It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of a ‘Fast Volkswagen” was something of an oxymoron. Sure, some Volkswagens could be made fast, but if we’re being serious, there weren’t many Mustang or Corvette owners in the mid 1980’s that were terribly afraid of a Scirocco. But once VW got beyond the Jetta and Rabbit, they did manage to bring about a respectably quick car in the form of the R32 for the 2003 model year. But again, in an era when Camaro’s and TransAm’s were running to 60 mph in the low five-second range, the VW could not manage to break out of the six second realm. Still, it was progress and respectable progress at that. Fast forward nearly two decades and the folks at Volks have brought us a bonafide butt-kicker in the form of the 2022 Golf R.
Getting right down to brass tacks, the Golf R is a legit pocket rocket. Five doors, all-wheel drive, and even with that somewhat heavier drivetrain (compared to traditional front- or rear-wheel drive competitors), the GR clocks in at just 3,100 pounds. That relatively svelte curb weight combines with a Mighty Mouse motor in the form of a 2.0-liter turbocharged DOHC inline-4 that produces a seriously impressive 315-horsepower and equally impressive 310 lb-ft of torque. That power is then routed through your choice of either a slick-shifting 6-speed manual or lightning quick 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission on its way to the aforementioned all-wheel drive. Factor in some old-school power-to-weight ratio math and we get a car that doesn’t mess around with any silly wheel spin and rockets to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds.
Of course the Golf R isn’t just a straight line runner. The 4Motion all-wheel drive is something of a magician in technological terms. The electromechanical rear axle is capable of torque-vectoring, which using some nifty smoke and mirrors is able to send up to 100 percent of that torque to the outside rear wheel. Takeoff torque can be split a full 50/50, which allows the Golf R to get up and go down the interstate, or around the racetrack. Switch the drive mode into Race, or take it a step further and call up Drift mode, and you’re ready for just about anything the road ahead throws at you. In fact, that exceptional setup should be more than enough to reach or possibly even eclipse the 1.0 g around the skidpad. Scrubbing off that speed shouldn’t be a problem either thanks to cross-drilled 14.2-inch front and 13.2-inch rear rotors that are capped off with two-piston calipers. While no official braking numbers have been released yet, we estimate that stopping from 70-0 mph should take about 150 feet.
From inside, the Golf R holds you in place with supportive and comfier than expected seats. The infotainment screen keeps everything in order, though the touch-based HVAC and volume controls seem less useful than good ole’ buttons, but that’s the price of looking stylish we suppose. The overall vibe of the interior feels more Audi than VW, which is a good thing. Not only is a higher quality a good precedent to set for quality standards, but for a base price of about $41,000, the Golf R isn’t exactly a bargain.
But since VW got into the hot rod game nearly 20 years ago, it has steadily and consistently gotten better and better. And whereas years ago Pony Car drivers had nothing to fear, with the 2022 Golf R, those same drivers had better be on guard because, to borrow from another car company’s marketing from years back — this isn’t your father’s Volkswagen.
Related: 2018 VW Golf