It may seem like the world only buys sport-utility vehicles or trucks these days, but as long as Volkswagen continues putting out hot hatches like the 2022 Golf R, there will still be an option for a small, fast and agile hatchback.
The newest Golf R, which won’t hit the streets in the U.S. until the second half of next year, debuts with more power than the model it replaces. For 2022, the new model’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder puts out 315 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque — a jump of 27 hp.
Designed as a driver’s car, it comes with standard 4Motion all-wheel drive. Keeping its grip on the road is important when the car can race from 0 to 62 mph in just 4.7 seconds. It tops out at 155 mph, although that’s recommended for the track only.
Always known as a pocket rocket, the new Golf R gets plenty of performance tech to improve ride and handling, starting with a new torque vectoring system and vehicle dynamics manager. The torque vectoring is tied to the all-wheel drive and aids in controlling the torque on each wheel on the rear axle. A new rear differential helps send power to each axle in accordance with the conditions.
The result of this system is a higher level of driver control than in past models, giving the pilot a vehicle that is extremely nimble as well as plenty fast.
The fifth-generation Golf R gets enough exterior improvements to ensure it looks like the sporty upgrade from its ho-hum basic Golf sibling. The splitter on the front end screams race car and if you didn’t hear that initially, the R-specific air intakes will make sure you figure it out. In short, it looks fast because it is fast.
Staying with the front end, the radiator grille is highlighted by a blue crossbar with LEDs that illuminate when the car starts that isn’t ominous, but it does suggest something thrilling is coming. During the day, they act as DRLs.
It’s a hot hatch so in addition to being quick and responsive, it’s also functional. The new R is a five-door so getting people into the backseat isn’t a problem and opening the liftgate to put items in the cargo hold is part of the package. Speaking of
the liftgate, the rear bumper gets a high-gloss black diffuser, chrome-plated tailpipes to make some noise and a roof spoiler to make sure it holds the road while doing it.
On the inside, the vehicle’s displays and controls are now viewed through a configurable digital cockpit on a 10-inch display screen that allows the driver to set it up to see what he or she wants at that particular moment. The display offers a unique set of graphics designed just for the Golf R.
The system not only gives the driver feedback how they want it, but also allows them access to the different functions, especially in manual mode. Configured correctly, the driver can use the Drift driving mode to create enough smoke to hide in the center of the cloud.
In functional terms, the cabin features top-of-the-line Nappa leather sport seats along with “carbon-look elements” and blue accents, including a blue R logo in the backrest of the seat. The heated steering wheel also allows the driver to control many of the functions of the vehicle and clear access to the paddle shifters to enjoy Manual mode.
As mentioned, the turbo-4 gets a horsepower boost for 2022 and a jump from 280 lb-ft of torque to 310. Power’s pushed to the wheels using either a 6-speed manual transmission – a feature available on fewer and fewer vehicles these days – or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. In fact, VW officials noted about 40% of Golf Rs are sold with a manual transmission.
“I think the stick shift is something that we’ve pretty proud to keep alive,” said one executive during a webinar previewing the new model.
In addition to Drift mode, drivers can select Special, Comfort, Sport, Race or even create an individual profile for the driver. The Special mode shifts all of the controls to parameters for the Nordschleife — the northern loop of the Nurburgring in Germany. Unsurprisingly, the company didn’t offer any pricing details for the 2022 model, but did say it would be available in the U.S. during the fall of 2021.