Volkswagen Unveils New-Generation Golf R

Increased power and more chassis sophistication highlight the range-topping variant of VW’s eighth-generation Golf.

The 2022 Golf R is the most powerful version of the Golf that Volkswagen has yet produced. (Volkswagen)

Although the memorable 6-cylinder character of the original R32 has given way to turbocharged 4-cylinder propulsion in recent years, Volkswagen continues to deliver V6-type power for the performance flagship of the Golf lineup, injecting the all-new 2022 Golf R with 315 horsepower from a fourth-generation version of the company’s EA888 2.0-L. The company said Golf R’s engine now is the most powerful iteration of the turbocharged and direct-injected EA888 yet released for production.

Ride height is reduced and horsepower is jacked to 315 for the 2022 Golf R. (Volkswagen)

The R variant of the recently launched eighth-generation Golf compact car also is fitted with a more-sophisticated 4Motion all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. And in a wink to the R’s renown as the ultimate VW performance car, the 2022 Golf R – not coming to the U.S. market until late next year – also will continue to offer the choice of a manual transmission at a time when the few remaining shift-it-yourself models from every automaker continue to disappear.

Volkswagen executives and engineers discussing the new Golf R’s technical advances during a recent virtual media presentation also stressed the attention lavished on tweaking the high-performance model’s chassis, citing upgrades to brakes and the adoption of a new Vehicle Dynamics Manager (VDM) control unit that coordinates the 4Motion AWD, front and rear differential locks and adaptive dampers to optimize handling behavior. Volkswagen said, “Thanks to this close integration of the different systems, the new Golf R offers optimal traction, neutral handling with the utmost level of precision, and maximum agility and driving pleasure.”

In addition to the comfort, sport and race profiles in the driver-mode selection, new “special” and “drift” modes add new dimension to the pre-programmed vehicle-dynamics modes. Special was optimized specifically for the north course of Germany’s Nurburgring race track; drift is self-explanatory, with VW sternly adding that this mode is not meant for use on public roads.

Surpassing 300 hp

Volkswagen will continue to offer a 6-speed manual transmission for the 2022 Golf R. (Volkswagen)
Exhaust-tip detailing for the 2022 Golf R. (Volkswagen)

The new-generation version of the widely used EA888 4-cylinder pushes power past the 300-hp mark for the first time in the Golf R and is a substantial 27-hp hike over the current Golf R’s EA888. Torque also is increased, from 280 lb-ft (380 Nm) to 310 lb-ft (420 Nm), occurring over a wider range of 2100 to 5350 rpm, said Hein Schafer, senior vice president for product marketing and strategy. The fourth-generation EA888 has variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust camshafts, as well as variable lift for the exhaust valves. Fully electronic coolant control reduces friction and warmup times, VW said.

The six-speed manual transmission is standard, with the company’s 7-speed direct-shift gearbox (DSG) automated-manual transmission as an option. The DSG transmission will get the 2022 Golf R to the quoted 4.7-sec. 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) acceleration; the new model with DSG is some 17 seconds faster around the Nurburgring north course than the current Golf R. Top speed is 155 mph (245 km/h).

Better traction, bigger brakes

The new torque-vectoring 4Motion AWD uses two individual clutches in the rear-drive unit to vary torque distribution between the rear wheels and it’s possible to transmit up to 100% to a single wheel, said Schafer. A maximum of 50% of total engine torque can be apportioned to the rear axle.

The front suspension is by MacPherson struts and the rear is a multilink design. The new Golf R’s ride height is reduced by 0.8 in (20 mm) and front negative camber has been “significantly increased,” said Schafer, while front and rear spring and stabilizer rates are 10% stiffer. About 6.6 lbs (3 kg) of weight was saved with a new aluminum front subframe, although the new Golf R is some 121 lbs (55 kg) heavier overall. At the rear, there are revised control-arm mounts and damper bearings and hydraulics.

Braking capacity also was enhanced, with increased diameter and width. Two-piston front calipers constructed of aluminum reduce weight by 60% and there is a larger master cylinder. “A lot of work was done with respect to the ABS control range and modification with respect to the ESC stability-control system,” said Schafer. The 2022 Golf R will be built exclusively in Wolfsburg, Germany, Volkswagen said.