The new VW Golf R has 316bhp, will drift* | Top Gear
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Hot Hatch

The new VW Golf R has 316bhp, will drift*

*Drift mode and special Nürburgring setting are optional. Would you spec them?

Published: 03 Nov 2020

Listen up, all of you who think the all-wheel drive VW Golf R is one of The Boring Hot Hatches. The new Mk8 Golf R would like a word. And that word is ‘drift'.

Yes, the all-new super-Golf can powerslide, apparently. It’s thanks to a new active rear differential with clever torque-vectoring that can transfer big wads of the engine’s 316bhp between the car’s rear wheels. But there’s a catch.

Advertisement - Page continues below

The catch is you have to spec something called the R Performance Pack to get the necessary rear diff, the Drift Mode, and a ‘Special Mode’ which has been specifically tuned for – you guessed it – getting the Golf R around the Nürburgring Nordschleife as quickly as possible. In the hands of a racing driver, VW has already sent one round the Ring in 7m 51s – a massive 17 seconds quicker than the old Golf R.

That’s pretty much all thanks to the handling. It’s certainly not down to power: the new Golf R develops 316bhp, up only 10bhp from the last car. There’s no manual gearbox this time, because customers paying £40k for a hot hatch demand paddles, VW insists. The 7-speed DSG is useful for 0-62mph times, naturally – VW claims a sprint of 4.8 seconds, with a top speed of 155mph as standard or 164mph with the go-faster pack.

VW says that even when you’re not trying to slide the R, the new top Golf uses its power-shuffling party piece to limit understeer and corner harder.

Underneath there’s a wealth of tech and engineering. You get a locking front diff, and new on-board computer that’s constantly monitoring your speed and inputs behind the wheel. The Golf R rides 20mm lower than a regular Golf, and now slides more in with the stability control in Sport mode. Or, you can turn it fully off, and ‘off’ means ‘off’. It’s ‘off’ in Drift mode – be careful with your ‘watch this’ demonstrations, folks.

Advertisement - Page continues below

Course, you don’t need to go flat out with all the safety nets cut loose to let everyone know you’ve got the fastest Golf.

They’ll spot the quad exhausts and growlier face first. If you see a Golf R with this double-deck wing and larger brakes, those are clues it’s got the R Performance Pack. So keep your distance on a roundabout. You get 18-inch rims as standard, with 19s on the options list, along with stickier Michelin tyres. There’s even a lightweight Akrapovic exhaust available, saving a few kilos and giving the R a raspier soundtrack.

Inside the Golf’s screen-infested cabin is joined by more supportive seats and many R logos. There’s now an ‘R’ button on the steering wheel to toggle between all the driving modes, and you can choose G meters and boost pressure gauges for the instrument cluster. And check out those longer gearshift paddles. In a Golf!

So, is the Golf R going to be the driftable hot hatch of choice, or would you work overtime and save up for the Mercedes-AMG A45 S?

Top Gear

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

More from Top Gear

See more on Volkswagen

Promoted Content

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.