Golf 8 R revealed with 235 kW, optional drift mode

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The R derivative of Volkswagen’s Golf 8 range has finally been revealed. The newcomer – officially the fastest, most powerful series-production Golf to date – is powered by a 235 kW/420 Nm “Evo 4” 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbopetrol and is said to sprint from 0 to 100 kph in 4.7 sec courtesy of its revised Haldex-type all-wheel-drive system.

Having seen numerous spy photographs (and videos) of, and published several speculative pre-launch articles about, the Golf 8 R during the past 12 months, we had a good idea of what the newcomer would look like, the powertrain it would have, as well as its performance potential...

While its 235-kW peak power output is about 10 kW short of the mark that some commentators expected, the latest iteration of the EA888 unit still produces peak torque of 420 Nm from 2 100 rpm all the way through to 5 350 rpm, which makes it slightly more potent (by 7 kW and 20 Nm) than the Golf 7.5 version that is currently offered in South Africa. Its 0-100 kph time is about the same (4.7 sec versus 4.6 sec).

When the previous-generation Golf R arrived on the scene, it had fewer rivals than its successor (which will be offered with a 7-speed dual-clutch auto transmission outside North America, where it will also be available with a 6-speed manual ‘box). Still, Volkswagen’s newcomer stacks up well with its still-fresh M135i xDrive and A35 4Matic rivals in terms of outputs. It eclipses the Mercedes-AMG’s 225 kW/400 Nm and Subaru WRX STI’s 221 kW/407 Nm, but it’s slightly less torquey than the BMW (225 kW/450 Nm).

However, the performance figures only tell a part of the story, because the Golf 8 R is claimed to beat its predecessor’s lap time of the Nürburgring Nordschleife by 17 seconds (to be fair, it is a rather long circuit) by virtue of a number of technical upgrades that Volkswagen says “opens up a whole new level of driving dynamics away from public roads and makes the (driving) experience even more fun”.

Apart from Vehicle Dynamics Manager system, which controls the XDS electronically-controlled front locking diff and adaptive dampers, the Golf 8 R’s all-wheel-drive system features the upgraded torque-vectoring system (as fitted to the Tiguan R), which distributes drive variably between the rear wheels, as opposed to than just between the fore and aft axle. Using a pair of electronically operated multi-disc clutches, the system is said to balance output across the axle from 0-100% within milliseconds.

Volkswagen has also increased the front-axle camber (by 1.3 degrees), raised the stabiliser and spring rates (by 10%) and tuned the steering software to exact more direct turn-in. While the front aluminium subframe has been lightened by 3 kg, a 1.2-kg saving of unsprung mass has been achieved with the Golf 8 R’s braking system, which features larger front discs (360 mm units, clamped by two-piston aluminium callipers) and an uprated master cylinder for improved braking feel and response.

Because “stock” will never be sufficient for some buyers, the Wolfsburg-based brand has made an optional R Performance package available, which ups the Golf 8 R’s electronically-limited top speed from 250 kph to 270 kph, adds a more elaborate rear spoiler and swops the standard 18-inch wheels and tyres for 19-inch sports wheels (shod with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber) as standard.

The package also introduces a pair of new drive modes (over and above the standard Comfort, Eco, Sport, Individual and Race): Special, which softens the adaptive damper settings to suit the specific track characteristics of the Nürburgring Nordschleife and Drift mode, which alters the dynamic stability control settings and directs more torque to the rear axle to enable “controlled drifts”.

As before, an Akrapovic titanium performance exhaust system is available, which weighs 7 kg less than the standard system and includes valve control so that a driver can adjust the exhaust volume.

From an aesthetic point of view, the Golf 8 R rides 20 mm lower than its standard siblings, but in time-honoured Golf R tradition, its exterior execution is purposeful, rather than in-your-face or “shouty”. Up front, the sportier bumper has unique air intakes and gloss black accents, while the model-specific grille is adorned with a blue crossbar that illuminates as soon as the Volkswagen’s engine is started.

From the side, the newcomer is distinguished by flared side skirts and matte-chrome mirror caps, while a beefy bumper with a gloss-black diffuser and a quad-tailpipe exhaust system adorn the rear.

The Golf 8 R’s cabin features Nappa leather sport seats (with blue accents and R logos on the backrests), carbon-fibre-look inserts, stainless steel-finished pedals and a shift-paddle-equipped sports steering wheel with a dedicated R button. Other standard features include a digital instrument cluster and a 10-inch infotainment system, both with R-specific displays. A new R-view, for example, displays a horizontally oriented rev counter in the pinnacle and displays gearchange recommendations (when the Volkswagen is driven in manual mode).

So, when can we expect the newcomer to arrive in the South African market? It will go on sale in Europe shortly, but seeing as the Golf 8 GTI will only arrive in Mzansi in the first quarter of 2021, we expect the R version to arrive during the latter stages of 2021 at the earliest, or early in 2022.

Buy a Volkswagen Golf R on Cars.co.za

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