2022 Volkswagen Golf R Review

2022 Volkswagen Golf R - Understated VW Golf R has blazing performance


2022 Volkswagen Golf R 2.0T

Price: $43,645

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?

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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