The next VW Golf R won’t use drift mode or four-wheel steer | Top Gear
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The next VW Golf R won’t use drift mode or four-wheel steer

New Golf R will have more power and technology, but likely neither in excess

Published: 24 May 2019

Replacing something like the Volkswagen Golf R is surely an unenviable task. Even after five years on sale, the current R is an outrageously competitive hot hatch that the likes of Mercedes-AMG and BMW M are only just catching up with.

It’s the task that lies at the door of Jost Capito, though, but one his vast experience of motorsports and performance car development ought to complement well.

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“The Golf GTI is a tiger,” he therefore somewhat unexpectedly tells TG, “whereas the Golf R is a black panther. More subtle, something you find easier to approach and want to get close to.”

The anthropomorphic approach comes from his time working at Ford, where he likened cars as animals to ensure the dozens of people working on its hot hatchbacks were all reading from the same page without the need for lengthy descriptions.

“The Focus ST was a dolphin, the Focus RS a shark. When you have lots of different teams working on the same car it’s the best way to make sure they’re all working towards the same thing. It’s so much easier to understand when it’s just one word describing the car’s character.”

With that, um, cleared up, it’s time to ask what he – as developer of the shark-like mk2 Focus RS – thinks of the all-singing, all-dancing Drift Mode on the mk3 RS. Chiefly, how that might influence his next Golf R.

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“The Focus RS feels geared up for fun above everything. Drift mode is a free piece of technology that comes from the drive systems they’re using. But it’s not for us.”

And nor is four-wheel steering, like the latest Renault Megane RS uses. “It’s just not necessary on a car the size of Golf,” Capito says.

So while he’s confirmed the next R will have more power and tech than the current 296bhp, Haldex four-wheel-drive car, precisely how much of each remains a mystery. We won’t see even the base mk8 Golf until autumn, for starters, and Capito’s team have the not insubstantial task of launching the T-Roc R performance crossover first. A car he reckons will seriously impress, but one not without its development hurdles.

“The T-Roc R had to be developed to resist rolling over, not only with its greater ride height, but accounting for carrying 100kg in a roof box. We tried bargaining to 50kg but they said no. It was a challenge to make this car work but we think people are really going to love it.”

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So much more than transplanting the Golf R’s mechanicals into a titchy SUV, then, with a previous Nürburgring record holder, Benny Leuchter, putting in plenty of development miles on the Nordschleife. There are worse ways to make a living.

With VW’s ID.3 electric car due – as well as a potential electric car ‘Ring record from the R-emblazoned ID R racecar – talk naturally turns to how soon we might see a plug-in R road car.

“Making an electric performance car is tricky,” Capito tells us. “I don’t know any enthusiasts who are driving them at the moment, when all they do is accelerate really quickly from standstill. I took Benny out in an Audi e-tron and he screamed! You want to try it once but then you’re over it.”

We'll see one, then, just not quite yet...

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