked LA streets despite spring rates being up 10 percent at all four corners. The default driving mode is Sport, but a softer Comfort mode can also be accessed by pressing the R “button” on the steering wheel, then selecting the mode on the infotainment screen to soften the damping, response. of throttle, transmission behavior and steering weight a little more if you will. The DSG generally does a good job of blending into the background when handling day-to-day tasks and offers almost smooth gear changes, although the dual clutch sometimes skips a beat when transitioning from forward to reverse gear and vice versa.

Bradley Iger

On the winding tarmac of the Angeles National Forest, the performance of the Mk8 Golf R seems to be defined more by the available horsepower than by the prowess of the car. Weighing just over 3,400 pounds, the new car weighs about 150 pounds more than the outgoing Golf R, but you wouldn’t know from the thrust provided by the powertrain. VW quotes an official 0-60 MPH time of 4.7 seconds, but behind the wheel it feels like it’s probably several tenths faster than that. Either way, that’s more than enough to dust a Civic Type R at a red light.

Bradley Iger

Hot hatches have traditionally been more geared towards cornering than drag racing, and the Golf R 2022 has some nifty party tricks to show off on that front as well. While the torque distribution remains split 50/50 front and rear, the new multi-plate clutch on the rear axle not only provides more sophisticated torque vectoring, but it has also enabled VW engineers to program. in Drift mode so you can bring in some power oversteer. shenanigans in the mix if you like. I didn’t, but hey – you do.

Bradley Iger

There is also a special riding mode which mimics the settings Leuchter used to set this lap time on the Nurburgring, and this setting seems well set for a good mountain road as well. But given their relatively low levels of grip for summer tires and the general numbness of the steering, even when ballasted in Race mode, I doubt the deed was done on the Hankook Ventus S1 evo3 tires that my tester wore. The Bridgestone Potenza S005, Goodyear Eagle F1 Super Sport, and Pirelli Pzero PZ4 summer tires also appear to be factory equipment, and I would probably go with one of these if given the option to be as a buyer.

Bradley Iger

Even though the infotainment leaves a lot to be desired and is not as comprehensive as the outgoing Golf R was, there is no doubt that this is the most powerful Golf R built to date. . The shift from agility to power can be a little underwhelming for some, but it’s the kind of performance that tends to be easier to harness for a wider range of enthusiasts, and I think a good game of tires would go a long way towards improving the old one anyway.

Bradley Iger

What’s new for 2022

Debuting in the eighth-generation Golf this year, the Golf R features a new, more aggressive look and a redesigned interior with new infotainment and a customizable digital gauge cluster. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a new multi-plate clutch that can transfer all of the torque sent from the rear axle to a wheel as needed, a retuned suspension with stiffer springs and a Drift Mode, among other improvements. .

Who should buy the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R

Those looking for a hot hatch with tons of power and plenty of real-world convenience who are also willing to shell out $ 45,000 for a Golf and are patient enough to get used to the MIB3 interface.

[Images © 2021 Bradley Iger/TTAC]

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