Volkswagen unveils new 320PS Golf R

04th November 2020
Bob Murray

Volkswagen has unveiled the new Golf R, sporting pinnacle of the all-new, all-digital Golf 8 line-up. It gets more power and more torque and more electronically-controlled ways of deploying them, including a new Nürburgring drive mode designed for maximum effect at the Nordschleife where the new car is said to be 17 seconds a lap quicker than the old.


Bragging rights do not extend to straight-line acceleration however, where the new R’s 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds is the same as its predecessor’s. At 320PS (235kW) the new car has 20PS more than the outgoing R (but, for those with longer memories, only 10PS more than the short-lived pre-exhaust filter R of 2017). Along with a torque gain of 20Nm (15lb ft), it’s all still enough for VW to bill it as the most powerful Golf ever made.

Opt for the cost-extra R-Performance pack and you get a derestricted top speed of 168mph, along with the additional ’Ring and Drift drive profiles, 19-inch wheels and larger rear spoiler. True R aficionados can also choose semi-slick tyres for circuit driving and a 7kg lighter titanium Akrapovič exhaust system, with flaps you can open to turn the sound up.

Alongside this sporting emphasis is a continued focus on the R as a consummate all-rounder, the core of the R’s appeal since the first model, badged Golf R32, appeared 18 years ago. This is still a roomy five-door hatch with fold-down back seats, a subtle demeanour and a Comfort mode, along with all-seasons four-wheel-drive and optional winter tyres – all attributes of what for many  is the archetype of the “all the car you ever need” school of thought.

With no great headline power increase it is the four-wheel-drive that promises to do most in advancing the R’s performance cause. This is the first R with a new 4Motion system that includes torque vectoring on the rear axle. It is able to distribute torque by up to 100 per cent to either left or right wheel, dependent upon traction.


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.


Inside you get one-piece sports seats, a new multifunction steering wheel with larger gearchange paddles and an R button for direct access to the drive modes. The button is blue, as is a sprinkling of other R badges and logos around the cabin.

The digital control and display system of Golf 8 has been reprogrammed for more R specific layout and graphics. Among the customisable options is one for a horizontal tachometer strip at the top edge of the display, with shift-up lights that come on when you take manual gearbox control – just what you need on the ‘Ring. The standard Digital Cockpit Pro includes  a lap timer.

The cult of the ultimate performance Golf lives on! What began as a six-cylinder front-wheel drive machine in 2002 continues to evolve in its quietly efficient way, unswerving in the face of more extrovert and powerful rivals. For many it’s surely still the ideal hot hatch recipe. The outgoing model cost from £36,180 and there shouldn’t be much of an increase when it goes on sale later this month.

  • volkswagen

  • Golf

  • vw-golf-r-333.jpg


    Volkswagen Golf R 333 is a limited edition that costs £65,802

  • volkswagen-golf-20-years-main.jpg


    VW Golf R “20 Years” is the fastest R ever

  • volkswagen-golf-review-main-goodwood-20082020.jpg


    Goodwood Test: 2021 Volkswagen Golf Review