The Volkswagen Golf R has always been the no-brainer when it comes to maximum performance in a versatile package that anyone (including your mother) can enjoy driving.
Absolutely nothing has changed in that regard, except for the fact you can now get a proper limited-edition model with a cool paint job and a few extra goodies for a bit more coin.
If you get in quick you might be able to snag one of only a handful of the custom-painted versions of the Volkswagen Golf R dubbed Final Edition before the last of the Mk 7.5 Golf R models roll off the assembly line and it’s replaced by a new-generation Golf in 2021.
Volkswagen is building just 450 of these Final Edition cars, with just 150 to be made available in three factory hand-painted colours including Victory Blue, Viper Green Metallic, and Violet Touch Pearlescent.
In the metal, these unique paint jobs are properly striking. The prize for most vivid goes to the Violet Touch Pearlescent shade – a deep, dark purple that pops the moment you lay eyes on it.
These special shades are officially known as Volkswagen Colour Concept custom orders, which require the cars to be removed from the Wolfsburg assembly line during production to be hand-painted in a specialised factory shop and returned to the line for its finishing touches.
If you’re wondering about the cost of this genuinely unique option, it’s just $300. For those that miss the special finishes, the bulk of Golf R Final Editions will come in three familiar Golf R colours: Pure White, Lapiz Blue Metallic, and Deep Black Pearl Effect.
Volkswagen claim the Golf R is the most successful compact performance car in Australia, and has robust numbers to back it up.
Of the 14,335 Golf hatches and wagons sold in 2019, Golf R variants made up 2035 (14 per cent), of which 1702 were hatchbacks.
Volkswagen has priced its Golf R Final Edition from $57,990 before on-road costs, which amounts to a $2500 premium over the standard-issue Golf R which remains on sale from $55,490 before on-roads.
If you’re lucky enough to snag one of the three custom colours, you’ll need to hand over a negligible $300 on top.
The only other option for the Final Edition is a panoramic glass sunroof ($1900) which might be worth looking at for resale alone.
It definitely looks the part, especially in this Viper Green paint – though truth be told I was gutted we didn’t end up with the Violet Touch car. It’s absolutely stunning and unlike any purple you’ve ever seen.
The ride height is 20mm lower than a standard Golf and that alone sets it off, visually. From any angle the Golf R looks like it means business, and the gloss-black highlights on our tester are a great contrast.
While the Golf R has always attracted a hefty premium over its less powerful GTI sibling, it’s always offered an extensive list of luxury features to complement its performance upgrades and all-wheel drive. The offering improves again with the Final Edition.
Essentially, your $2500 premium nets you the first-rate Dynaudio Excite 400W eight-speaker sound system and gloss black door mirrors.
It also swaps out the standard 19-inch Spielberg alloy wheels for tastier 19-inch Black Pretoria ones – as seen on last year’s R Special Edition – and replaces the standard Vienna leather upholstery with a more unique Carbon Nappa trim.
Aside from that the standard equipment inventory is extensive. The headlights are LED units, complete with LED daytime running light signatures and self-levelling.
The 9.2-inch touch-screen infotainment display and 12.3-inch digital instrument display are exceptional in this segment for their high-definition clarity and colour, while the sports seats with extra bolstering are some of the best in the business. It should be noted, only the driver’s seat is electrically adjustable.
Moreover, there’s also a robustness about everything – it all feels tightly screwed together and the technology play is both seamless and perfectly functional even for first-time users.
Other useful features include adaptive cruise control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, LED ambient lighting, heated front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, auto headlights and wipers, and keyless entry and start.
In a word, yes. The standard Volkswagen Golf scored five-star ANCAP rating when it was last tested in 2013 with an overall score of 35.92 out of a possible 37.
That rating still applies to those Golf Mark 7.5 models built from February 2017 onwards, but only those with front-wheel drive, meaning the Golf R and Alltrack are essentially unrated.
Safety equipment in the Golf R is substantial with dual front and side airbags, front and rear curtain airbags, and a driver’s knee airbag.
Autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a distance warning display, driver fatigue detection system, and lane assist with adaptive lane guidance are standard.
Additional systems include front and rear parking sensors, and a passenger mirror that dips when reverse is selected to save your rims.
It’s pretty much the standard Golf R cockpit, but with exclusive Carbon Nappa leather-appointed trim – which is to say the bolsters (seat and seat back) and door cards are upholstered in carbon-fibre-weave-look soft leather for what is a pretty cool effect.
