Driven - Oct 2017

Finally, VW have made an exciting Golf R!

Golf 7.5 R Driven Review

It’s all about goals. You find something that you love, aim for it and strive to get there. For any young petrolhead, the VW Golf is a natural aim on the vehicle dartboard and the GTI, being the Crème de la crème of the hot hatch sorbet. Now, I must be honest and say that the GTI has been a firm favourite of mine since it started its crack gym diet back in Golf 5 days. Many hatches could do the same, sometimes even better, faster and sleeker than the GTI but as an overall package, the GTI was just unbeatable. Enter its older brother, the Golf R32, with its fruity sounding exhaust note and so the battle for favourite sibling began, for a price. See, the Golf R’s have always carried a natural premium over their GTI sibling and for good reason. It packed more in its already svelte suit and with the latest ones ditching the VR6 Motor and opting for a similar motor to the one found in the Audi S3, it became the “One” to own and outshone its little sibling, the GTI. Now, I must say that until the Golf 7.5 R, I was a GTI fan through and through and this was due to lack of funds to stretch to the R. I also found that the drive of the R was not nearly as engaging nor was it as exciting as that of the GTI but then again, that may have been my wallet steering me away from poverty…

Enter the Golf 7.5 R and everyone at The Motorist office was buzzing. I had attended the Port Elizabeth launch of the Golf 7.5 and found my love rekindled with the already near perfect hatch, bar the pricing of course. Inflation they say. Francisco attended the launch and came back swearing that he had found the perfect hatch. He explained that the car felt like this and drove like that but being his elder brother, I was skeptical. What do younger siblings know in any case.

On a fresh spring day, I was woken up by the friendly VW personnel, who had deemed it fit to entrust this new Golf 7.5 R to TheMotorist. See the other boys were swamped with other work stuff and being the one with flexible hours, we decided that its best that I keep the car, to really cement that fact that the Golf GTI was the best all-rounder. So, what is this revised R packing? How about 213kW and 380 N.m of torque, being sent to the tarmac via its tried and test 4Motion AWD system and the 7 speed DSG box. I walked around the car and did the expected “I’m just going around the block to get feel” drive. I got in, cleared the speed humps in the neighborhood while saying hi to Steve who walks his dog every day at 13h30 and I was at the first traffic light where I could explore the first two gears of the R. What happened next was something that didn’t feel very GTI-ish at all. This car was angry, very angry. Before I got myself into serious trouble, I decided that this vehicle had something wrong and drove back home to do some research. At R647 300, pricing puts this car square in the fight with the BMW M140i at a starting price of R652 802 and the Ford Focus RS at R699 900 which is a bit of a stretch. Had I disrespected the R as always seeing it as a GTI with more muscle? Yes, yes I had.

Nightfall came and made sure that I was on good terms with the lady of the house and decided that we needed a snack from the Woolies up the road, literally 900 meters from us. I kissed her on the head and said that I shouldn’t be long, code in our home for I’m going for a drive and might be two hours or so. What followed was a night in a Golf like no other. In the crisp air, the R was like a muscular American Bully and was roaming county-ish roads with authority I had never felt from a Golf before. Gone was the numb steering that I didn’t enjoy from the previous generations. This car was nimble, turn-in is sharp and has progressive steering that lets you know what is going on at the front axle. Is this the Golf I had been waiting for? I found a quiet piece of road and decided to see what this launch would feel like without having to worry about the JMPD on Rivonia Road. What followed was a perfect launch that seems to reel in the horizon with absolute disdain. I fell in love. The front end did push eventually through some switchbacks but this can be cured by coming off the throttle and getting the weight to rotate the rear and just like that, you have a four-wheel drift. In my chasing the R around some old farm land around my home, an orange light appeared on the Active Info Display and fearing the worst, thought that I had broken something in my enthusiastic night owl driving. Nope, nothing was broken, just the fuel. I had managed to empty tank in an hour… No, it was three hours! What would my wife say? She was fast asleep, thank goodness, we don’t have dogs! I put my head down but couldn’t sleep. This R had rewired my thinking. The next day I took it out and was surprised how enjoyable it was in traffic. The Golf 7.5 R was adorned with the new full touch screen infotainment with the, now standard customization for throttle response, steering weight and engine mapping. It even does the whole engine note piping through its firewall resonator system in Race mode, But it’s tuned somewhat differently to the GTIs similar system.

Now comes the difficult part with this car. The M140i is more exciting package as its sends all its 450 N.m to the rear axle, along with with 240 kW, too. It’s the drifters dream. It also will need you to resign some body parts like a kidney or maybe a lung as the option list will tempt you to do so. Being rear wheel drive though, it wouldn’t offer the all-weather sure footedness of the R or the RS. The RS is the car to drive if you are lazy like me and just contribute to the Virgin Active upkeep from the nearest Nandos, because it’s the healthiest option. Its manual geaebox makes sense to stubborn mules like me but can be your worst enemy in peak hour traffic. Its ride is like the Anaconda at Gold Reef City. Seriously, it’s that hard. My body hurt after a couple of days in that car. It does make up for it with its very torquey motor and the machine gun action on downshifts makes it all worth it.

So, having spent some time in the car, I begrudgingly handed over the keys for the other writers to spend the time in the R and instantly felt lonely and unsettled, a sign of car that makes you be at odds with your spouse and the bank. VW has finally made an R that’s as exciting to drive as the GTI with the security blanket of having the 4Motion system.  As an everyday package, there is little to complain about here bar the pricing.

VW Golf 7.5 R Pricing in South Africa

The vehicle we had to test with all the Christmas decorations was R727 000 and for that money I would drive away in the vehicle from Bavaria from a pricing perspective. I know, most of you just said bad words to me in your heads but VW’s are cars for the people and with that sticker price, I would stick to the GTI and save some money. I want one, but not at that price!

Let us know what you think?