Vijay Pattni19 February 2013

First drive: the Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet

With 260bhp, it’s the most powerful VW Golf convertible… in the world. But at what cost?

Woah, that looks pretty sweet.

Doesn't it just? It's the new Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet, and it's only the most powerful convertible Golf...in the world.

Poweeerrr!

Indeed. When we stopped making understeer gestures with our hands, we learned it gets the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine as the last Golf R hatchback (codenamed EA113, for those who enjoy Internet forums). In this sunshine receptacle guise, it produces some 260bhp and 258lb ft of torque, fitted with a six-speed DSG gearbox as standard.

More pics of the Golf R Cabriolet

Poweeerrr - wait, understeer gestures?

Yes. The Golf R Cabriolet, sitting on the old MkVI platform, needs extra strengthening in the chassis to stop it falling apart when you drive over a bump. This means there's less space at the back to shove in the extra driveshaft of VW's four-wheel-drive system. So despite the quite considerable 260bhp output, the Golf R Cab is front-wheel-drive only, and the extra weight means it's seven tenths slower to 62mph than the R hatch; 0-62mph takes 6.4 seconds (vs 5.7s for the hatch), while top speed remains pegged at 155mph.

Oh. That's not what I was expecting.

It's still hugely quick, though. Remember, despite the 1,614kg kerbweight, 260bhp is plenty powerful enough for you to understand how clever Volkswagen's engineers are at keeping your talentless behind out of a hedge. It's lower, firmer and tauter than a standard Golf Cab, and thus is a very satisfying car to throw around. It turns in sharply, grips well, understeers gently when you're being a tool, and rides quite nicely when you're posing.

But?

The steering could use much more feel for a halo model, and despite a solid chassis, the front wheels scrabble around for grip more so than, obviously, the four-wheel-drive model. Stick it in Sport mode and the steering and chassis both tighten up satisfyingly, meaning UK buyers might need to book in a session with a massage therapist. At least it's plenty comfortable in, erm, the Comfort setting.

More pics of the Golf R Cabriolet

But it looks nice, and that's surely half the point?

Yes. Sitting on the standard 19-inch ‘Talladega' alloy wheels, and featuring that bespoke front bumper, gloss black grille, LED lights, sill extensions, gloss black rear diffuser and chrome-tipped exhausts, it's a classy, cool thing to behold. The inside is smashing too: a considerable number of cows (and maybe horses) have gone into layering nearly everything inside, together with brushed aluminium pedals, a DAB radio with multi-device interface and of course, that wonderfully insulating hood. Top stuff.

Sold!

Err, perhaps not. Here's where it gets a bit mind-boggling. Because the Golf GTI cabriolet - a fine car, as we've attested to here - already costs over £30k. This car, with a bit more power and a bit more acceleration costs a whopping £38,770. That's right: thirty eight thousand, seven hundred and seventy pounds.

Oh. My. God.

Precisely. For that money, you can get yourself into a BMW 330i convertible (or indeed, a BMW Z4 sDrive 35i), or even a Mercedes E-Class Cabrio. Or, you can drive away in a brand new, 2.7-litre Porsche Boxster.

I'm so confused: it's the most powerful Golf Cab. I must own one!

It's a lovely car, this Golf R Cab. Sure, you innately accept chassis compromises when choosing a fast cabrio, but when you're priced up against arguably the finest driver's convertible on planet earth (that's the Boxster), it doesn't make any sense. It's a rare groove car, this, with only 80 to 100 expected to sell in the UK, so exclusivity might be a big enough draw for some of you. Tell us, Internet, would you pay nearly £39k for a very fast, very well built Golf convertible?

More pics of the Golf R Cabriolet

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