2012 Volkswagen Golf R – Review and Test Drive

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One of my favorite drives in the New York metropolitan area is the Bear Mountain State Parkway and the Bear Mountain Bridge.  Built starting in the 1920s and originally proposed by Robert Moses, the parkway was meant originally to provide a scenic route from the Bronx and New York City to the Bear Mountain Bridge.

More so than anything else, this road reminds me of a typical mountain road in Austria, with plentiful switchbacks and elevation change to take full advantage of the heavily-bolstered sport seats.

I started in Bear Mountain Park, and quickly left, trading the view for curves.  Going around the actual mountain, the road is nice and twisty, but the Golf R’s suspension kept the car well composed. Steering was precise and there was decent feedback from the road. While I’ve noticed some amount of understeer in the standard Golf, there was virtually none here, likely thanks to the all-wheel drive system.

The R gets a differential, half-shafts, and a driveshaft in the back and that changes the front-axle load to 60% (the GTI has 62%). The impact of the Haldex four-wheel-drive clutch pack was evident as it sometimes seemed to send all available power to the rear axle.  The AWD is really what makes the difference here.


The Volkswagen Golf R is one of the many examples of Fahrvergnügen (a made-up word coined by Volkswagen for use in several past U.S. advertising campaigns, joining “Fahr” ,from fahren, “to drive,” with Vergnügen, “pleasure,” to convey “driving pleasure.”) currently in the VW line including the Beetle Turbo and the GTI.

There are many things I liked about the R, but it was its understated look that makes it, perhaps ironically, stand out in the crowd.  It’s not flashy, it doesn’t have any gaudy bling, and most people (and more importantly, police) won’t even realize it’s not just a Golf.  A true wolf in sheep’s clothing, it was a car that required little compromise, and one that I truly enjoyed driving.


2012 Volkswagen Golf R
Base price/price-as-tested $35,490/$36,520
Drivetrain Front engine, all-wheel drive
Engine 2.0-liter turbocharged I4/265 hp/243 pound-feet torque
Transmission  6-speed manual
Curb weight  (lbs) 3325
Wheelbase  (inches) 101.5
Length x width x height  (inches) 165.8 x 70.3 x 5.75
0-60 mph (seconds) 5.6
City/highway fuel economy (mpg) 19/27



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