Plenty of cars have a reputation for being great to tear around in and, in recent years, the list has been expanding. It’s fair to say, though, that Volkswagen’s Golf would be high up on most motoring enthusiasts’ roster of spicy rides, especially as it is arguably the car that defines the hot-hatch category like no other.
The most famous of the breed is the GTI, but (whisper it), the GTI has a sibling rival. Said competitor goes by the name of the Golf R, and Volkswagen has unleashed the latest version.
Perhaps it's understood in these days of the continual improvements car manufacturers make to their products, but we will still say it: the new R is more powerful and agile than ever before.
Just to get those performance figures out there first — the 2022 R generates 320 horsepower from its two-litre TSI engine, which is enough to get you to 100 kilometres per hour from a standing start in 4.8 seconds.
Volkswagen’s engineers have developed a new all-wheel drive system with “torque vectoring on the rear axle”.
If that sounds too technical, this is a series of improvements to ensure the power is distributed in the most effective way. Basically, you can go around corners a lot faster, which is always good news.
And it is noticeable. Any Golf is nifty in and out of the bends, but the 2022 R makes all that turning a particular joy, especially when you floor it when the straight comes into view and the extra power becomes more than apparent.
The car is close to the ground, so the sensation of speed when you’re gunning it is significant. As you’d expect, the amount of room inside is not significant, but the R’s seats cuddle you nicely as you go around the corners with wild abandon.
The shape of the Golf hasn’t changed radically in recent years, so the R is recognisable as a member of VW’s famous family. However, it has a few design cues that mark it out (not least its own insignia, which finds its way into a number of places both inside and out).
The 2022 R has a motorsport-inspired front spoiler, with exaggerated air-intake grilles, and two pairs of chrome exhaust pipes. The brake discs have a larger diameter, and the blue callipers are hard to miss.
You have three colour options — white, black, or blue. However, in the way of car manufacturers, VW describes these as Pure White, Deep Black Pearl-Effect, and Lapiz Blue Metallic.
The stylings are all very impressive, too, with two-tone flashes in black and blue throughout the cabin and a selection of ambient colours. The kit includes a 10-inch touchscreen with satnav that can be voice-controlled, all fitted with VW’s Discover Media package. There are plenty of safety features, including front and rear parking sensors, cameras and lane-change assist.
An optional Performance Package is available, and comes with 19-inch Estoril-style alloy wheels, steering improvements and a drift mode.
We’ve talked a lot here about the excitement of the new R, but, despite the fact it is most assuredly a pocket rocket, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s little more than a track-day car.
These vehicles sell because they work in a variety of environments. You wouldn’t be taking an R for a tear through the kind of terrain your average 4x4 might find challenging, but a jaunt around a racetrack? Absolutely. Picking up your weekly shopping? Without doubt. Looking good while you do both? Almost certainly.