Refinement and Revision - 2022 VW Golf R
The hot-hatch segment has been around for over 50 years, and for good reason. Small, lightweight, typically powerful, usually fuel efficient, and room for you, your wife, and all three kids (if your kids like each other), and probably the best part being the point of entry to amount of fun ratio. The VW Golf has been the mack daddy of the segment for generations with the GTI having lead the segment for decades and only recently having to put up with any decent competition like the Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus ST among others. The Golf R, however, is a step up even from the GTI and while it shares almost all of the architecture from the GTI it has been more of the exclusive, more luxurious, more bonkers feeling, kind of vehicle.
The Golf R has a storied past as well. Being introduced in 2002 with a 3.2l VR-6 engine producing a respectable 237hp and 236lb-ft of torque along with the addition of all wheel drive it was considered by many to be the best hot hatch on the planet. Refined and improved subtleties to both the interior and exterior on this model added to the exclusivity of the vehicle.
The Golf R was revised in 2005 with the Mark V Golf and again in 2010 and 2015 with the Mark VI and Mark VII respectively. Although the car kept the all wheel drive setup VW dropped the VR-6 in 2010 for a pumped up GTI turbo 4cyl and while this move may have hurt the exclusivities of the Golf R name it helped in the performance department.
This brings us to this week's announcement from VW of the new Mark VIII Golf R coming in 2022. Still a ways off, and so far the only pictures we've seen of it are of the Euro model, still it's good to know VW wants to continue the legacy of it's hottest hot-hatch. While we know the beloved VR-6 won't be returning (it's last year in production was 2019) the numbers for the 2.0l turbo do not disappoint coming in at 315hp and 310lb-ft of torque. These ponies will be wrangled through a new "torque vectoring 4Motion all-wheel-drive system" with some fancey wizzardy going on allowing a 50:50 distribution of power front and rear, and new this year, the ability to send 100% of the power to the outside wheel while cornering which helps eliminate understeer. Arguably the best dual clutch in the industry, the DSG 7spd, is still available, but the best news of all a 6spd manual is also in the lineup. #savethemanuals
There are several exterior and interior changes coming as well, including a new front bumper with special intake and cooling vents in the grill and a unique, motorsports inspired splitter. Not unlike many manufacturers these days the inclusion of LED strips running the width of the hood, across the front of the car, helps differentiate this car from the GTI, as well as standard 19" wheels, a lowered ride hight by 0.8", and a standard sunroof. The rear was not ignored either with a unique rear diffuser and chrome dual twin exhaust tips and topped with a roof mounted spoiler. While you can still get the beautiful signature Lapiz Blue Metallic VW is also including Deep Black Pearl Effect and Pearl White as options, if you so choose. The interior changes focus primarily on the technologies with multiple screens replacing many of the function switches. Beyond the tech the Golf R will be dress in the finest leather and blue stitching as well as available carbon accents and R specific door trims.
Incorporated into the new tech of the Golf R is the new drive modes available, most notably drift mode. We saw this particular mode first in the Focus RS a few years ago and it added quite a different dynamic to the car, moving the focus of power to the rear axle, allowing the car to drift. A similar thing occurs in the Golf R with the clutch style differential's ability to move the power to the outside wheel as mentioned before. The drift mode is meant to only be accessed on the track and will prompt you before engaging the mode in the infotainment center to confirm you are not on a public road.
Probably the biggest disappointment to the vehicle, and this is a very minor one, is how long we have to wait to see it. This is becoming the trend in the industry for some manufacturers and it's not one I'm personally fond of. Ford pushed off the release of the Bronco for years, and even after the release tells us it'll be another year before we see them on the road. The Hummer EV from GMC is 2-3 years away from production as well. There is hope with the Golf R, though, being this is simply a variant of an already (or soon to be) production vehicle with some new tech and hardware thrown it's way. And most of the pictures seem to be production ready instead of the sometimes overly complicated pre-production and concept vehicles we so often see.
The true test of the vehicle obviously won't come until we're in the driver's seat on a windy back road or local racetrack with the opportunity to stretch it's legs and put to test the new and improved Mark VIII Golf R predicted to hit showrooms near you around this time next year. Until then it's all speculation and until then we wait.