A FITTING SWANSONG TO HOT HATCH ROYALTY
The current Volkswagen Golf range will be bowing out soon with the advent of the 8th generation variant earmarked to launch later in 2020 to begin yet another chapter for this evergreen hatch. The Golf 7.5, as it’s popularly dubbed, has managed to move the entire range upstream with its plusher finishes and optional Info Display digital instrument cluster, infotainment screen and those rear dynamic indicators. The flagship model of the Golf range, the indomitable R, has recently received some engine upgrades to bring its power bang up to the full 228 kW quota shared with its sister model, the Audi S3. And, to sweeten the deal even further, you can also opt for the cheeky sounding titanium Akrapovic exhaust system, which at around R40,000 extra, is well worth the capital outlay.
Easily the best specimen of the genre, the “final” Golf R, goes out with a metaphorical bang, thanks largely to that booming exhaust, but more so by the fact that it now packs the full-fat power quota that has been offered in other markets. Initially, the Golf R was offered with a 206-kW power output and, in 2018, was bumped up to 213 kW and culminating in the 228-kW model you see here. And while the additional horses under the hood are most welcome, you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between this and the 213-kW model.
WHAT SETS IT APART COSMETICALLY?
So, rather than harping on about the negligible performance upgrade, rather let us look about its new-found vocal cords located at the rear of the vehicle, which are finished in a bronzy colour. These are circular, perforated quad pipes rather than the standard chrome plumbing affair. There is also a new front valance boasting a square meshing rather than the horizontal slats of the previous model. However, the rest of the vehicle’s architecture has been left alone. You still have the option of the Pretoria 19” wheels or the standard Spielberg 19” sets, the latter of which look more the part in my view.
The cabin remains simplistic in its architecture but is finished in a classy layout replete with R-emblazoned seats that offer great scope for adjustment. Overall packaging remains one of the Golf’s main repertoires with exemplary front and rear passenger space to rival some C-segment sedans. All switchgear has a very solid, tactile feel to them all the while remaining an easy affair to use thanks to their ergonomically sound location.
DRIVETRAIN & HANDLING
Displacing 2.0-litres and turbocharged, the latest Golf R powerplant musters 228 kW and 400 Nm through a slick-shifting, seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Power is dispatched to all four tyres, endowing the model with superb traction off the line and prodigious grip levels through corners.
It is, in all fairness, an all-weather everyday hatch that can be driven briskly by novices and experienced drivers alike. Point the nose of the vehicle in the desired direction and simply squirt the throttle then revel in the vehicle’s electronics gathering all that power and distilling it swiftly and efficiently with very little drama. Thanks to the titanium Akrapovic exhaust system, there is a soul-stirring exhaust tune to go with the performance this time around. It is an addictive thing that begins with a low bass frequency at slow speeds, before composing a more tuneful howl from around 3,500 r/min to the 6,000 r/min red line, punctuated by some flatulent belches between gear changes.
As mentioned, if nothing else, tick the optional exhaust box as it really introduces yet another colourful layer to an already impressive canvas spread. Dynamically, the model can carry some ridiculous, glutinous levels of speed through corners that can take the fight some rather purpose-built and expensive performance machinery and therein lies the model’s main forte.
As we await the arrival of the new, eighth-generation Golf that will likely be headlined by an R version of sorts, this last and final hurrah to the current generation is a fitting send-off. Granted, you are paying a premium price for a hatchback but, all things considered, the Golf R remains the most complete hot hatch you can buy. It remains, unequivocally so, the Gold standard in hot hatch royalty.
Report by LERATO MATEBESE | Images © VOLKSWAGEN SA