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This is the new, more powerful VW Golf R

VW’s best hot hatch gets new gearbox, and more horses for Christmas

Just as had donned its Christmas jumper and settled into the festive season, Volkswagen reveals one more piece of four-wheeled news for 2016. This is the new version of one of TG’s very favourite hot hatchbacks. Meet the facelifted VW Golf R.

Volkswagen showed us the facelifted regular Golf – and boosted GTI – a little while ago, so the Golf R’s trick LED lights and redrawn bumpers aren’t a surprise. The new rear lights are sharper – a tad Audi, perhaps – but what you actually need to know is it’s got faster.

The 2.0-litre turbo engine’s up from 296bhp to an Audi S3-matching 306bhp. Well, having a flagship 4x4 Golf be outmuscled by a Seat Leon Cupra would never do, right? Meanwhile, VW’s ditched the ageing six-speed DSG transmission the old car used, and fitted a faster seven-speed dual-clutcher. Again, like the Audi S3. That ought to mean shorter gearing and more speed for the 52 per cent of Golf R buyers who opt out of the six-speed manual. And it does.

VW claims the new R launches to 62mph in 4.6 seconds – a whopping 0.3sec quicker than the old car. But don’t believe that. Top Gear ran a DSG-equipped Golf R as a much-loved long-term test car in 2015, and it regularly scored 4.5sec runs from 0-62mph. Could this new version really giant-kill the likes of the Mercedes-AMG A45 and Audi RS3 saloon? Surely not…

Meanwhile, we’re told there are new, bigger, sharper screens in the cabin, but VW’s chosen not to reveal pictures of the tech, instead giving us a gallery of the Golf R’s fresh bodywork in hatch form, and the obviously cooler estate. 

So, first impressions time – does this knock the drifty Focus RS off your Christmas list?

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