The problem with the Volkswagen Golf R isn't necessarily its standalone performance, nor its refrained styling. It's that it costs $10,000 more than the Golf GTI, but lacks the necessary pizazz to justify the additional cost. But perhaps that's about to change.
The 2014 Golf R revealed today sports an upgraded 2.0-liter turbocharged motor, boasting 296 hp (a 30 hp increase) and 280 lb.-ft. of torque (a 22 lb.-ft. increase). It's fitted to a new 4MOTION all-wheel drive system that promises improved traction, and comes with a choice of a six-speed manual or a dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission.
What this means is that 0-62 mph goes from 5.6 seconds to a rapid 4.9 (0-60 is likely around 4.7). That jump elevates the Golf R's performance, at least from a statistical standpoint, and proves that a sub-5 sprint remains possible for a modest family hatchback; not just for sports cars and crazy $660,000 Jukes. With the 2015 GTI expected to do the same dash in 6.6 seconds, might the price gap now reflect something tangible?
Aesthetically, following a similar path to the new GTI, the 2014 R appears modestly more aggressive and purposeful. It's still a car for the people, as it should be, but the revised taillights and quad exhausts, plus a more refined nose, adds character over the standard Golf. And the latest Golf is supposedly a marked improvement over the outgoing model, and the GTI is being touted as the return of the hot-hatch king. Expectations for the R are therefore high.
No word yet on pricing, but don't expect the gap between the GTI to shrink. For VW's sake, let's hope this fourth iteration of the Golf R elevates its sporting expectations to the level buyers of a roughly $35,000 hatchback expect. Set to make its public debut at the Frankfurt auto show next week, the Golf R will hit German showrooms later this year — and roll into the United States in the first quarter of 2015.