Volkswagen unveiled the Mk8 Golf R today and it will make 315 hp 310 lb-ft of torque. Although that’s a modest upgrade from the European Performance model, the American model will make the full 315 hp this time, so there’s no more Atlantic power gap.
That means 27 more hp and 30 more lb-ft of torque for us, which is nice. But we’re burying the lede here because the real upgrades come in the form of chassis upgrades.
For test driver and chassis tester Benny Leuchter, the Mk8 Golf R is “the funnest Golf R which I’ve ever driven around the Nordschleife.” Shockingly, that’s because of the drift mode that the new Golf R comes with.
Well, not exactly because of the Drift Mode, but because of the same reason that the drift mode exists: a revised rear diff.
Up to 50% of the car’s torque can be funneled to the back wheels, says Volkswagen. That’s not particularly surprising, but what is surprising is that all of that torque can be delivered to one rear wheel.
That means honest-to-goodness torque vectoring. That means that the outside wheel can get more power, driving you into the corner rather than through and headlong into understeer.
“You can steer the car with the throttle,” says Leuchter. “You go a little bit too fast into a corner, which usually means understeer, and you can just throttle. If the darkness had not stopped me yesterday, I would still be out there driving.”
Operating the new rear axle (which is a multi-link unit that has new control arm mounts and wheel mounts for increased stability, and has new damper bearings as well as spring and stabilizers that have been increased by 10% for better performance over bumps) requires VW’s new Vehicle Dynamic Manager.
Karsten Schebsdat, head of driving dynamics, calls the vehicle dynamic manager the brain of the car. It takes in all of the information that the cars individual sensors (ABS, diff, steering angle, etc) analyses them, and then decides how to apply the various electronics throughout the car.
Instead of having traction control, the ABS, and the torque vectoring make decisions all on their own, the car can decide what the actual driving scenario is and then apply them intelligently. Or at least that’s the idea. And early signals from the GTI, which also makes use of the system are good. Reviewers in Europe say that the management system really does make the car fun to drive.
Up front, meanwhile, VW has shaved 6.6 lbs out of the front subframe by making it out of aluminum. They’ve also given the front wheels a little more negative camber, and the new tires have been developed to increase grip while reducing rolling resistance.
A choice of 7-speed DSG or 6-speed manual are available. 19-inch wheels come as standard, likely because of the 14.1-inch brakes with 2-piston calipers that will help you slow down.
Drivers will also get a choice of driving modes that VW has worked on to make it more different. That is, the comfort mode will be more comfortable, the sport will be sportier, and the special mode will be perfect for people visiting the Nurburgring because it has been designed specifically for that track. That might explain why it gets around the track in an impressive 7 minutes and 51.1 seconds. That’s roughly the same amount of time as a 2009 911 Carrera S, a 2009 SL65 AMG, or, as we mentioned above, about 20 seconds faster than the Mk7 Golf R. It’s about 4 seconds slower than the Mk7 Gti Clubsport S, mind you.
A special R button on the steering will behave a lot like Audi’s RS mode. The steering wheel for the R is special, though. The buttons are all haptic and sense how hard you press them. So a simple press puts the R into sport mode. If, however, you press down harder, it’ll send you into race mode, which turns everything up to 11.
That all amounts to a 0-60 split of 4.7 seconds (DSG) and a top speed of 155 mph.
Inside, meanwhile, you get a 10-inch infotainment screen and a configurable instrument panel with special sporty gauge layouts that can be changed based on your mood or driving mode.
Nappa leather seats coddle your butt, carbon-look design elements impress the eye, and blue design features are peppered throughout the car. Stainless steel pedal caps round out the look.
The Golf R will get here in late 2021 as a 2022 model.
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