There’s never really been cause for any complaints in regards to the Golf R fit-out. There’s an almost-premium look and feel throughout the cabin, with plenty of soft touch materials and real metal accents to make it pop almost as loud as some of the fully-fledged luxury marques.
The highlights, though, are the heavily-bolstered sports seats, high-definition screens and Golf R’s mandatory leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel which not only looks the part but feels sensational to the touch.
Boot space wise, the Golf R falls short of every other Golf in the range by only offering 343 litres (down from 380 litres) due to its 4Motion all-wheel drive system and the loss of the variable boot floor.
Rear seat leg- and headroom is also more than acceptable for those of average height (175cm) like this tester.
Unfortunately there are no changes here, with the Volkswagen Golf R Final Edition using the same trusty 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine producing 213kW of power at 5400-6500rpm and a healthy 380Nm of torque at 1850-5300rpm.
It would have been nice to see a bit more of both for this swansong, but it’s perfectly fine all the same. Whenever you have cause to give it a boot this engine surprises with how hard it pulls.
Lay it on thick and it will scoot from 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds. To give that number some perspective, the range-topping Renault Megane RS Trophy-R needs 5.4 seconds, and it’s priced from a whopping $74,990 before on-roads.
Fire it up and the Golf R lets you know it’s a little bit special with a rorty exhaust note before settling into a relatively high-tempo idle with some bass. It won’t wake the neighbours, but we like it all the same.
The system you’ll want to play with most is Golf R’s Adaptive Chassis Control, effectively offering three suspension modes: Comfort, Normal and Race, each of which is accessed through the central touchscreen.
It surprised me how often I found myself changing the suspension settings on my way to Luddenham race track from home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
I’ve always rated the ride-handling balance that Volkswagen’s suspension wizards inject into performance Golf models.
If anything it skews towards ride compliance over corner-carving ability, solid as that is. For a genuine daily driver with space enough to lug a small family around, that’s got to be a good thing.
Even in Comfort, ride compliance is noticeably firmer than your garden variety Golf, but it still manages to absorb bumps and broken road better than most of its rivals.
Switching to Normal doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of change (it’s perhaps a tad firmer), where Race stiffens the dampers to their most aggressive setting to reduce body roll almost completely, even on a tight circuit such as Luddenham.
Interestingly, there’s a couple of large-ish bumps on the back part of the track which are taken flat. The Volkswagen Golf R was beautifully behaved over these.
Race also sharpens throttle response, adds more weight to the steering, and quickens the shift pattern in the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. You can almost get away with Race mode left in auto on track, but in the really tight stuff (that’s pretty much the whole circuit) it seemed to work more efficiently using the paddle shifters.
There’s real pleasure gained from pulling the paddles up and down the ratios, given the DSG’s quick response. It’s just another part of what makes Golf R so user friendly, along with the fact all the major controls are linear, with progressive pedals to match.
There’s a lot of grip thanks to its fifth-generation Haldex four-wheel drive system, with up to 50 per cent of power able to be sent to the rear axle when required. Mind, there was a fair amount of tyre squeal after eight laps – the Golf R uses relatively narrow 235/35 19 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres all round.
After the track session I took some time out to examine the brakes. They weren’t smoking, but you could smell the heat after around 20 laps.
Braking performance was surprisingly strong from relatively small rotors (340mm front, 310mm rear). Honestly, I was expected to see larger rotors.
It’s just so easy to drive quickly even if it’s not quite as exhilarating as some of its more focused competitors.
If you can put up with the start/stop system (it’s very quick) and abide by the letter of the law there’s no reason why you won’t achieve close to 9.0L/100km fuel consumption. Push on and you’re likely to see much higher numbers – closer to 20L/100km – but that’s only after a decent spell on track.
The fuel tank holds 55 litres and Volkswagen recommends 98 RON or 95 RON with reduced power for the Golf R.
In addition to Volkswagen’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, the company offers five years of capped-price servicing.
Those services are at 12-month/15,000km intervals, with the first five costing $425, $561, $647, $807 and $359 respectively.
If you add up the extra kit you get in the Volkswagen Golf R Final Edition it makes good sense, especially if you stump up for the custom paint – which simply must be Violet Touch. If it had nothing else I’d buy it for this colour alone.
You’re also getting a genuine limited-edition model identified by the badge on the tailgate. It’s a style play, but it’s also a good way to farewell one of our favourite all-rounders.