THE Volkswagen Golf R is back, this time trying to face down some serious competition. It's come equipped though, packing all wheel drive, 300PS and capable of getting to 62mph in just 4.9 seconds. It'll also register better than 40mpg on the combined cycle. Your everyday supercar is here.
The car might seem a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, it's a four-wheel drive, 300PS, two-litre turbo road rocket; the sort of car that you thought had gone out of fashion with the demise of the Subaru Impreza WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. On the other, it's a wholly civilised, beautifully built family hatch that can better 40mpg and emits less carbon dioxide than a VW Lupo GTI. That, more than its incredible performance figures, shows us how fast hatches have had to rehabilitate themselves or die.
The GTI might be the definitive sporty Golf but there are those for whom even this iconic sports hatch doesn't quite deliver the goods. They want more. More grip, more speed, more presence. The thing is, the market for exactly this sort of thing was turned on its head by BMW's M135i.
Here was a car that delivered more and delivered a premium badge in the process for less than £30,000. It was a game changer. Volkswagen needed to respond and deliver a vehicle that could put the upstart M135i in its place.
Step up the Golf R, a legitimate member of the 300PS club which fronts up with all-wheel drive and a sub £30k price tag.
That 300PS power output is the headline number as far as the Golf R is concerned but delve a little deeper and you'll find some other facts that will stop you in your tracks. In manual form it gets to 62mph in 5.3 seconds, but unleash its potential with a DSG twin-clutch sequential transmission and it rockets through that benchmark in just 4.9 seconds.
The ride height is 20 mm lower than the standard Golf's and 5 mm lower than the GTI's. Apart from that hoovered-to-the-Tarmac ride height, the Golf R is distinguished by its revised front bumper assembly, indented with massive air inlets, a modified radiator grille with 'R' logo and daytime running lamps that are integrated into the standard bi-xenon headlights.
The interior features cloth sports seats with Alcantara bolsters, with leather upholstery available as an option, while the instrument dials are unique to the R and include some smart touches such as blue needles.
That sub £30,000 asking price nets you a manual Golf R three-door. You'll pay another £600 if you want a five-door. Offering strong value and no shortage of capability, it's hard to see how the Volkswagen Golf R can fail. Can it match the vivacity and excitement delivered by the likes of the BMW M135i?
That will very much depend on how you like your sports hatches but one thing's for sure, you've never had it so good.