2018 Volkswagen Golf R

2018 Volkswagen Golf R

The Golf R is the understated and underrated antithesis of its red-hot hatchback rivals such as the Ford Focus RS, Subaru WRX STI, and Honda Civic Type R. Its mixture of performance and practicality is expected, but its seamless blending of those two key attributes is unique. On top of that, the R outclasses everything in the category with the most sophisticated styling inside and out. Its place at the peak of the peerless Volkswagen Golf family has helped it earn multiple 10Best awards, including for 2018. However, the equally lovable and significantly less expensive Golf GTI upstages it. Likewise, the R-rated version lacks the literal and figurative wild side of the hardcore alternatives. Regardless, this sport compact is a dual threat, a winner on both the track and the cul-de-sac.

What’s New for 2018?

The 2018 Golf R lineup has been consolidated from two to one, with the higher-level Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) and Navigation model becoming the sole choice. This converts previously optional features such as adaptive dampers and all active safety assists to standard. The engine adds automatic stop/start technology but is otherwise unchanged, and the dual-clutch automatic transmission adds a seventh gear. Minor exterior revisions include LED headlights and taillights. The interior receives a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen—up from 6.5 inches in 2017—and a customizable instrument display called Digital Cockpit. As with every other 2018 Volkswagen, warranty coverage increases to six years or 72,000 miles of limited and powertrain protection.

What Was New for 2017?

Volkswagen changed little on the Golf R for 2017 except to add more standard active safety features—including lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beam headlights, and front and rear parking sensors—to the top-of-the-line version with Dynamic Chassis Control and navigation.

Trims and Options We Chose for 2017

We can’t hide our affection for the Golf R’s more affordable sibling, the near-perfect GTI, which starts at $26,415. But for buyers who want the ultimate Golf, the $36,475 R-rated version—with standard all-wheel drive and a bunch more horses under the hood—is it. Purists will be pleased with the standard six-speed manual transmission, but the optional six-speed dual-clutch automatic ($1100) is both quicker and a better alternative for commuting. Our ideal pick would pair the automatic transmission with the upscale DCC and Navigation trim level, which features as standard:

• 6.5-inch touchscreen interface with navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
• Heated front sport seats with 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat
• Sport-suspension tuning, adaptive dampers, and 19-inch wheels
• Adaptive xenon headlights

At $41,295, our loaded R is certainly no budget buy. But with its potent combination of near-luxury sophistication and effortless performance, this Volkswagen is by far the classiest choice among serious sport compacts.