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Auto review: 2022 VW Golf R, hot hatchback for connoisseurs, keeps the compact performance flag flying

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

They will be the first — and apparently only — versions of the all-new eighth-generation Golf Mark VIII sold here.

Both should go on sale in late 2021. Details on specifications, prices, features, EPA fuel economy ratings, etc., will be available closer to then.

The cars share the MQB architecture that underpinned the 2021 Golf. Dimensions won’t change much, though weight is expected to fall 100 pounds or so when engineering on the U.S.- spec model is complete.

My first drive had a razor focus on the Golf R’s new all-wheel-drive system, drivetrain and running gear. I also had a little time to appreciate what appear be excellent displays and controls.

It gets high marks across the board.

Driving impressions

 

Before we even get into the sophisticated AWD system, some credit to the Golf R’s aerodynamics. The new body, which includes a big rear spoiler, increases aerodynamic drag slightly, but adds plenty of aero downforce to the front and rear axles.

Downforce keeps the car from getting "light" as wind whips by above and below at high speed. The result is more stability and improved steering response because all four wheels are just a bit more securely planted on the road. New springs also contribute to the result.

The Golf R’s ride height is 0.8 inch lower than a standard Golf.

The R gets the most advanced 4Motion all-wheel-drive system VW’s ever offered in the United States. Many AWD systems use brakes to slow the inside wheel to help with cornering at speed. That works, but using the brakes to slow one wheel isn’t ideal in a high-performance car.

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