2021 VW Golf R on sale now: price and specs revealed

Nick Lette van Oostvoorne
December 03, 2020

The new VW Golf R has been revealed as a 320hp hot hatch with advanced four-wheel drive and a new ‘Drift’ mode. Read on for full details. 

  • Upgraded looks
  • 2.0-litre turbocharged engine
  • 320hp and 420Nm
  • 0-60 in 4.7 seconds
  • Torque-vectoring AWD
  • New ‘Drift’ and ‘Special’ modes
  • On sale now
  • Costs from £39,270
Watch our VW Golf R video

The new VW Golf R is the fastest version of the Mk8 VW Golf. This new model is more powerful than the likes of the Audi S3 Sportback, the BMW M135i and the Mercedes-AMG A35, and is on sale now.

The new Golf R (top) follows the same subtle styling recipe as the old car (below).

New VW Golf R design

The Golf R has always been the subtle-looking hot hatch. It’s never had a crazy body kit like a Ford Focus RS or a massive wing like a Honda Civic Type R, so it was perfect if you preferred your hot hatch to fly under everyone’s radar. The trouble was, this meant it looked pretty similar to a normal VW Golf in sportier R-Line guise.

It’s the same story with this new model. OK, so it hugs the ground more than a regular Golf, because its suspension is 20mm lower, but the front bumper looks pretty similar to what you get on a new Golf R-Line. At least Volkswagen added some fang-like trims on the splitter to up the aggression a little, but they do make it look a little like it has an underbite…

The new car shares the outgoing model’s signature quad exhaust tips.

Things get much sportier at the back, though. For starters, there’s a much bigger spoiler than the standard car and you get 4 real exhaust pipes. So there’s none of that horrible fakery you get on a normal Golf.

New VW Golf R engine

Loads of car makers share their mechanical bits with other brands, and VW’s no different. As a result, the new Volkswagen Golf R is pretty much the same under the skin as the new Audi S3. But, there’s one important difference – the new Golf R is actually a smidge more powerful.

The new Volkswagen Golf R comes with the same 2.0-litre petrol engine as the S3, but it’s been tweaked to produce 320hp. That’s 20hp more than the old Golf R and 10hp more than the new Audi S3. The Golf R makes more torque, too. It produces 420Nm, which is 20Nm more than both the old Golf R and the new Audi S3.

As before, you can get the Golf R with an upgraded titanium Akrapovic exhaust.

New VW Golf R performance

The new Volkswagen Golf R is more powerful than the old model, but it isn’t actually any quicker. The new R does 0-60 in 4.7 seconds, which is the same as the old car, and just as fast as a Mercedes-AMG A35. It’s also 0.1 seconds faster than a BMW M135i and an Audi S3.

As standard, the new Golf R’s top speed is limited to 155mph, which should be more than enough for UK drivers. However, VW offers an upgraded R-Performance pack that bumps this limit up to 169mph. This pack also adds bigger 19-inch alloy wheels (instead of the standard 18-inch items) and a larger rear spoiler that – according to VW – actually produces some downforce.

It’s no good going fast in a straight line if you can’t stop, though, so Volkswagen’s fitted the new Golf R with much beefier brakes than the old model. At the front, it gets 357mm brake discs that are 17mm larger than in the old car. And, they’re 600g lighter, too. You also get blue-painted calipers as standard – because you can’t have boring silver brakes on your hot hatch, can you?

Blue stitching in the Golf R replaces the red you get in a Golf GTI. 

New VW Golf R interior and infotainment

The new VW Golf R doesn’t look as lairy inside as the latest Golf GTI. There aren’t any tartan seats and all the GTI’s red bits have been replaced by black and blue trims instead. You do get sports seats like the Golf GTI, but the ones in the new Golf R come with Nappa leather as standard and some fancy embossed ‘R’ logos.

New horizontal graphics for the digital driver’s display are Golf R exclusives. 

You get a new steering wheel, too, with a special ‘R’ button. This is just like the ‘N’ button you get in a Hyundai i30 N or the ‘M’ button you get in a BMW M3. When you press it, all the car’s settings instantly go into their sportiest mode. This is great because it means you don’t have to faff around with any menus in the infotainment system each time you fancy a quick blast down a country road.

The new Golf R gets the same infotainment tech as the standard Golf.

You also get the same dual-screen infotainment system as a high-spec regular Volkswagen Golf with smartphone mirroring and voice-control features as standard. But, Volkswagen’s added a bunch of special graphics exclusively for the new R model. You get a lap timer and a G meter (which you’ll probably never use) and a new horizontal rev counter with shift lights.

New VW Golf R four-wheel drive

Ever since the first Golf R (which was actually called the R32), each model has come with four-wheel drive as standard. But, this new model gets a torque-vectoring system that’s cleverer than ever.

Rather than just split the engine’s torque between the front and rear wheels, the new Golf R can send up to 100% of the back axel’s torque to each of the rear wheels independently.  This helps you make tighter turns because it sends all the power to the outside wheel to help push you round a corner.

This system is linked up with the Golf R’s electronic locking differential and stability program. So it can constantly adjust the car’s setup to maximise grip when you’re cornering.

The new Golf R is the first VW to feature a ‘Drift’ mode.

New VW Golf R drift mode

An all-new feature for the Golf R is VW’s new Drift mode. Available as part of the Performance Pack, this turns off the car’s stability control and sends as much power as it can to the rear wheels – much like in a Mercedes-AMG A45 S.

You also get the usual Comfort, Sport and Race driving modes, and a new ‘Special’ driving mode which has been programmed just for the Nurburgring race track. This doesn’t sound like it’ll be much use in the UK, but its combination of sporty engine and gearbox settings and a slightly softer suspension setup could be the perfect combo for our rubbish roads.

New VW Golf R price

The new VW Golf R is on sale now, priced from £39,270. That means it costs around £1,400 more than an Audi S3 Sportback. There’s also an optional £2,000 Performance Pack that adds a bigger rear spoiler, larger 19-inch alloy wheels, an increased top speed of 168mph, and the ‘Drift’ and ‘Special’ driving modes.

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