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Sunday Drive: Get drifting in a new VW Golf R

By Craig and Deanne Conover - | Jul 9, 2022
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The exterior of the new 2022 Volkswagen Golf R.
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The exterior of the new 2022 Volkswagen Golf R.
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The exterior of the new 2022 Volkswagen Golf R.
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The interior of the new 2022 Volkswagen Golf R.
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The interior of the new 2022 Volkswagen Golf R.

“Hot hatch” may be the understatement of the year when referring to the all-new Volkswagen Golf R. This new little rocket comes complete with a new engine and six different driving modes. Yes, you read that correctly — six different driving setups. More on that later.

As a family, we bought a used 1999 VW Golf TDI back in 2004, with the TDI standing for Turbo Diesel. Back then, diesel fuel was below a dollar a gallon, and Volkswagen was one of the only manufacturers with a sedan offering that would run on diesel.

There are times today, with gas prices headed through the roof, that we wish we had that awesome hatchback in our lives. We could fill it up for around $10, and with the 55 mpg that it would average, we made it from Springville to Anaheim, California, on a single tank of fuel.

Our first Golf was a manual (five speed). This added some sport to the drive and was something our boys loved as they grew older and got to learn to drive that type of transmission. However, the amount of acceleration involved back then would not hold a candle to the new Golf R.

Coming complete with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine named the EA888 by VW, the Golf is in its fourth generation and made at a state-of-the-art factory in Gyor, Hungary. Running on premium fuel, this little engine will produce 315 horsepower, a 27 horse increase over the last model. Add to that 295 foot-pounds of torque that kick in at 2,000 rpm and, yes, it would put us back into our seats with no problem at all.

Our test ride came with a six-speed manual transmission. However, there is also a seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters and an included launch control system if that is more your style. We are split on which would be best. The stick was very fun and engaging; however, having the automatic would have made our everyday drive a little easier.

There is also a new fuel injection system that introduces the high-octane gas to the engine at 5,076 pounds per square inch. Compared to the previous system, which did it at 2,900 psi, this is pretty impressive. It allows the Golf to hold its torque peak over a broader rpm range, giving it noticeably more power.

After a week out with the Golf R, one would have thought our mpg numbers would be in the trash can as it was so easy to just goose it every time we needed to accelerate. However, that was really not the case. After more than 400 miles of driving, we came in at 24 mpg, just ahead of where the EPA put the Golf.

Our driving in the Golf included a lot of travel time around Utah Valley. Craig also had to take a longer drive to Ogden with two co-workers in the hatchback. There was not much complaining from Shellie, who had to sit in the back all the way to and from Ogden. She indicated there was plenty of space, and having her own zone of climate control made it even better.

As we mentioned early on, the Golf R comes with six different driving modes to choose from: Comfort, Sport, Race, Drift, Special and Custom. These each come with their own unique steering heft and throttle response with the exception of Custom, which allows the driver to program in their own preferences.

Drift mode is meant for a track or private roads only and has to be confirmed via the infotainment screen in order to engage. The reasoning here is so drivers will only engage Drift on private property. We gave it a try in a parking lot. We will admit it worked very well and made it easier to drift through turns.

Inside, the Golf R was loaded with all kinds of goodies that came standard in the R trim level. The new Volkswagen Digital Cockpit Pro was the most unique, consisting of a 10.25-inch LED display located where the normal gauges would be positioned for the driver. It was completely customizable in so many ways; we were sure we didn’t even scratch the surface on what could be displayed and where it would appear.

Needless to say, we were very impressed with this alone. Added to this wizardry was ambient lighting control that would not only change the ambient interior LED lighting but would also adapt the look of the infotainment screen and digital dashboard to the new user-chosen look. This was a great feature and the first time we have seen the entire interior theme altered by changing ambient lighting colors.

The Golf was loaded with all kinds of safety systems, including lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control that could be activated from the steering wheel to provide a semi-autonomous driving experience. Also included were forward collisions alert and assist, blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alert and assist, parking distance warning and a system that will shut off the fuel pump, unlock the doors and turn on the emergency blinkers in the event of a crash.

Napa leather-clad seating surfaces are standard and heated and cooled up front along with being heated in the rear. There is even an included heads-up display in the R trim level that will show speed and navigation information.

The Golf R impressed us with its many creature comforts, but, more importantly, with its overly developed power train that made the everyday drive oh so much fun.

Base price: $43,645

Destination charge: $995

Price as driven: $44,640

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