2015 VW Golf R
11 Sep

Next Generation Golf R Coming to America

2015 Volkswagen Golf R: VW’s Best Golf Yet…But is That Enough?

Volkswagen recently revealed official plans for the next generation Golf R, and while the new Golf R looks a heck of a lot like the old Golf R, there’s more here than meets the eye. The new design is more powerful and more fuel efficient than any Golf R (or R32) in history.

In the last week of August, VW shared some details on the Euro-spec Golf R, and these specs will mostly carry over to the U.S. model. The big items:

  • For 2015, the Golf R will get a 40 horsepower boost, coming in at 296 hp, as well as a 37 lb-ft torque increase to 280 lb-ft of torque
  • The next-gen Golf R will feature the electronically controlled Haldex AWD system that will also be found in the 2015 GTI
  • The next-gen Golf R is also lighter than the outgoing model – about 100 pounds lighter. This might not seem like much, but it’s good for a 1-2 percent improvement in fuel economy as well as slightly improved lap times.

Basically, the Golf R will be a sportier version of the GTI, with more power, a slightly lower center of gravity, more aggressive styling, and of course a higher price tag (no word yet on MSRP, but it will likely be close to the current Golf R’s $37k asking price).

2015 VW Golf R front 600x400 Next Generation Golf R Coming to America

Exciting New Mechanicals

Powering this next generation Golf R is the EA888 turbocharged 2.0L introduced into VW’s 2014 line-up. With direct injection and port injection, variable valve timing on both sides of the head (intake and exhaust), and variable valve lift, the EA888 is anything but a simple 4-banger. Add on the turbocharger – which can produce slightly more than 17 pounds of boost at sea level – and you end up with a high-tech motor that generates nearly 150 horsepower per liter of displacement.

What’s more, VW claims that the Golf R’s torque curve will be flat from 1,800 rpm all the way up to 5500 rpm. Flat torque curves make for driving fun, as you’ve got full power no matter what gear you’re in (at least once you’re rolling, anyways).

EA888 cutaway 545x450 Next Generation Golf R Coming to America

However, what makes this Golf R even more exciting is the electronically controlled Haldex differentials paired with an AWD system. While you’ll have to head to the track to notice it, this system’s ability to electronically vector thrust to improve handling is a modern automotive marvel.

With a lower curb weight, substantially more horsepower, and all-wheel-drive, VW promises that the Golf R will lay down an impressive 0-62 mph in 5.3 seconds. That’s in the same basic performance range as the current 2013 Subaru WRX STi (4.9 seconds), Genesis .38 R-spec (5.3 seconds), Mustang V6 (5.6 seconds), as well as the Ford Focus ST (5.9 seconds). It’s not known which transmission will be offered on the US-spec R when it arrives next year, but it’s likely to be a relatively simple 6-speed manual transmission.

Finally, the new Golf R is also going to burn less gas. VW estimates the new Golf R is about 18 percent more efficient than the current model, with Car & Driver pegging the Golf R’s EPA ratings at 33mpg on the highway and 22-23 mpg in the city. This is another big benefit for Golf R buyers – a top rating of 33mpg is likely to be the best available for a car with this kind of performance.

2015 VW Golf R rear 600x400 Next Generation Golf R Coming to America

Will The New Golf R Separate Itself From the Competition?

There are quite a few performance cars available to you if you have $40,000 to spend. In addition to the new Golf R, you can look at:

  • Subaru WRX STi, which offers 2 more doors, 10 more horsepower (a 2013 is rated at 305hp), Brembo brakes, and a giant hood scoop for about the same price.
  • Mitsubishi Lancer EVO GSR, which boasts more torque (300 lb-ft), similar horsepower, and styling that screams “TUNER!” for the same $35k (or so) MSRP.
  • Ford Focus ST, which isn’t nearly as powerful (252hp) or as fast (5.9 second 0-60), but is also about $10k less.
  • A new Ford Mustang GT, Camaro SS, Hyundai Genesis 3.8 R-Spec, and a half a dozen other sporty cars that aren’t directly comparable yet similarly priced.

This list isn’t meant to suggest that the Golf R isn’t special or unique – the Golf is consistently praised for it’s styling (inside and out), refinement, and practicality. The point here is that there are LOTS of options available for the same asking price as the Golf R.

