2021 Volkswagen Golf R has 316bhp and a drift mode

Volkswagen has lifted the wraps from its ‘halo’ Mk8 Golf: the four-wheel drive, 316bhp Golf R. It completes the current GT line-up, alongside the latest GTI, GTD and GTE models.

Arriving in showrooms later this month, and likely to cost around £37,000, the Golf R — which now also has a new drift mode — will go head-to-head with the likes of the Honda Civic Type R, Mercedes-AMG A 35 and BMW M135i.

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Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, as was the case with its predecessor. But the new model’s powerplant has been retuned to deliver an extra 20bhp and 15lb ft of torque. That means a total of 316bhp and 310lb ft of torque.

What does that do to performance? VW quotes 0-62mph in 4.7-seconds — an improvement of 0.2 seconds over its predecessor — and an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. However, by speccing the optional R-Performance pack, buyers can have the limiter raised to 168mph. Power is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox.

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As you would expect, the latest Golf R comes packed with clever new technology, all aimed at improving on-track performance. Top of the tech tree is a new two-stage electronic stability programme, which combines a sophisticated traction control system and a new torque vectoring system.

It’s the same system which has already been fitted to the hot Arteon and Tiguan. Without getting too techie, for the first time drive is distributed variably between the two rear wheels, rather than just between the front and rear axle. Using a pair of electronically-operated multi-disc clutches, VW says the system can balance output across the rear axle from 0-100 per cent within milliseconds.

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Drivers will be able to choose from six different driving modes: in addition to the usual Comfort, Sport, Race and Individual, the system also includes a new “Special” profile. This, Volkswagen says, was configured specifically for the Nurburgring.

But what’s most interesting is the sixth and final mode; Drift. If you want to impress the neighbours by drifting round the corner of your normally quiet cul de sac, flick into Drift mode and the system will ease off the traction control and send most of the engine’s power to the rear axle. The result? You can perform powerslides.

The new Golf R also boasts a number of beefy mechanical upgrades, which VW says further supplement the agility-enhancing benefits delivered by the electrical and software improvements.

In addition to brakes enlarged in diameter by 1.7cm, the latest model gets wider alloy wheels, a new progressive power steering system and stiffer adaptive dampers. It also sits 20mm closer to the ground than the standard hatchback, lowering the centre of gravity and improving handling.

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Cosmetically, there are subtle differences over a standard Mk8 Golf. In addition to a set of fairly subdued “R” badges — including one centrally on the tailgate — there’s a slightly more aggressive body kit with deeper side skirts, plus 18in alloys.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have identified the biggest tell-tale that this is a Golf R: the quad-exit exhaust and subtle new rear diffuser.

However, if that’s not enough and you want to shout, “look, I’ve got a new Golf R”, you can tick the options box for the new two-piece tailgate spoiler. Oh, and you can also get bigger 19-inch alloys, plus a louder (and lighter) Akrapovic exhaust system.

There are further changes and improvements to the R’s cabin. Most noticeable is the pair of heavily-bolstered sports seats, resplendent with their trademark “R brand” blue stitching; a new sports steering wheel, complete with a set of larger paddle shifters; unique door cards and stainless steel pedals. Dotted around the seats and floor mats are a number of discreet “R” logos, plus there’s a customisable ambient lighting system.

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The fascia is dominated by the same 10-inch infotainment system and digital instrument cluster as the standard Mk8 Golf. Cleverly though, the system’s displays have all been reconfigured with unique blue-faced graphics. Nice touch.

There’s also a choice of two different dashboard designs, centred around either a circular or horizontal rev-counter. And when being driven in ‘manual’ mode, a visible shift prompter is displayed on the dashboard to help the driver optimise their gearchanges.

The UK-specific have yet to be confirmed, but with the extra technology fitted, it’s fair to expect prices to start around £37,000. The Golf R is scheduled to arrive in showrooms later this month, with first deliveries expected in early 2021.

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