The new VW Golf R.
The new VW Golf R.

VW Golf GTI Performance and VW Golf R launched

THE hot hatch gods have blessed Australia in recent years.

Sales figures prove that those Down Under like their five-door hatchbacks with a hefty dose of power and manufacturers have answered.

Over the past year we've seen a barrage of new pint-size and small performance hatches reach the market.

But no one can argue that when it comes to this genre, Volkswagen's Golf GTI has long been the performance benchmark, as any car with a 165-kilowatt, turbocharged 2.0-litre engine should be.

This week, though, the good old GTI has come under serious attack - from its own family - with the national launch of two more hot Golfs that make the current GTI look, well, a little cooler.

The two cars in question are the new GTI Performance and "R" variants bringing more technology, more power, more safety features and more equipment for a sub-$60,000 price tag.

Comfort

During all experiences in the Mk7 Golf, we've loved the functional and everyday ease of use.

These athletic additions are no different; just for some cool sporting extras.

Bucket seats provide nice support laterally and at the base.

Twin cup holders in the console are handy, while each door can also house a bottle.

With generous front passengers who don't slide too far back there is reasonable space in the back for two adults. Three could be accommodated although it would be tight.

Nuts and bolts

Not surprisingly, the new star cars hail from Volkswagen HQ in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Both build on the already-established GTI with the Performance using almost all the same chassis, body and mechanical parts as the (now entry-level) GTI. The Performance's engine is tuned to deliver seven kilowatts more power and the same 350 Newton metres of torque but across a wider rev range for a $4000 premium over a DSG-equipped regular GTI.

It also gets bigger, thicker brake rotors with the front pair up 28mm to 340mm and the rear discs now 310mm from 300mm.

Like the GTI, it is a front-wheel drive car, and in a VW first uses an electronically-controlled, multi-plate clutch mechanical differential lock that improves driving response and reduces understeer massively, neutralising handling by pushing torque to the loaded outside front wheel during cornering.

It combines with a new variable ratio steering rack that reduces the steering rate and gives faster steering with less effort.

For its part the "R" uses the same third-generation 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged and fuel-injected engine which, for this car, has been tuned to deliver a massive 206 kilowatts of power and 380 Newton metres of torque; increases of 18 kilowatts and 50 Newton metres on the engine used in the old sixth-generation Golf R and 37 kilowatts more than the Performance variant.

The engine, coupled to either a six-speed manual or six-speed, dual-clutch, semi-automatic transmission can push the car from 0-100kmh in a claimed five seconds (with the optional DSG gearbox, 5.2 seconds with the six-speed manual).

On the road

Front-wheel drive is not an option for the "R", which gets Volkswagen's latest-generation 4Motion all-wheel-drive system which automatically distributes the torque load between the front and rear axles depending on load and necessity.

The combination makes the car almost bulletproof, and what might be challenging roads for GTI and GTI Performance are easy meat for the "R".

Like any true hatchback, though, it can toddle around town without fussing or fidgeting and driven on a light throttle can return a lick over 7.0 litres per 100 kilometres on the official average fuel number.

"Putting that in perspective," says Volkswagen's communications manager Karl Gehling, "that's enough to give it Audi R8 (supercar) performance with the fuel consumption of a regular small hatchback".

For its part the GTI Performance can thunder from standstill to 100kmh in a claimed 6.4 seconds (0.1 seconds faster than the regular GTI) and return average fuel consumption of 6.6 litres/100km.

What do you get?

The Performance Golf comes with sports leather-trimmed steering wheel, red ambience lighting and a 14.7cm colour multi-function touch-screen display, bi-xenon headlights, dark tinted LED tail lights, 19-inch "Santiago" alloys, sports seats featuring the newly designed "Clark" tartan, with the addition of race-style Alcantara trim on the head rest and side bolsters, seven airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, along with a system which monitors steering control and fatigue alerts.

Golf R has five-spoke "Cadiz" wheel design, R-specific seats, brushed aluminium pedals and "R" details throughout the cabin, different bumper, four exhaust tips, LED daytime running lights and a combination of fabric/Alcantara trim.

Funky factor

Naturally, both cars get plenty of appointments befitting cars of their stature and perhaps the only real annoyance is that, just like the regular GTI, neither car looks that much different from an ordinary Golf.

What matters most

What we liked: Continues to raise the performance bar, practical and fun.

What we'd like to see: This technology in the gorgeous Scirocco.

Warranty and servicing: Three years, unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is every 15,000km or annually. Capped priced servicing for six years or 90,000km, average price is $482. Additional costs include pollen filter $47 (every two years), brake fluid $127 (every two years), front diff lock oil in GTI Performance $169 (every three years), Haldex fluid in "R" $165 (every three years).

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance.

Details: Five-door performance hatchback with front-wheel drive.

Engine: 2.0-litre, in-line four-cylinder with intercooled turbocharger generating maximum power of 169kW @ 4700-6200rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 1500-4600rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed DSG automatic.

Consumption: 6.6 litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 153g/km.

Performance: 0-100km in 6.4 seconds.

Bottom line plus on-roads: Golf GTI Performance $48,490.

Model: Volkswagen Golf R.

Details: Five-door all-wheel drive performance hatchback.

Engine: 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder with intercooled turbocharger generating maximum power of 206kW @ 5100-6500rpm and peak torque of 380Nm @ 1800-5100rpm.

Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed DSG automatic.

Consumption: 7.1-7.3 litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 164-170g/km.

Performance: 0-100km in five seconds.

Bottom line plus on-roads: Golf R (m) $51,990, Golf R (a) $54,490.


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