In my opinion, that’s always been the problem with the GTI and Golf R – they’re great looking, they’re finely tuned, and they’re pricey. Any sort of dollars per horsepower type of analysis inevitably leads a potential buyer to a rival product. While “bang for the buck” analysis overlooks the Golf R’s combination of poise, performance, and oh-so-Euro styling, it’s easy to understand why someone might look past a $37,000 Golf R when a similarly-performing Focus ST is available for nearly $10,000 less.

2015 VW Golf R illustration2 600x245 Next Generation Golf R Coming to America

Therefore, it seems safe to assume that the Golf R will remain a niche model with limited appeal. While the car offers an excellent array of features, lower priced rivals will always be available. What’s more, the 2015 Golf R will be sharing the stage with an upgraded WRX, the 2015 Mustang, and whatever else captures the imagination of the public in the coming year. It’s a great car – the best Golf R yet, in fact – but it’s going to need a price reduction if it’s going to stand out from the crowd.

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Author Jason Lancaster is the editor of AccurateAutoAdvice.com, a website that helps consumers navigate vehicle purchase and ownership. Jason is a long-time automotive enthusiast, amateur racing fan, and has worked in the auto industry for more than 15 years.

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Category: Car Reviews, Reviews, Sports Cars

Comments (3)

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  1. Max Mercer says:

    I can’t help be feel like you don’t understand what the GTI/Golf R offers over its competitors. I (like many VW fans) love the perfect balance of practicality, performance, and refinement. Focus ST compared to a base GTI is a much closer comparison, however the GTI is miles ahead in interior and nearly identical in performance. Comparing a Golf R to a Mustang is like apples to oranges, one is a sport coupe the other a sport hatch 4-door. The closest accurate comparison is the STI and frankly I don’t think it’s a question between the two. The 2015 STI is $40k for a car the barely out performs the base WRX despite the 40hp advantage. I don’t go for the whole fast and furious, “look at my massive scoop and spoiler” image but to each their own. On paper the Golf R still out performs the STI in lap times, 0-60, and overall comfort. That’s still giving the STI an extra 500cc of engine! Not to mention the cheap, pseudo carbon fiber accents in the STI, I’ll take brushed aluminum and leather any day.

    • Jason Lancaster says:

      Max – I think I understand the appeal of GTI/Golf R. The engine is smooth and full of life. The interior rivals luxury cars that cost thousands more. The car handles and stops beautifully.

      However, here’s where a lot of VW enthusiasts “miss the boat” – we’re talking about a hatchback.

      For most people, hatchbacks are commuter cars. Grocery getters. Affordable transportation. If a hatchback was a menu item at your local restaurant, it would be a hot dog. Affordable, tasty, and very filling. However, a gourmet hot dog is still just a hot dog in most consumer’s minds…and that’s why I don’t see the GTI and R enjoying any more sales success than the preceding models.

      In my experience, most people who are looking for refinement are looking at sedans and crossovers. VW deserves a lot of praise for making what may be the finest hatchback on the market. But most hatchback buyers aren’t looking for the world’s best anything. They’re looking for a cheap yet roomy compact car.

      To be clear, I’m not saying you’re wrong about the GTI or Golf R. They *are* nicer than any of the cars I mentioned at similar price points. The challenge is that most car buyers don’t care.

  2. Rick Reichow says:

    I tend to agree with Max. I own a 2011 VW GTI and take it to VIRginia International Raceways world class 3.27 road course and am always up against more powerful cars that can take me on the the two long straights but in the corners this car eats up many. The GTI is a fun car to drive on and off the track. Its one of the most practical dual role cars on the market. The Golf R just adds more fun plus 4-Motion to the equation.

    Which gets me to my point of yes I plan to purchase a 2015 Golf R when it comes to market next year. Is $37,000 too much for this type of performance in a vehicle I can take to the track Sunday and fill up at a box store on Monday with the ease of a small SUV or crossover?

    Owning the Camaro/Mustang really forces one to own two vehicle for what you get in the Golf R.

    The Focus ST lacks the quality and refinement of the GTI and R.

    Correction.

    The US HP on the Golf R will be 290 not 296 as stated in the article.

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