Volkswagen’s Most Powerful Golf is a Riot!

You’re probably aware that America will only get two versions of the newest Mk8 VW Golf. First is the Euro-spec Golf GTI, complete with a standard 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 245 horsepower and 273 lb-ft. of torque. But if that’s not good enough, we’re also getting the 2022 VW Golf R, the most formidable iteration of the Golf across its entire lineage.

2022 VW Golf R: Feel The Power

Since we’re talking about the fastest and most powerful VW Golf in existence, let’s start with the engine. The original Golf R32, released in 2002, came with a potent naturally-aspirated 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine. It wasn’t until 2009 when the third-gen Golf R (based on the Mk6 Golf) came with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-banger. Even though the engine was smaller, it made more power than the old six-cylinder engine.

The 2022 VW Golf R has a high-output version of the Mk8 Golf’s EA888 turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The engine has a maximum output of 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft. of torque and has 27 more horses than the previous model. More importantly, the Golf R achieves peak torque from under 2,100 rpm to 5,350 rpm. VW claims the new fully-electronic coolant regulator unit shortens the warm-up phase of the motor to reduce friction, thereby saving fuel.

This new engine has variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust cams. It also has variable valve lift on the exhaust side, allowing VW to concoct the perfect blend of performance, fuel economy, and lesser emissions without shortchanging power output. The VW Golf R comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission (hooray!), but a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is optional.

2022 VW Golf R.
2022 VW Golf R. Photo: Volkswagen of America, Inc.

2022 VW Golf R: Interconnected Agility

Both manual and automatic models receive a standard 4Motion all-wheel drive (AWD) system with a new rear differential. The latter not only routes power between the front and rear axles, but it also provides torque vectoring between the left and right rear wheel. According to Volkswagen, the drivetrain can shift up to 100 percent of the engine’s torque to either side of the rear axle, which tames any understeer that may be present. Additionally, the system can apply individual braking to slow the inside wheel during cornering.

VW’s 4Motion system can also automatically detect oversteer or understeer and apply the necessary braking forces in real-time. The brains behind the operation is a new Vehicle Dynamics Manager that interconnects all the various drivetrain, suspension, and steering components, including the electronic front differential and DCC adaptive suspension according to the selected driving mode.

Combined with variable-ratio electric power steering, it seems VW pulled all the stops to make the Golf R a genuinely quick and fun-to-drive hatchback.

2022 VW Golf R.
Photo: Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Standard Nürburgring & Drift Modes

The 2022 VW Golf R has the usual Comfort, Sport, Race, and Individual driving modes. However, it also has a Nürburgring (Special) mode and Drift mode, for crying out loud! The former adjusts all the vehicle settings to conform with the Nürburgring Nordschleife’s dips, curves, and undulations. Essentially, you can take the VW Golf R to the Nürburgring, set the drive mode to – what else – Nürburgring or Special mode, and let ‘er rip.

Provided you know what you’re doing, the Vehicle Dynamics Manager will soften the suspension and sharpen the gearbox and steering to improve your lap times.

On the other hand, Drift mode allows you to perform smoky burnouts and giant donuts by overriding the stability control and AWD system. And if you’re feeling brave, the new Golf R will allow you to turn off the ESC stability control, which is either a good or bad thing depending on the driver.  

2022 VW Golf R.
Photo: Volkswagen of America, Inc.

2022 VW Golf R: Is It Fast?

Oh yes. The 2022 VW Golf R took me back to a former place when Mitsubishi Lancer Evos and Subaru WRX STIs dominated worldwide rally circuits. You see, the newest Golf R has a ton of similarities to those top dog rally machines. Like the Evo and STI, the Golf R has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, standard manual gearbox, and all-wheel drive. And with 315 horsepower and gobs of low to mid-range torque, the new Golf R can rush to 60 mph from a standstill in 4.7 seconds. The top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.

The Golf R is not supercar fast, but it’s a definite riot. And with larger 14.1-inch front brake disks with two-piston aluminum calipers, it stops on a dime, too. The 2022 Golf R benefits from new front and rear bumpers, 0.8-inch lower suspension, a Motorsport-inspired front splitter, a new rear spoiler, 19-inch wheels, and a new rear diffuser to look the part, as well.

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