The bumpy rocket
Last Monday I got up with a spring in my step, put on my best shirt and zipped through to Volkswagen in town to pick up my new Polo press demonstrator. Unfortunately there was a bit of an internal mix-up and instead I got handed a key marked “Grey Golf R”. Oh well.
I tried my utmost to look disappointed but made a complete hash of the job. Sitting in the loudest, hardest, meanest and most expensive Golf in Southern Africa should extract a stupid grin from almost everyone. It also gathers plenty of unsolicited attention from most other Volkswagen drivers.
The Golf R requires an additional N$86,500 of your salary to brag about your extra 33kW (45hp), 70Nm, stiffer ride, meaner looks and beefier interior when compared to a GTi Mark Six. The ultimate Golf comes with gigantic wheels, ultra-low profile rubber, striking black headlights and dual-pipe central exhaust.
It’s very closely related to the Scirocco R, using the same uprated 2-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder petrol engine which kicks out 188kW / 256hp / 350Nm via a six-speed manual or DSG (double clutch automatic) gearbox. The crucial difference is that the Golf has four doors and four wheel drive.
The interior is also familiar territory; German blackness is defined by superb materials and impressive features. The heated leather bucket seats and R steering wheel (with shift paddles for DSG) are superb; both are multi-functional, highly adjustable and feature lots of sporty bulges.
Being a Golf, even this steroid version is blessed with a well thought-out and proportioned interior; the rear seats folded flat easily to accommodate my new office chair. Other goodies include climate control, remote central locking, radio/CD/mp3 sound system and speed-sensitive power steering.
Silver trim and aluminium pedals aim to lift the dark interior, while safety is in the hands of seven airbags, ABS brakes with EBD and emergency assist, hill hold assist, electronic stability program (ESP), electronic diff lock, traction control and park distance control.
The optional dynamic chassis control DCC (N$10,470) offers you three suspension settings: Normal, Comfort and Sport. These allow you to choose the frequency or intensity of your chiropractor visits as even “Comfort” mode is verging on intolerably hard.
I kept the system on “Comfort” most of the times, switching back to Normal for traversing speed bumps, as the softest setting occasionally introduced a front wheel to its fender. Sport was only engaged in anger or as uncomfortable evidence for disbelieving passengers.
The gearbox also offers a Sport mode which sharpens the Golf’s responses and holds onto gears much, much longer than the lethargic D/Drive mode. While you’re at it, switch off the traction control and find an empty road to stop in. Put your left foot on the brake, floor the accelerator and let go of the brake.
You have just witnessed the Golf R DSG’s launch control, which cleanly catapults the car to 100km/h in 6.1 seconds and onwards to an alleged top speed of 250km/h. Another highly recommended form of travel is manual mode, where you get to pick the gears and extract a loud pop from the exhaust during up-shifts.
Thanks to its super-fat tyres and near-solid suspension, the 4Motion Golf corners like a rabbit; until your reach its limits. Just like GTi 6, the R shows tendencies of over-steer beyond its limits, which is easily cured by a boot-full of 4WD or in most cases, the ESP.
Other negative remarks I have to type (sorry, Golf R!) is that Bluetooth isn’t standard and options like electric seats, sunroof and navigation are rather costly. Also, after a few days I walked past the jittery, bumpy, nervous Golf and drove to dinner in a Nissan X-Trail. Ahhhhh, that’s better.
But the biggest criticism from acquaintances and complete strangers was its price of N$423,430. That includes a 3-year 120,000km warranty and 5-year 90,000km service plan but always ended with the same high-pitched question: “For a Golllllf!?!”
Yes, quite. I agree that it’s too much money for the people’s favourite hatchback, but am convinced that this uncompromising road rocket will find its home in the loving arms of performance and Vee-Dub fans. They won’t mind the granite suspension or boomy exhausts and for the rest of us, there’s always the regular GTi.
0-100m: 5.8s / 97.1km/h
0-200m: 9.0s / 119.3km/h
0-300m: 11.7s / 136.7km/h
0-400m: 14.2s / 148.6km/h
1/4mile: 14.3s @ 92.5mph (148.9km/h)
Climate Sunny, mild
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/4