Hot Golfs tee off: Golf GTI vs Golf R

So what am I looking at here?

This is the new Golf R. Based on the 7th generation VW Golf, it’s the second iteration of Golf R – though a similar concept of a superhot Golf existed back on the 4th and 5th generation chassis with the R32.

It’s easy to recognise the new hot Golf over the already-simmering GTI, simply through larger holes in the front end and the quad tailpipes. The GTI’s characteristic red accents are done away with too, almost making the R more subtle.

What else is new?

There’s a mass of differences that almost make the Golf R a completely different car while still being inescapably a Golf – so we’re going to pit them head to head to see which you should buy…

Engines

Both Golfs are powered by a 2.0 4 cylinder turbocharged engine – and in fact it’s actually the very same engine, albeit with some significant internal differences. Both can be attached to the same gearbox options – a 6 speed manual or a 6 speed DSG dual-clutch affair – which drives the front wheels of the GTI and all four wheels of the R through a 4MOTION-branded Haldex 4WD system.

Golf R – 1; Golf GTI – 1

Power

This is where those internal differences (and a new turbocharger) come into play. In the GTI the engine produces a pretty frantic 227 hp (with the performance pack option) and 258 lb-ft, but the reworked version in the R makes a truly lofty 296 hp and 280 lb-ft – the most powerful production spec Golf ever made.

Golf R – 2; Golf GTI – 1



Weight

The only significant difference between the two cars in terms of weight is that Haldex 4WD system of the R – and that does add a chunk. Tipping the scales at 1,495 kg in DSG form, the R may be 46 kg lighter than its predecessor, but it’s still 93 kg heavier than the comparable GTI – the equivalent weight gain of an average passenger and their labrador.

Golf R – 2; Golf GTI – 2

Performance

The extra power and that extra grip means the Golf R doesn’t suffer the weight penalty too badly, with the DSG variant leaping off the line to 60mph in 4.9 s – a full second and a half ahead of the already-pretty-speedy GTI. Both cars are limited to 155mph, but while the GTI would run out of ideas around that without a limiter, the R’s extra power means it could push through over 160mph.

Golf R – 3; Golf GTI – 2



Fuel Economy

30% more power from the same engine doesn’t come without a penalty. The R’s best of 40.9 mpg combined (159 g/km) is by no means bad – and nearly a 20% improvement over its predecessor – but the GTI is around 10% better with the DSG at 44.1 mpg and better still with the manual gearbox at 47.1 mpg.

This puts the R in VED Band G, two bands higher and 50 more a year than the GTI.

Golf R – 3; Golf GTI – 3

Price

Golf GTI ownership starts at a not unreasonable 26,125 and, as you might expect, the R is not so inexpensive. 29,900 isn’t the greatest dent in the pocket considering the performance available – though the quickest DSG-equipped 3 door is another 1,400 on top of that.

Golf R – 3; Golf GTI – 4

The order books are already open for the Golf R with deliveries starting in March 2014, but based on our quick game of Golf Trumps, the GTI is still the car to have if you don’t mind foregoing that blistering 0-60mph pace. Just don’t get involved in any traffic light grands prix if you see someone who took the extra power and 4WD of the R instead…

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