2015 Volkswagen Golf R

Starting MSRP: $36,595 - $39,090

Estimated MPG: 23 city / 30 hwy

2015 Volkswagen Golf R Review

After a two-year hiatus, the redesigned 2015 Golf R rejoins Volkswagen's model lineup. The new VW Golf R stands out as the most powerful version to date in the Golf's 40-year history.

By Randy Stern
Last Updated 05/03/2016

Volkswagen earned top awards of this year for its Golf family of vehicles, including North American Car of the Year and Motor Trend's Car of The Year. Beyond the 2015 Volkswagen GTI, Golf and the new plug-in electric model, the e-Golf, Volkswagen has reintroduced the Golf R.

Available only as a five-door hatchback, the Golf R is a limited production model that showcases Volkswagen's high performance credentials. For 2015, the Golf R comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. There is only one upgrade package available that includes navigation and an adaptive suspension system (Dynamic Chassis Control). The 2015 Golf R can seat up to five, as with all Golf hatchbacks.

Exterior

Exterior
9

Volkswagen did a great job with the design of the seventh-generation Golf. It is handsome and fresh, but still recognizable as a Golf. The Golf R distinguishes itself from the rest of the lineup with an aggressive front bumper skin with chrome accents, "R" badges all around, a bit more side skirting, a rear diffuser with four exhaust ports and a larger rear spoiler. Nineteen-inch alloy wheels finish up the Golf R's look.

Interior

Interior
9

This is the best interior in Golf history. It feels luxurious, thanks to high quality materials and construction. Switches are much better to the touch and are more logical than before. With piano black trim, the Golf R has a premium feel that most compacts aspire to.

Choosing the R adds some serious sport details. A flat-bottomed steering wheel with a thick leather rim compliments highly bolstered leather seating up front. The "R" is present in the steering wheel and the front seat cushions. 

There is also a reminder of the 4Motion all-wheel drive system on the console. The 2015 Golf R has some trim that looks like carbon fiber on the shift knob and door panels.

Seating is for five, but in a pinch. Four average adults would feel comfortable inside. There is a driveshaft tunnel running down the center of the cabin that will cut into the comfort of a fifth person in the rear seat. There is plenty of cargo room behind the rear seat with 22.8 cubic feet available. The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split-folding configuration for more cargo space. The hatchback opens high for better loading by tall people.

Performance

Performance
10

The Golf R's 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is simply amazing. This is Volkswagen's most power four-cylinder engine sold to date with 292 horsepower available. For 2015, the Golf R comes only with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. This combination is rated at 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

How the Golf R drives depends on which mode you put the Dynamic Chassis Control in. There are three drive modes – Comfort, Normal and Race. Comfort mode is not exactly soft, but it has some play in the steering and suspension that's noticeable through the curves. 

Normal mode sharpens up the steering, throttle and suspension settings to a "balanced" feel. Put it into Race and all settings are optimized for maximum performance. The ride becomes firmer, almost bouncy on rougher surfaces. Steering feel is heavy, the shifting is very quick and the cornering is flat.

Braking is very sharp and responsive, providing quick stops in both normal and panic situations. It helps to have large rotors and calipers to make this happen.

Technology

Technology
7

There were some improvements made to Volkswagen's infotainment system for the Golf family. The 2015 Golf R gets an updated touch screen with revised menus and a better navigation screen.

Audio options include HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio and a hard drive to store music files. There is a cable available to transfer files, but it was for the Apple iPhone 4/4S. The cord could be removed for a standard USB line to plug in, but not for transferring music onto the audio system.

Dynamic Chassis Control is accessed from the touch screen. A button next to the shift lever opens up the screen to select the drive mode you choose. There is an individual setting where you can customize the feel of the steering, engine, transmission and suspension.

Safety

Safety
8

As of this writing, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R has not been crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, the IIHS gave its Top Safety Pick award to the similar 2015 Volkswagen Golf and GTI.

The Golf R is equipped with six standard air bags, an anti-lock braking system and a rearview camera. Front and rear parking sensors are optional, but advanced safety equipment such as forward collision mitigation and lane departure warning are not available on this model.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
6

The base price for the Golf R is $36,595. Adding the Dynamic Chassis Control and navigation system will bump the price up to $39,090. The pricing is justified due to its limited production run.

Overall

Overall
8

Driving the Volkswagen Golf R is a rare treat that is rewarding. Enthusiasts will enjoy the extra power, the Dynamic Chassis Control and the grip from the all-wheel drive system. There is also room for others to join in the fun.

There are only a few competitors in the high-performance compact class. The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and the Subaru WRX STI come to mind. Though the Golf R does not come with a manual transmission at this time, it feels happier with its automatic and offers sharp reflexes when compared with larger competitors. If one is available at your local dealer, a 2015 Golf R would be one of the best purchases for an enthusiast to make.