The result says VW is more agility and less understeer. Handling neutrality is also assisted by tweaks to chassis geometry that include more negative camber at the front end, stiffer springs and more anti-roll stiffness.
The electronics behind all this are newly joined-up under the watchful eye of the Golf 8’s Vehicle Dynamics Manager. In the R, the system integrates the all-wheel-drive with the adaptive chassis, electronic differential lock and steering for the first time, adjusting not just the damping forces but also torque distribution and vectoring on a corner-by-corner basis. VW says action to correct understeer or oversteer is instant, tuned to whichever of the different (Comfort, Sport, Race) drive profiles is selected – so whether you are putting in a hot lap at the Nordschleife or just going to the shops.
The seven-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox is familiar, as is the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, here in what VW calls evo4 form. Power of 320PS may be only 20PS up on its predecessor but it’s 75PS more than the next fastest Golf GTI. Torque is also 20Nm up, now peaking at 420Nm between 2,100 and 5,350rpm. The front-drive (and lighter) GTI does 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds so the new R maintains a healthy performance margin over its junior counterpart.
The discrete R badging and blue theme count for a lot among those who know, but in most ways this is very much a Golf in its appearance. There’s no wild body kit and huge spoiler here. What the R does give you is body lowered by 20mm, a sportier looking front bumper and air inlets, a new splitter and subtle aero wings, and all the black trim parts finished in high gloss. There’s black high gloss too for the new diffuser built into the rear bumper. There are some tasty wheels (18-inch Jerez are standard) and blue painted brake calipers. Available body colours are blue, black or white.