2022 Volkswagen Golf R
Pros—Fast. Practical. Sharp handling. Supple ride. AWD. Well-equipped.
Cons—Understated look. Snug rear seat. Slightly mushy clutch. Frustrating infotainment system. So-so fuel economy.
Bottom Line—A grown-up car that’s a blast to drive.
The new 2022 Volkswagen AWD Golf R 2.0T looks mostly conservative but has wild-child acceleration, sharp handling, supple ride, practical interior and lots of equipment.
This compact four-door hot hatch has a suggested retail price of $43,645, although a $995 freight charge brings it to the often-quoted $44,640 price. It’s a grown-up companion to the front-drive, lower-horsepower 2022 VW Golf GTI front-drive hatchback, which has less power and fewer features. The standard Golf has been discontinued for the United States.
Leave the GTI to kids, despite its legendary name. The more mature, although costlier, Golf R has a lot more going for it.
First off, the Golf R 2.0T has a turbocharged 315-horsepower engine with 310 lb./ft. of torque that’s always on hand with either the standard six-speed manual transmission or 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic. My test Golf R had the manual transmission.
The Golf R does 0-60 m.p.h. in about four seconds, with strong, linear acceleration. The times are approximately the same with the automatic. A driver can select these driving modes: Comfort, Sport, Race, Drift, Special, Custom and Individual. I found Comfort and Sport modes to be the most useful, although Sport and Race sharpen throttle response.
Estimated fuel economy is a so-so 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on highways. The tank holds 14.5 gallons, and premium fuel is called for.
The Golf R 2.0T has a supple ride even in Comfort and Sport modes, although the Comfort mode provides the smoothest, at least on good pavement. The variable ratio electro-mechanical power steering is quick. And handling is sharp, thanks to such things as an all-independent sport suspension, electronic stability control, multi-mode adaptive chassis control and VW’s 4Motion AWD system with a rear differential that can actively distribute torque between the left and right wheels for improved handling.
The larger brakes have an easily modulated pedal that initially felt soft but have electronic brake pressure distribution and hydraulic brake assist.
One might expect an exotic-looking car to deliver go-fast features, but the Golf R 2.0T has generally subdued styling. There are four chrome exhaust outlets, and other R features include a special grille, bumpers, side skirts and a rear spoiler. There also are cross drilled front brake rotors and 19-inch alloy wheels. Still in all, the car has a boxy hatchback shape and isn’t likely to turn many heads.
Doors open wide, and four adults fit, but the rear section is snug. The cockpit is upscale, with nice materials, a premium audio system, Napa leather seating surfaces, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front sport seats with blue accents (to go with my test car’s Lapiz Blue paint) and all sorts of upscale features including automatic climate control, USB data and charging ports, heated rear seats, navigation assistance and a power tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof. There’s also wireless charging for compatible devices.
There are many digital controls. But the ribbon tachometer, which gives a horizontal reading, looks sort of out of place in such a fast car. The digital speedometer is OK, but the digital climate control system and radio volume controls are frustrating to use, as is the 10-inch infotainment system. It is best used when not driving.
The manual hatch opens widely to reveal a decent cargo area, and rear seat backs quickly fold flat to provide a impressive cargo area. Opening the heavy hood to get to fluid filler areas requires Arnold Schwarzenegger muscles. A prop rod holds it open.
Drivers in heavy stop-and-go traffic might best opt for the DSG automatic unless proficient with shifting a manual transmission and like shifting to feel more of a connection with the car. Otherwise, shifting the manual might eventually wear drivers down, as they continually shift in stop-and-go rush-hour traffic.
Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with the manual. l grew up shifting gears (with an old 1949 Ford and 1952 MG TD) and found that the Golf R’s slightly notchy manual transmission shifts so well that I barely thought about upshifting or downshifting. Even the somewhat mushy, long-throw clutch didn’t bother me after a short time. Moreover, the engine generates so much torque that lots of it is available in any gear. Fortunately for manual-shift newcomers, there’s a small guide on the instrument panel that tells when to upshift or downshift for maximum efficiency.
Safety features include forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist monitoring, adaptive cruise control, rear traffic alert, lane keeping system, blind spot monitor for active side assist, rear view camera system and a dynamic road sign display.
There also is an advanced air bag protection system.
The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R 2.0T won’t be the wildest-looking car in the neighborhood, but is a winner in most respects. What’s the old saying: You can’t tell a book by its cover?