Turbocharged R gets pulse racing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 January, 2011, 12:00am

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is fast, but the new Golf R is even faster. Launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show as a replacement for the previous top Golf, the 250ps R32, the R is built by Volkswagen R GmbH, a marque subsidiary formed last March to make performance-enhanced, customised variations of its Golf, Scirocco, Tiguan and Passat CC products.

The black-grilled R could at first be mistaken for a two-litre TSI, 210ps GTI with a rear spoiler, black-alloy, 19-inch wheels and two chrome tailpipes. The glint of the chrome 'R' on the test car's grille, rear, sills and leather sports seats highlight a rare drive in the mill of Wan Chai Road, however. Available via Volkswagen Hong Kong as a two-door (HK$413,800) or a four-door (HK$421,800), the R has a turbocharged 2.0-litre TSI engine that produces 270ps for sprints to 100km/h in 5.5 seconds (1.4 seconds faster than the GTI) and a top speed of 250km/h. The R also consumes 8.5 litres per 100km, or 21 per cent less than the R32, while the GTI sips 7.4 litres/100km.

The test car's interior is, as expected, sporty with an ergonomic black dashboard, tight grey bucket seats, brushed stainless-steel pedals, new gear knob and clear, blue-needled instrumentation. The R can frighten a newcomer in congested Causeway Bay, for the engine can race at the slightest touch of the accelerator and the brakes are brutally sharp. So wear thin-soled shoes, be gentle with the pedals and stick to automatic mode in dense traffic. The paddle shifts are easier in Repulse Bay, but police patrolmen restrain the R's sprints along Shek O Road, Tai Tam Road and again in Shau Kei Wan. The test car reveals a hint of its speed outside Hong Kong Golf Club, the new 4Motion four-wheel drive feels solid on bends and there's an engaging rasp of low-gear exhaust in North Point before another police bike appears in the wing mirror. The steering lightens with speed and the ride quality is excellent, even though it has been lowered by 25mm, and with new suspension and a retuned Adaptive Chassis Control to match.

There are 'Normal', 'Sport' or 'Comfort' modes, but the 'Sport' mode might soon seem a boast beyond airport runs in Hong Kong. Even so, the R's a well-engineered, potentially exhilarating commute with a fine stereo system and a boot that folds from 275 to 1,230 litres. A well-tuned Subaru WRX STI might be quicker, but the R's fine finish and performance could make you look good and save you money.