Ssh….this is the fastest production Golf ever but they are almost keeping it a secret. A couple of wee ‘R’ badges and fat twin exhaust tailpipes are the first clues. The more sharp-eyed may notice that it sits a bit lower and those big wheels with their fat tyres are another giveaway.
Once you are on the road, the R-factor cannot be denied. You can streak from rest to 62mph in under six seconds and on to an electronically limited 155mph should you be on an unrestricted German autobahn. The engine hums like a hornet up to 6,000rpm through each of the six gears.
Unlike the previous Golf R32 which used a heavier V6 engine, the new car gets its vroom from a two-litre turbo-charged unit. This is so much more efficient that it manages not just to be quicker but also more economical and cleaner. Extracting 270PS from this capacity is quite an achievement.
Less weight has another advantage – it transforms the handling from nose heavy to a good balanced poise. Add to this an improved all-wheel drive system, and the Golf R becomes a tenacious road holder in the wet and dry. Sharper steering and an electronic stabilisation programme with settings for track use complete a package for the most demanding driver.
Despite its potency, the R is still great to drive on an everyday basis. The engine is remarkably flexible and picks up strongly from low speeds. There is loads of torque, so much that the twin-clutch automatic version uses just six gears instead of the normal seven. Compared to the manual gearbox, it is actually a shade quicker and more economical.
By downsizing its engine but not its performance, VW has made its flying Golf more pc. Combined fuel consumption leaps from 26 to 33mpg whilst emissions drop from 257 to 199g/km. Insurance remains on the high side of average in Group 36 on the new 1-50 group ratings.
While the Golf R is a performance car, it has all the sophisticated technical and safety gear including a knee air bag for the driver that you find on the rest of the Mark V1 Golf range. Extras include parking assistance systems, a rear-view camera hidden in the VW badge and an advanced DVD navigation and sound system with a hard drive on which you can store your favourite tracks.
Priced from £30,345, the Golf R is aimed at the affluent and most demanding enthusiasts. VW expects to sell just a few hundred in the UK each year. Curiously, most of them will be five-door and half automatic. Buyers of the ultimate Golf still prefer their practicality. This is an everyday supercar.
ENGINE – 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit producing 270PS
PERFORMANCE – 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds, top speed 155mph (limited)
ECONOMY – 33mpg on Combined Cycle
EMISSIONS – 199g/km
INSURANCE – Group 36
PRICE – from £30,345